Interview with Fashion Designer OG Okonkwo


    OG, as she is fondly called grew up as part of a small family of five, made up of her, her two siblings and her parents who highly influenced her.
    She graduated from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in the year 2008 with a BSc degree in medical laboratory science and also succeeded in bagging a certificate in fashion merchandising.
    Fashion started for her at a very young age. Her brand was launched in the year 2011 but made it to the spotlight in the year 2015 after she clothed the former director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Arunma Oteh, On her 50th birthday. She is our cosmocrat of the month and we got up and close with the talented designer.

    Where did you grow up?

    I was born in Enugu State in the Eastern part of Nigeria where I  lived until moving to Abuja, Nigeria in 2008.

    How was it like growing up in Enugu? 

    For me, growing up in a small town with very close knitted family was my normal. It wasn’t until I left and moved from one big city to the next that I realized how special it was to come from a small place. Yes, I truly believe it’s special, because there’s nothing else like experiencing childhood in a place where everyone knows you and cares about you, where you can run around town under the stars (that you can actually see) at 2 a.m. and know you’re safe.

    If you also come from a small town, you can probably relate to my upbringing. If you’re still living in your small town, kudos to you, because it takes a certain kind of person (like my family) to embrace it and love it and stay. For many of us, breaking out was all we dreamed of, but even I love going back several times a year to visit. No matter how much I love the big city life, I will always, always love my hometown. 

    Why  Fashion?

    For me Fashion matters…it’s been a constant  presence in my  life….growing up I would make clothes for my dolls, then my sister and now for clients all over the world .

    I have explored other art forms… painting, millinery….still life drawing …name it but fashion for me remains the highest form of self expression …so I decided to explore it professionally .

    Faster than anything else, what we wear tells the story of who we are – or who we want to be. 

    Even though fashion is too often seen as a frivolous, vain and ephemeral industry. Many people fail to appreciate just how important and wide-reaching it really is. Globally, the industry is valued at $3 trillion. It’s the second biggest worldwide economic activity for intensity of trade – employing over 57 million workers in developing countries, 80 per cent of whom are women. 

    How has the fashion industry fared in Nigeria 

    The fashion industry in Nigeria is considered a serious contender in Fashion’s emerging market and has become a critical component of the Nigerian economy, creating jobs, promoting creativity, ingenuity and culture.

    Re based GDP figures for Nigeria, showed that the Fashion, Garment and Footwear industry contributed 0.47% (about N380bl est), certainly a viable sub-sector, that needs to be fully harnessed.

    Despite the several challenges in the fashion industry like structural issues, lack of a sustainable market locally and capacity to compete at the global level, there has been an increased interest in African fashion

    Nigeria has been experiencing exponential growth in the private sector especially with vibrant Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and is currently a creative hotspot and this can be seen through the rapidly growing fashion industry. 

    Tell us more about what sets Style temple apart.

    I believe the brand ethos of clean, lavish elegance which is reflected in every design sets StyleTemple apart .

    The StyleTemple women is noticed and holds court everywhere she goes and once in a room takes up space – literally and figuratively!

    What are the challenges of Fashion in Nigeria?

    While the country is taking huge strides towards the promotion of sustainable offering to the fashion world and the Nigerian people are more willing to support upcoming designers, lack of formal fashion training facilities create a weakness in all aspects of the industry. Development of formal institutions that teach the art and business of fashion will be a welcome development along with better infrastructures, especially power 

    You recently showcased at the Arise fashion week, how do you see it from your viewpoint?

    The  show like the several other fashion weeks running every season in Nigeria has been  a platform where the global fashion players met with their African counterparts. Most importantly, the designers got to showcase their designs to a global audience of retailers,and financiers, as well as the media, thus ensuring that Nigeria and the continent at large are firmly put on the global fashion We have three big fashion week calendars in Lagos with different sponsors and organisers  . Is this good for the city 

    Asides the fashion weeks having an important economic impact in the cities they are held in, as does the fashion industry itself….the multiple shows in lagos by different sponsors /organizers also provides multiple platforms/ options for designers to showcase their seasons 

    Part of your production for ready to wear has been moved to Istanbul, why?

    When I  launch a company, initial low sales volumes and overhead costs allowed me to make products in-house. 

    As the demand increased, the need to produce faster also increased and each unit must absorb more of the business’s increasing administrative and sales costs, and this lead to the need to outsource some of the production abroad.

    What can be done to keep production in Nigeria?

    While still in its infancy, the Nigerian fashion industry has started to expand. This is largely due to growing interest in Africa’s cultural traditions, including its vibrant hues and colourful fabrics, such as wax and printed dyed cotton, and the high quality of craftsmanship in African cultures. The industry and its designers, both on the continent and abroad, are capitalising on this situation, with Africa-inspired designs now regularly shown on the catwalks in fashion shows in Paris, London and Milan. Additionally, demand for African fashion is likely to be further boosted by the continent’s growing urban middle class, opening up the perspective of sustainable growth for the African fashion industry.

    To seize these opportunities and still keep production within Nigeria some constRaints needs to be adressed

    * Skills shortage and lack of industry-specific training facilities;

    * Constrained access to financing for entrepreneurs and SMEs;

    * Limited local and regional input suppliers and export companies;

    * Competitive production costs.

    What would you say has been your biggest achievement so far?

    I would say being able to transition successfully from bespoke to ready to wear business model .

    On a lighter note, tell us one thing that no one else knows about you ?

    I’m extremely introverted