fashion interview

From Fashion School to Global Entrepreneur: Ogechi Okolie’s Journey as Gechi Signature

Nigerian fashion designer Ogechi Jennifer Okolie is steadily making her mark in Nigeria and beyond with her brand, Gechi Signature. Her standout custom-made dresses have become the buzz on the international scene, as glowing reviews from her clientele fill her Instagram stories and posts with photographs of the girls donning her creations at prom or memorable dates. Their smiles—and those of their partners—convey volumes about their satisfaction with the fashion designer’s expertise in making their fashion desires come true.

Ogechi Okolie started her fashion journey as an apprentice in a fashion school in Ikeja Lagos in 2018, where she spent 12 months under the tutelage of a madam who owned a fashion school in one of the busy areas in the city. As one of the students who had to transition into the fashion industry out of financial necessity, Ogechi felt both challenged and inspired. “Everything was overwhelming at first, she admits, “but I followed my heart. I came to a point where I had no way of turning back because all I wanted to do at that moment was learn fashion.”

After her industrial training at the fashion school, she moved to Ibadan in 2020 and found a fashion workshop where she interned for three months. She needed more experience to get better. Ogechi shared that her challenges as an intern at Anike fashion school were due to the high cost of transportation and the fact that the fashion house was far from where she lived. Adapting did not come easy for her, but she did graciously, unaware of what the future held for her.

Starting as an independent professional felt like a dream come true as she got her first client upon opening her first store on Etsy. She sewed as her clients trickled in steadily, bringing in a wave of other people to experience her expertise. 

While she relished the successes on Etsy, Ogechi soon faced hurdles that threatened to derail her entrepreneurial journey. Navigating the online marketplace, especially as a Nigerian vendor, was riddled with complications. PayPal, a prominent payment gateway on Etsy, posed a significant barrier. Payments were inaccessible to Nigerian merchants, forcing Ogechi into cumbersome workarounds: “I had to pay to link other people’s PayPal accounts to my Etsy shop,” she recalls. Her challenges were exacerbated when Etsy imposed restrictions on Nigerian sellers, abruptly severing her from her growing clientele.

Yet, every ending marks a new beginning.

Enter Afrikrea, an online marketplace tailored for African-inspired fashion. The platform emerged as a beacon of hope for Gechi Signature. Starting from scratch, Ogechi had to navigate this new space, grapple with its unique challenges – including a monthly subscription, high sales fees, and withdrawal fees – and work diligently to rebuild the trust of her previous customers while attracting new ones. However, Afrikrea aligned with her roots and offered a fresh opportunity to showcase her creations on a platform that celebrates African craftsmanship.

Reflecting on how she felt when she received her first review, “Over the years, I have gotten so many positive reviews from my clients. They always feel happy and beautiful when they wear their dresses,” Ogechi says with pride, “and that makes me really happy. It always gladdens my heart when I see my clients happy because the goal for me is making happy clients.”

Ogechi continues, “My designs significantly impact my customers mostly on how I make them look after wearing a dress I made. The positive reviews on social media attest to this, and I make a point of reading through these comments. I’m glad that they not only enjoy wearing my clothes but also appreciate the creativity and effort that goes into each piece.”

When asked about the driving force behind her work, Ogechi doesn’t hesitate, “My passion.” Drawing in her breath, with the passion she spoke of clearly afire in her eyes, she continues, “My passion is to make people look beautiful through my craft.”

Ogechi envisions her brand, Gechi Signature, evoking “elegance, style, and beauty,” adding, “When people think of Gechi Signature, I want the first thought to be ‘Stay beautiful and confident with your fashion style.’ That is my brand message.”

Having an assistant has been helpful for Ogechi by taking off some of the workload from her. She has had to deal with overwhelming bookings, which led her to reject orders at some point.

Acknowledging the designers before her, Ogechi shares that her inspiration comes from other passionate designers who remain true to their originality and vision. She promises to keep the faith to keep her creative juice flowing so she does not lose sight of her purpose and mission.

We asked Ogechi for her advice to those starting as fashion professionals, and she shared, “Keep gaining knowledge. Don’t think you have learnt enough because fashion is a trend that keeps moving forward.”

Commenting on how her fashion journey has changed her and her plan for the future, Ogechi says, “This journey has been fantastic. Reflecting on how I started, it never occurred to me that I could gain this much confidence in portraying my gift to the world. Finally, I plan to keep learning and adding more creative innovative styles to the industry.”

Ogechi Okolie’s collections are available on her website. To stay updated with the latest designs and trends from Gechi Signature, make sure to follow the brand on Instagram, TikTok, and Threads.

Creatives Around Us granted permission to feature photos by Gechi Signature

art creatives fashion

Zoba Martin Makes Exquisite Dress from Tissue Paper for breast cancer Awareness

Carmel Snow wrote, ‘Elegance is good taste, plus a dash of daring,’ and Zoba Martin couldn’t agree more. Zoba continues to merge fashion, science, and character in her designs. She has made a name for herself through her eponymous brand by designing clothing pieces with a unique artistry that combines African prints with a modern North American twist. Her remarkable designs make almost every Canadian fashion blog writer have articles written on the young fashion designer who has come to stay.

Without a doubt, Zoba Martin has redefined the limits of what a dress can look like; who else could make a dress from tissue paper look so good?

