Texas talent is once again on the rise. While artists like Khalid, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo and Post Malone are topping the charts, those working behind the scenes are also making a name for themselves. Earlier this year, it was reported that designer Charles Smith II had produced costumes for Solange’s short film, When I Get Home. Smith, however, isn’t the only Dallas-based designer to receive the coveted Knowles-family seal of approval.
Designer Sai Sankoh received the surprise of a lifetime when she saw pictures of Beyoncé wearing one of her resort shirt dresses earlier this spring, after trying for months to contact one of Beyoncé’s stylists in hopes to collaborate.
“I was in the blogging world, so I was familiar with some of the stylists,” Sankoh recalls.
Sankoh reached out to Beyoncé’s stylist, Zerina Akers, and shared some ideas that she felt fitting for the Grammy Award-winning singer.
“I had been trying for the longest time to muster up the courage to contact (Akers),” Sankoh says. “One day, I get an inbox from her, and I screamed, ‘Oh my God.’”
Sankoh hasn’t officially had the pleasure of meeting Beyoncé in person yet, but she and Akers have continued corresponding via email and have plans in the works for more collaborations with the megastar.
Sankoh started designing clothes two years ago. She was working as a nurse at the time and ran a fashion blog on the side. In November 2018, she decided to launch her online store and try her luck at selling her own designs. Sankoh specializes in luxurious resort wear, influenced by her travels, which began at a young age.
“There was a civil war in my home country (Sierra Leone) for about 10 years,” Sankoh says. “We left and moved around a little bit. We lived in London, and then Ghana, and then my family settled in the United States about 18 years ago. I eventually showed up to Dallas by myself, because I was living in Virginia for too long.”
Sankoh’s designs largely consist of bold, vibrant colors in silk and flowing fabrics from India.
“I love to travel, and I feel like I can find inspiration anywhere," the designer says. "Originally, being from Africa, there is a lot of inspiration from my homeland in my designs. My first collection was inspired by Africa, and so is my current collection. The resort wear is inspired by Africa as well.”
Sankoh’s designs can be purchased online, but she says she's working with a sales rep to get her fashions in as many as 100 stores and boutiques in luxury resorts and hotels around the world.
“This is something that I’m very passionate about,” Sankoh says. “Having started last year and where I am now, everything has been a blessing. I don’t get much sleep — maybe three or four hours a day — but even so, I enjoy being able to do this. There’s not really a challenge, I’m just lucky and grateful to be where I am right now.”
For Sankoh, a typical day begins at 4 a.m., when she begins to correspond with her manufacturing team, with whom she has an 11-hour time difference. Four hours later, she begins to process orders. She will then respond to customer inquiries, then repeat.
In addition to Beyoncé, other celebrities who have been spotted wearing Sankoh’s designs include actress Gabrielle Union, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey and Beyoncé’s former Destiny’s Child bandmate, Michelle Williams. Despite the demand for her designs rapidly growing among high-profile celebrities, Sankoh remains humble.
“I’m blown away by anyone who wears my stuff,” Sankoh says. “I really get excited when I see women doing maternity shoots in my clothing. For me, that’s special, because they’re sharing that moment with me.”
Despite accomplishing great feats in what could be perceived as a short designing career, Sankoh wants people to know her rise to the top wasn’t instant.
“You have to figure out what it is that you want to do,” Sankoh says. “Nothing comes easily. I get people telling me, ‘Oh my God, you’re an overnight success, you just started designing, and now Beyoncé’s wearing your stuff,’ but I’ve been reading, writing and blogging about fashion for many, many years."
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