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UGO OKOYE, A Designer On The Move

By Glam & Essence

His quiet mine shouldn’t be taken for granted, for certain, Ugo Okoye, who stands tall as the creative engine of his fashion brand, UGO OKOYE. Is focused on what he has set out to do in the world of fashion, especially as it concerns Men’s fashion. Having made a hit on one across Nigeria with his masterpiece agbada, well worn by showbiz star, Ebuka, the designer seem ready to change the face of men’s fashion in the years to come.

How did you find yourself in the business of fashion?
I like to think of myself as an artist, it is something I do with ease. While growing up, my parents wanted me to study Fine and Applied Arts in London, but I wanted to be a businessman like my father. I didn’t want to be an artist, because I didn’t think there was any pride in being one at the time. While I was in university, I started reading books on talents, gifts and it helped me find my calling. My mom was also a designer, so that influenced me too. I remember when I was in school, I saw people dress funny and started sketching it and trying to make it look better.

Despite the growing number of designers in Nigeria, what gave you the courage to start off your fashion label?
Well, as at the time I started the business of fashion, there was really no growing number. I hope you understand what I mean by there was no growing number, it was around 2006 upwards that the idea of fashion for this generation started picking up.

You chose to do men’s fashion, why?
Actually I started by making clothes for women, that was what I learnt. Along the line, I had to switch to men, making clothes for women was a bit demanding, due to the fact that my office was on the Mainland and my clients were on the Island, which was really challenging. However, they always wanted me to come to the island for fittings and measurements etc, all because I was a rookie.

How easy is it clothing men when compared with designing for women?
I would say it’s easy to cloth men but in terms of designing it’s not easy designing for both men and women, they are both not easy tasks because to be different, you have to think different.

We can’t talk about Ugo with out mentioning Ebuka. How did your relationship as it concerns fashion begin?
He saw one of my pieces on the runaway, he hit me up and said he would like me to make clothes for him and that’s how we started business together.

What was the inspiration for that amazing outfit you made for Ebuka that went viral?
The inspiration came when I had a conversation with one of my clients. Going through his wardrobe, I realized he didn’t have an agbada, so I convinced him to get one. He told me never and he said it’s because the agbada was too bulky and uncomfortable and I understood him. So I told him that I was going to come up with something that will eliminate the stress that was involved in wearing an agbada, that was how we came up with “The Reale collection”.

Did you expect that the design would attract that much attention and talk?
For the wedding, I knew he was going to be the best dressed but I didn’t know it was going to break the internet.

So how have you leverage off the publicity it generated for your label since then?
Of course through social media, I have been able to gain a wider audience and that has helped me because people recognize me, from different parts of the world.

Did all of the publicity you got put you under pressure in any way and why?
No it didn’t, I’d say it just helped with my creativity, I started working on collections outside the box.

So what inspires you to create a masterpiece for your celebrity clients now?
It depends on a lot of factors. The person himself matters a lot, Looking into their personality, the resources available inspires me to create something incredible. Think about it, if you were told to create some designs that requires some ridiculous amount of money to achieve, if the funds are not there, it cannot be achieved.

Who would you say has inspired you with what you do with your brand today?
The American tailor called Martin Greenfield.

What are you doing to stand you out from your contemporaries today with your label?
Constantly thinking outside the box with my designs and also making quality clothes, because it’s one thing to have great designs and it’s also another thing to have good finishing.

You don’t tend to unveil your collection of that deliberate?
It is not deliberate and we are working on getting our collections out there.

What would you identify as the Ugo signature look on your design?
Maturity and understated elegance.

You recently got honoured by Nobel Afrik,how did that make you feel?
I felt very honored because I knew there were greater and brighter days ahead, it is a good thing being honored by your Alma-mater. I remember when I started Nobel and he told me not to worry about the money and focus on the passion, that I’d make the money and use it to complete my fees and that was exactly what happened.

What was the major impact your training at Nobel Afrik made on your creating your brand?
Before I went to Nobel Afrik, I’d knowledge on designing and tailoring, be cause my mom was a fashion designer, but I didn’t know the engineering aspect to clothing and that was one of the major things I learnt there.

What do you plan on doing as the next phase for your label?
The goal is to be a global brand and also to be a household name in Africa, we don’t want people to only know who we are, we also want them to wear us. We want to be a religion for fashion.

So before venturing into fashion, what was Ugo doing. Let us into your world?
I was mostly into Strategy consulting and was also working with a record label at that time before I went fully into fashion.

I’m passionate about giving back to the society. I’ve an altruistic desire to give back to the society to help improve human welfare.

Glam & Essence Magazine