by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Chikezie Daniel Onwuchekwa plays around with buttons and Ankara pieces to amazing effect on contemporary outfits.
I would love to work with Christian Siriano. He’s young and very talented.
What is the origin of your label?
Chikezie Daniels Couture started in 2008 with men wears. But down the line, it has designed and made some female ensembles. It is a brand that loves and sticks to its roots (African), but also is open too new things, hence the use of western fabrics to create what I love to call the ‘Afrocentric Look’.
What was the first piece of clothing you ever designed?
I actually started redesigning my ready-made shirts. when I got tired of them, I would cut off the sleeves, re-do them with Ankara and sometimes form patterns on the shirt with buttons.
What are the fabrics you like working with?
I like working with Ankara – the old and easily recognized patterns E.g Kiri star, Heavy rain, 11,000 boxes, to mention a few. I also like Italian fabrics,laces. Basically when I see a pretty fabric, I allow it speak too me.
Which international designer would you like to work with?
I would love to work with Christian Siriano. He’s young and very talented. Elle Sabb is also a very talented designer that keeps me on my toes.
What matters to you most as a designer?
The drive to satisfy your clients and the finishing of the clothes. You need to be
sensitive so you make sure you are not copying someone else’s work. Location is another important factor.
What are your accomplishments as a designer?
My accomplishments or benefits as I like to put it, is that I am my own boss and I have also created jobs for others. I have also gotten some good exposure because of my clientele, etc.
What inspires your designs?
Inspiration comes from different things. Sometimes an uncompleted building, sometimes trash, and to be honest someone else’s work I feel could use a little more kick.
What are the problems you face as a designer in this part of the world?
Part of the problem is our local clothing store still don’t see the need for our
designs to be on their racks or shelves, because some designers make ready to wear that come in a size 6, 8, 10 and what have you. Secondly, the customers still need to develop some more faith in us, when they do you would hardly find a Gucci or Prada dress on our red carpets.
How would you rate the Nigerian fashion industry?
The industry is growing pretty fast from what I see around. We have a lot of promising young designers ready to take over.
If you were not a designer what would you have been?
I would have pursued acting (I will at some point). Maybe I would have settled for interior decoration. I just love to see things properly put together. My close friends say I have OCD. Lol!
Who are your favourite designers locally?
I love Deola Sagoe, Jewel by Lisa but mostly, St Genevieve by Genevieve Nnaji. I love how her clothes can be dressed up or down, especially the simplicity.
Are you one of those who think government can support designers – and how?
Oh yes, government can help. They can set up a training centre in all states to empower students awaiting admission, even if they don’t get 9-5 jobs at the end of the day, they have something to fall back on. Every human God created has a talent that every other human needs at some point.
Where do you see your label in 10 years?
In ten years I want to walk down the streets of London and other cities and see a Chikezie Daniel’s store. It is good to dream big oh! The dreams are free, you don’t have to pay for them.
What do you say to aspiring designers?
In Psalm 138:8, God assures us that He will bless the work of our hands. So if fashion is something you want to go into, I strongly suggest you go in with God.
Secondly, you have to understand every area of the business. Be eager to learn new tricks, think way out of the box. Last but not least, remember character would sustain you when talents fails you.