Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Abuja-based designer, Ogugua Okonkwo recently held a viewing of draped couture fabrics at her outfit,

Abuja-based designer, Ogugua Okonkwo recently held a viewing of draped couture fabrics at her outfit, Style Temple, showcasing unique intricate hand beaded wedding couture and evening wears. Damilola Oyedele writes

It is still a world where parents prefer their children to study the major courses; medicine, surgery, engineering and others. Ogugua, known as Og to her friends, therefore decided to satisfy her parents.
She studied Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, despite her passion for fashion designing. She served her country, and started work at the State House Clinic in Abuja.
She soon quit to pursue her dream, which started when she used to cut up her mother’s old curtains just to sew up her designs, and always had to alter her own outfits because she was skinny.
“A friend told me about this fashion house: Berry’s Couture that needed a designer. So I went for the interview. The woman who owned the outfit asked to see my portfolio. I had to go back home, quickly put one together, and I got the job. Seven months later, I left to start Style Temple,” she said.
Most of her clientele are women from Northern Nigeria who are generally known to be fashionable and glamorous for weddings, dinners and special occasions.
Style Temple, which now also has a fashion school, opened three years ago in Ogugua’s tiny apartment, and held its first viewing of fashion installations at its Maitama store. A visitor cannot help but notice and marvel at the intricate designs using crystals, reflective beads and some stones on fabrics draped in dress like fashion mannequins.
Some of the designs also featured ankara embedded into tulle and laces. All hand-crafted, some of the designs, which were mostly wedding dress and evening wears, took as much as eight weeks to make.
The designer explained that having a viewing for clientele is much cheaper than having a fashion show, especially when the budget is tight. She also chose to drape the designed fabrics around the mannequins, instead of sewing to size, so that there would be flexibility in making them for any client.
Style Temple’s specialties are the hand crafted couture bridal and evening wears, even though the outfit does regular office and casual wears for its clientele. The price of a design depends on the kind of detailing that goes into it; and the kinds of stones that are chosen for it.
Considering designs on display at the viewing, it would be hard to believe the designer did not study fashion. With her talent for illustrations, and her passion for pursuing her dream, she further develops herself with regular online courses.
Ogugua recalled with relish how she got to design a wedding dress using Swarovski crystals, for a Northern bride.
“For what I produce, I think the prices are fair enough. I don’t believe in overpriced fashion, so you get value for your money,” she said and narrated how she made no profit off her first designs for clients as she had a lot to prove. Her first wedding dress ever cost N20,000 for the detailing where she had charged the client N15,000. She was just happy that a bride-to-be was willing to entrust her wedding dress to Style Temple, that she gladly added her own money.
She admits it has not been easy being an entrepreneur in Nigeria due to the high cost of running a business particularly in an expensive city like Abuja. But where others are quick to blame the government bureaucracies and failures at providing enabling environment or start-ups, Ogugua heaps most of the blame on staff members, particularly artisans, many of whom she described as unreliable.
“It is not easy particularly working with artisans in this country. They are usually unreliable, so when you run a business that is based on other factors, it is really tough. Paying rent, other logistics, it’s all quite tough, but we try to manage. Managing people is not easy, but over the years I am finding the balance: when to be hard, soft, persuasive, almost mean,” she added. She is now an employer of 16 people.
For Ogugua, every outfit has to speak, as her clients are her billboards. In a competitive sector with new designers springing up every day, she realises the need to stay fresh, and offer her clientele the best. That is just what she plans to do: expand into making jewellery to accessorise the outfits, and make customised shoes, purses and even shape wear for her clients. Her biggest dream yet is to become an African brand.

Source. : This day

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