by Doyin Jaiyesimi
One thing is certain about Ijeoma Ndekwu; she’s in love with fashion. Starting from her childhood days, Ijeoma has nurtured her passion and built a successful career around the very thing that she loves. She’s eating her cake and looking ever so stylish while at it.
She shares her journey.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a fashion and chick flick lover, deep thinker, an occasional poet, a loyal friend and an ‘aspiring’ comic.
Your blog, NaijaFashionFreak was quite a success. Why did you decide to write about fashion?
I always recount the idea to start NaijaFashionFreak as a flashing light bulb on a very uneventful day. I had just finished ‘A’ Levels and I was taking a gap year before starting university. I enjoyed writing and I had always been an avid lover and critique of fashion and aesthetics in general; my mum will tell you that at the age of three, I got dressed each day as if I was going for a party, with her bag and her pairs of heels to complete the look! Starting the blog and ultimately going into fashion was not a conscious decision, I had an urge to make something of myself while my classmates were occupied with school. Also, at the time there were no fashion blogs that dealt with the industry as a whole; designers, collections, consumers and the creative professionals, so I decided to create a blog that embodied those elements and that it merged my two loves.
What do you think is responsible for the recent international acclaim that Nigerian fashion has been receiving?
It boils down to the exploration of globally visible channels through Public Relations; designers are taking their creations beyond the Nigerian/African border and exposing them to a larger consumer base. Also, the implementation of globally visible platforms, the yearly Arise Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week is one of them. The exploration of such global channels creates opportunities for international recognition. Another factor is the internet, the surge of websites like BellaNaija.com that celebrate and showcase Nigerian designers. The internet is this boundless space that cuts across geography. What’s on a website is exposed to millions from everywhere.
How did you become the style editor of BellaNaija?
BellaNaija was one of the first blogs I read and followed, it also inspired my decision to start NaijaFashionFreak. When I wanted to grow my readership, I sent its founder, Uchenna Eze, whom I had a personal connection with, an email to have NaijaFashionFreak listed on her regular feature on new & interesting blogs. Not only was NaijaFashionFreak featured on BellaNaija, its founder became a faithful follower of my blog! When BellaNaija.com was transitioning from a blog to a website, Uche said she wanted me to join the team, and there I was excited at the possibility of being a Style Contributor, only to get my employment letter and see as the job title, Style Editor. I had just turned 19 and was the Style Editor of one of Nigeria’s most popular online sites, I was over the moon!
Take me through a typical day in your job as a style editor
Since I started in BellaNaija in November 2008, I have never just been a ‘Style Editor’. From then until December, 2011, I was a Style Editor and an undergraduate student so a typical day involved balancing school with work and a decent social life. It involved a lot of multi-tasking and late nights. It helped to have a Blackberry that allowed on-the- go responses to emails. It also helped to be in an environment with 24-hour electricity and fast internet service to meet up with both academic and work deadlines. Although, I am done with undergrad now, I picture it will be sort of the same, as I do not plan to be a full-time Style Editor just yet, but I am guessing a lot tougher, because the Nigerian environment is hardcore!
So what keeps you going through the challenges and tough times?
Definitely being passionate about what I do and loving every bit of it! There is a deep sense of pride and accomplishment when I jump a hurdle which could be light, internet or laptop issues to get a feature published. Plus it helps to have a boss who’s understanding, supportive and willing to assist in challenging times.
How would you describe your style?
It’s polished, high-fashion, keen on functionality, embracing of colour, textures and vintage silhouettes. I tend to opt for classic rather than trendy pieces; I favour cuts and styles that I can wear year in, year out.
Tell me, have you ever had a fashion police moment and what fashion trend would you never be caught dead in?
I have had many fashion police moments, especially when I was in secondary school. Then, of course, I thought I looked ‘too cool for school’ but when I remember some outfits I wore, I cringe! There’s one I remember all too well, I was in JSS3 and I was suddenly into urban style, I left my house in acid washed jeans, a snug tee, a bandanna covered up by my brother’s baseball cap and completed the look with sneakers! I love neon as a trend especially with accessories, but I’ll never be caught in a pair of neon leggings, I’m not that crazy about disco!
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully a fulfilled life! There’s definitely a plan to get an MBA, I know I will always write, and I will see where that gets me. But in the near future, while I explore other work options, I hope to start a Public Relations firm for businesses in the fashion, retail and lifestyle industry. I hold the belief that market intelligence and strategic creative thinking make great brands and mould the right consumer perceptions. I aim to build a business that merges both concepts in a manner that creates value for brands and consumers.
From all you’ve learnt so far, what is the most important advice you can give to young people considering a career in the fashion industry.
In what area one decides to delve into in the fashion industry, I will advise that one be a professional. Professionalism means doing your research, knowing the in’s and out’s of one’s chosen field, acknowledging the importance of maintaining good customer or client relationships. It’s the professionals that grasp the business of fashion, rightly capitalise on opportunities and are able to build sustainable brands and businesses.