Zoba Martin explored the fragility of life in her latest piece for the 18th Annual Cashmere Collection initiative: The New Belle Époque – a fund and awareness raiser fashion show for breast cancer. Chizoba created the most exquisite piece out of cashmere bathroom tissue using braiding and ruffling techniques.

Through her piece, Zoba remembered her aunt Nneka who lost her fight with breast cancer. ‘She had the most beautiful smile,’ Zoba wrote on her Instagram page. ‘The lines across the chest represent the scars from mastectomy, and the crystals poured into the vulva area represents the shine, strength and beauty in femininity.’ Chizoba honours everyone who died from breast cancer and encourages everyone to always check for lumps. 

Chizoba Udeh Martin is from Anambra, a South Eastern state in Nigeria. She graduated from the University of Ottawa, where she studied Entrepreneurship and completed a diploma in Fashion Design and Pattern Making at La Salle College of Design in Toronto, Canada. Chizoba founded Zoba Martin in 2016, and since then, and from her Toronto studio, she’s exuded excellence in her creations. She believes that excellence is a principle that should always guide her work.

Chizoba Udeh Martin’s collections are available on her website. She also teaches sewing classes and is ready to take anyone through how she designs her collections. You can also follow Zoba Martins on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook

Zoba Martin’s bathroom tissue gown.


Behind the sheets of #zobamartin Bathroom Tissue Gown for the 18th Annual Cashmere Collection 2021 🧻 #sewingtiktok #fashiontiktok #diy #creatives

♬ La Vie En Rose – Emily Watts
Behind the sheets of Zoba Martin Bathroom Tissue Gown

See other creations from Zoba Martin.

Creatives Around Us granted permission to feature photos by Zoba Martin.

fashion interview

Introducing Fashion Designer Kunmi Oni: the founder of 1964 Brand

Kunmi Oni is a Nigerian fashion designer based in Lagos, and the founder of the minimalist clothing line, The 1964 Brand. Kunmi, as a child, has always been artistic. After university, her mother, Felicia, ignited the passion in her to create her brand. Three years and five collections later, Kunmi Oni’s brand stands as the ultimate fashion brand for her chic millennial audience or, as she likes to call them, her 1964 women. 

Kunmi Oni’s story is that of determination, perseverance, and success. Throughout her story, Kunmi shares her inspiration to create, her challenges, recent collections, and the love she receives from her ’64 girls. According to her, “our brand grows because we have an amazing community of ‘64 girls who root for us daily.”

C: You have grown quite a community around the 1964 Brand. Can you tell us the story behind your brand? What inspired the name?

Kunmi: The name 1964 was inspired by my mum, who was born that year. The entire brand was created to honour her memory as she was the one that encouraged me to start the brand and gave me all the resources I needed to start when I was fresh out of uni and could not get a job.

C: On your About Us page, we saw that a woman named Felly inspired the 1964 Brand. Is Felly your mum? 

Kunmi: Yes, yes! Felly is short for Felicia, which is my mum’s name, and as I mentioned earlier, 1964 was inspired by her. Our design choices reflect the kind of clothes she loved to wear.

C: Have you always wanted to design dresses? When did you first realize you wanted to create women’s clothes?

Kunmi: There was no defining moment for me. I’ve always been good with my hands. I also express my creativity in other forms like blogging, drawing, and photography.

C: Who is Kunmi Oni? Tell us something that people do not know about you.

Kunmi: Hmmm, I’m not sure there’s any.

C: Who is your target market?

Kunmi: The 1964 Brand is for women who are big on self-care and would choose comfort over glamour when it comes to their style and fashion choices. 

C: What is the 1964 brand message to her market?

Kunmi: Always seek to create ease around your life every day. Prioritize your self-care and mental health above all else, including when it comes to your choice of clothes. 

C: Let’s talk a bit about your 1964 community. Have there been any challenges? Do you feel people got the 1964 Brand message?

Kunmi: Well, when we initially started, I was afraid that Nigerian women who are our primary market (we are based in Lagos) might not be able to relate to the brand message because Nigerians are generally “on the go.” But over the years, as we keep telling our story, more women, including women from all over the world, have been able to relate as they are now choosing a life of ease and comfort and seeing them join the community makes my heart full.

C: Your designs are brilliant. What inspired you to create such designs? Tell us about the Meraki and Rebirth collections.

Kunmi: Every 1964 collection tells my story. MERAKI was created at a time when I was in a dark hole, and creating clothes for 1964 women was the only thing that kept me going. MERAKI represents creating with soul even when people and life want to discourage you. Our REBIRTH collection is our most unique collection to date. It tells the story of the 1964 woman: a woman who puts her mental health and self-care first, who pushes through and reinvents herself no matter any setback she might face in life. 

C: What feeling would you say the 1964 brand evoke in your audience?

Kunmi: A feeling of self-love. A feeling of community and a feeling of being part of something bigger than just selling clothes.

C: Can you tell us something that a customer has said to you after wearing your designs that you feel describes your clothes quite well?

Kunmi: Yes, yes! I had someone send a message to me once saying our pieces are the most beautiful and comfortable clothes she has worn in a while and, this made my heart full.

Kunmi Oni’s collections are available to cop on her website and Afrikea (For free worldwide shipping). You can also follow The 1964 Brand on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

Creatives Around Us granted permission to feature photos by Kunmi Oni