•Singapore Based Nigerian Designer, IFEOMA UBBY
The concept of redefining African fashion is on the high. When you talk about Africans rocking the fashion scenes abroad, notable names like Sindiso Khumalo (South Africa), Taibo Bacar (Mozambique), Lisa Folawiyo (Nigeria),Duro Olowu (Nigeria), Deola Sagoe (Nigeria), Soares Anthony (Nigeria), Lola Faturoti (Nigeria), Frank Oshodi (Nigeria) and the others come to mind.
Through their modern and unique fashion, Africans are now seen to be getting into the spotlight thereby contributing in developing new trends in the world of fashion.
Let’s tell you about Ifeoma Ubby. She is a young Nigerian designer hitting it big in the cosmopolitan south asian nation of Singapore. She is the founder of Olive Ankara, a feminine style brand that blends printed African fabrics with modern aesthetics. The Singapore based Ifeoma was born and raised in Italy by Nigerian parents. Her works depict the pride she has for her roots and origin.
Ify as fondly called by her friends is a molecular biologist with a doctorate in genetics. Many wonder why such a brilliant mind would leave Science at such erudite and peak stage of academics for fashion. Below are the excerpts gotten from the interview she recently had with The Guardian.
“I was born and raised in Italy from a Nigerian family. They moved-in in the early ’80s to Italy. I was born and raised in Venice exactly and I basically lived all my life in Venice. I think I am super lucky because I was raised with both cultures; the Italian culture coming from living in Italy and the Nigerian culture coming from my parents.”
“I did my PhD in Human Molecular Genetics in Italy and then I decided to move abroad to do my Post-Doc. on Cancer Research and it happens that a friend of mine was living here in Singapore and it was a time when I was looking for a post-job position, and I had a skype call and I looked into Singapore and I found two or three different laboratories and they were doing super cool research project, so I applied and got the position.”
“I never thought I would have been a designer as that was not my dream. It happened that when I moved to Singapore seven years ago, I realised that you could find people from everywhere with different cultures and religions. But then I realized that Singapore had a massive problem – there was no African culture. No one knew about Africa, the food, the culture, the religion, nothing.”
“At the beginning, I never thought about starting a brand. I was just doing clothes for myself and then I realized that people were asking about the clothes, fabric and history. Friends started asking me to make clothes for them. So I decided to do a small collection just to test how the market was, this was in 2016 when I was still working as a scientist in the laboratory.”
“Well, because they are surrounded by different cultures, and people from all over the world, people in Singapore are very open-minded and their acceptance was really good and was unexpected. People here are culturally curious and that is why Olive Ankara stands for bold style for the culturally-curious. They really want to know about other cultures because they have never had the experience to feel and hear it. I think this is also the reason I keep moving forward”
“What I do basically is a blend of all my journeys, my heritage, the African print then some Italian styles. For example, I fuse some Chinese designs with a little bit of Italian twist in the style and then the African fabric to build something new which is a blend of three different cultures and I realized that people really like it,”
“I want to change the idea that Ankara is meant to be used basically for occasions. The colours are so bright and vibrant that you feel you cannot wear it everywhere. So I try to create designs that can be worn from day to night. I do women and kids wear from skirts to pants, blazers and tops. I also teach my customers how they can incorporate Ankara in their normal wardrobe so they can wear it to work and not just for occasions.”
“I work a lot on details. I pay a lot of attention to little details which I get from Italian fashion and my background, as a scientist where every single thing counts,”
“Who knows one day I would go back to science but for now I see myself working on the brand because there are so many other things that need to be done especially in Asia where people do not really know about the African culture.”