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 “Style Temple’s” Creative Director, Ogugua Okonkwo, a prestigious Nigerian Designer and Tastemaker. Fashion Bomb Africa’s Editor, Gloria Nella recently caught up with Ogugua Okonkwo for a compelling interview.
Tell us a little about yourself, Who is Ogugua Okonkwo?
To be honest, this is quite a complex question. To a lot of people I am an astute perfectionist, but I believe I am a self-starter with a very keen idea of what I want, and while it has taken me time to horn this clarity of purpose, I’d say I have had to learn on the job through trying and failing, and trying again until I get what it is I want. But as a way of background, I trained as a Medical Laboratory Scientist at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and pursued a career in that field before taking a major career pivot to first, fashion illustration, and then, working for other brands as an associate designer before starting Style Temple.
When did you first discover your love Fashion & Design?
I grew up around very resourceful and entrepreneurial women. My grandmother and my mum would take it upon themselves to make clothes for myself and my other siblings, when they had to, or amend our clothes each time they tore. On hindsight, I’d say that greatly influenced me even though I couldn’t articulate that into thoughts at the time. My father on the other hand, would always reward my siblings and I when ever we sketched things, I really didn’t know I’d eventually have use for all those skills that they, in a way, encouraged us to pick up as a way of passing time. So, once I found myself putting in hours into sketching with not as much effort put into my job at the clinic, I knew this was something that I’d to pursue. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that it has been a very trying journey, but one that I continue to triumph over through steadfastness, innovation and an unwavering dedication to.
What is the story behind your brand?
Style Temple officially launched in 2012 providing made-to-measure services in Abuja, Nigeria. We (my former business partner and I) ran the first three years not making money yet filling a gap we saw in the market. We continued with almost no capital save for the few thousands that we’d put together from our meagre personal savings. After sometime, my business partner wanted to set out on her own, which for me, felt like starting afresh. In 2016, after 4 years of being in operation, it occurred to me how hard it is scaling-up made-to-measure services, so, I decided to branch out into ready-to-wear. For ready-to-wear, I wanted to create a line that the uber-stylish women that come to us can buy off the shelf, without losing that recognizable edge that is our mainstay. I leveraged my market intelligence gathered from our years of personal client interaction involved with our made-to-measure services, to create something truly feminine and one-of-a-kind. In October 2016, after only a few months of releasing our debut RTW collection, we were invited to show our Spring/Summer collection at the Lagos Fashion Week to a critical reception from industry insiders, press and buyers.
What defines Style Temple?
Style Temple, I find, is the interpretation of today’s modern woman; sophisticated, complex and larger-than-life. I am constantly trying to find a balance between construction and femininity, between strength and delicacy. I find that over time, the women that buy our pieces are more daring than most, they are globally curious, socially conscious and have a desire to stand-out from the crowd. This has enabled the brand carve a niche for itself in the ever burgeoning Nigerian fashion industry as the go-to brand for girls with a knack for making a lasting sartorial impression.
What sets your brand apart from the others? What inspires your pieces?
I live and breathe the style Temple woman. I have an unparalleled understanding of what women want, and at Style Temple, we have made it our business to deliver that to them. I’m constantly thinking about the Style Temple woman…. who she is; what she is evolving into; where she goes; what she does; and, how she wants to be perceived. I ultimately create clothes that address these pointers.
What future plans do you have for Style Temple? Where do you see Style Temple 10 years from now?
My vision for Style Temple is to become a globally recognizable brand that caters to, and celebrates exceptional women of every ethnicity. I hope with Style Temple, we’re able to make women feel beautiful, strong and extraordinary from the inside out. We are working tirelessly to transcend geography and every limitation there is to becoming an International designer brand that will appeal as warmly to Europeans, Asians and Americans as we would Africans. This, we realize, is a difficult task and one that is yet to be achieved by any brand from the African continent.
What do you think?