Have you guys checked out our fast rising Instagram page, @FashionBombAfrica? It’s all about highlighting the stars, designers, and tastemakers from the Continent.
Today, we are featuring CHIEMELIE’s Creative Director, Chie Umeh, a self taught British-based Nigerian fashion designer formerly a pharmacist. She launched the brand in August 2015 at the Africa Fashion Week at the Kensington Olympia, London. In 2016 she showcased at The Pure London International trade exhibition. CHIEMELIE also took part in the LVMH prize 2017 emerging designer competition and was noted to be one of the brands that stood out. Chie focuses on creating pieces that show style, individuality, personality, always striving to be original by drawing inspiration from her love for Fine and Applied Arts. CHIEMELIE’s studio is nestled within the popular Cathedral Quarters in Derby,United Kingdom known for its niche shops,fine dining and designer boutiques. Her studio store is currently underway in the same location.
We recently caught up with Chie Umeh for a brief interview touching on the past and the future plans for the brand.
How did the start of the “CHIEMELIE” brand come about?
January 2015 I made a decision to start my own brand. I didn’t have enough money, equipment and staff and I needed to brush up on my sewing skills, I also had a proper 9-5 job with 2 young kids. I knew if I waited till I had everything, I probably would have waited forever. So with the little I had I bought a table, chair, 5 yards of Ankara fabric, calico, pattern paper, a cheap brother home sewing machine and converted my guest room into a sewing studio which I had to pack out and move back in each time we had a guest. Then I bought books and started teaching myself professional pattern cutting this was because at the time I was only skilled at the free hand method. I would come back from work, sort homework and dinner, chat with hubby and went to practice from 9pm to 12 midnight everyday. Fast forward to May of that same year I was watching a fashion show on TV and thought to myself ,”Hey girl, you can do better that, so I called them and applied to showcase in the upcoming fashion week. That was how I got into Africa fashion week 2015 making all the clothes with my humble brother home sewing machine! This was the catalyst of my design career, from there I went on to present at the Pure London International Trade show in 2016 and entered 2017 LVMH prize competition.
What sparked your interest in creating your own Ankara platform?
I wanted to share the joy of creating something beautiful! Part of why I presented at the shows I did was to test the quality of the brand, sometimes we can get caught up in our own illusions, and family and friends may not want to hurt your feelings by telling one the truth. But fortunately for me that was not the case, the brand gained so much interest. In fact one of the most encouraging letters I got was from the LVMH prize coordinators. He told me that even though I was not shortlisted that he wanted me to know that out of 1200 brands that applied, that mine definitely stood out! I knew that in order to move forward I needed to scale up and get a studio but again I didn’t have enough funds. I thought that my local council could help but I wasn’t sure so I resorted to good old Google! It was there I discovered DEGF Scheme, a funding scheme for small business starting up in my city. I applied and eventually got funding for a studio space and equipment. Then I employed my first staffing team.
What sets your pieces apart from the others?
My pieces are definitely not for the conservative! It’s use of bold designs and colors seeks to sort of enhance the wearer’s personality, so we tend to go all out while balancing color, fit, and contemporary design with a bit of drama to go with it! We are very particular about excellent dress finishing.
What is the message behind your pieces?
This can be summarized in three words: Bold, Chic and Beautiful!
Where do you see your brand in 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I want to have at least 3 stores, and have developed a loyal brand following both for our ready-to-wear and Bespoke brand offers.
Thoughts on these pieces?