Calgary designer Samantha Nyakudya brings leg-hugging pizzazz in a pandemic

Fashion designer Samantha Nyakudya is a self-described glam girl, but even she has succumbed to wearing the unofficial work-from-home uniform for women: a sweatshirt and leggings. The day of our FaceTime interview, she wears a black sweatshirt and holds her baby boy in her lap. The leggings themselves are out of view, which is unfortunate because leggings are what Nyakudya’s latest venture is all about.

In the coming month, the Zimbabwe-born, Calgary-raised designer plans to launch her debut collection of dressy leggings. The collection will include six designs, each pair carrying a price tag of $100 and upwards. To Nyakudya, fashionable leggings are the perfect blend of style and comfort. “I wanted to do something simple and comfy but give it a spin and some pizzazz,” says the 32-year-old. Judging by the leggings she’s shown recently on her personal Instagram page (@samanthanyakudya), pizzazz and beauty abound. (Who knew stretchy pants could be so stunning?) “The pandemic is changing fashion,” she says. “I feel like we’re moving towards a more natural, relaxed place, where we’re not overdoing things.”

Though Nyakudya says her leggings can be paired with a simple T-shirt or sweater, don’t expect to find her wearing them that way. The longtime designer says she gravitates to statement tops with ruffles or puffy sleeves, chandelier earrings and feminine colours. “When I go out, I want to look like a Barbie, really,” she says and laughs. “I’m very glam and believe in the more fabulous, the better. Anything dressy — that’s me.” 

Launching a collection under her own name is the natural next step for Nyakudya, who’s been a staple in the city’s fashion scene for many years. Since studying fashion marketing at Olds College, she’s worked in retail, merchandising and styling. Along the way, she created a throw-pillow company, Glamour Cushions, and was the owner of Boutique Laleh in Calgary’s Aspen neighbourhood, where she sold her clothing designs alongside brands from Los Angeles. Though she’s moved on from both companies, every experience has led her to this point. “I feel like I’ve done everything but focus on my own designs. Now it’s time for me to put them forward,” she says. “What I really love doing is making clothing and helping women feel beautiful.”

Until recently, Nyakudya handmade every piece but now works with a seamstress to bring her leggings to life. She draws on many things for inspiration: fabric, buildings, paintings, her culture and, of course, social media. “Pinterest is my best friend because you can look at so many different designers and what they’re doing,” she says. Seeing others’ creations helped define her own path and the client she hopes to have. “She’s a socialite in the scene, for sure, and she needs something that’s going to elevate her style.” 

Nyakudya, herself, is craving some socializing. For now, she’s focused on launching her website — watch her Instagram page for updates — and is eager to share her leggings with the world. “The most exciting things about fashion, for me, is it’s always changing,” she says. “I look forward to bringing out more collections as quickly as I can. I’m excited.”

Michelle Magnan McIvor is a freelance writer and communications consultant. Find her online at, or on Instagram at @_michellemcivor.