Chioma Ogbudimkpa is a certified project management professional who has served in different capacities and projects across 5 countries and different industries.
She has put in over 9 service years in FMCG, Consulting and Real Estate.
Chioma is also a sustainability advocate and a Green Champion. She has been actively involved in the ‘Going Green’ Initiative from the YALI Network since 2015.
She started her entrepreneurship journey with the launch of her women’s wear label, Redbutton in 2017 to explore her creative side.
Following this, Chioma has received a seat at the table of various local and international platforms; she is a ‘She Leads Africa’ (SLA) Accelerator beneficiary of 2017, a 2018 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and the winner, Creative Business Cup Nigeria 2019.
She will be representing Nigeria at the Global Creative Business Cup in Denmark this July. She’s also an alumnus and beneficiary of the Nigeria Creative Enterprise (NICE) program 2019 powered by the British Council.
She has a Bachelors in Project Management Technology and a PGD in Strategic Management & Leadership. Chioma loves to cycle and play scrabble at her leisure time.
What led you to fashion at the beginning and what led to the switch to sustainable fashion
My mum owned a fashion house back in the 90s, that’s where and when I started to sew, sketch and play with fabrics.
I found that I was always stitching something (till date..lol), my mum’s tailors were tired of me because nothing they make for me stays the same. I loved to experiment and add my own touch here and there.
It was fun and engaging so I continued on this path up until I started working in the corporate space. I made my work clothes and sometimes, people wanted me to make clothes for them when they realized I made the dresses myself.
It was extracurricular until 2016 when I decided to start the business properly. I enrolled in Martwayne fashion school while I was still working, just to get a professional grasp of fashion designing and the business of fashion. Following that, I launched Redbutton in 2017.
Because I am a Green Champion, it was only natural for me to incorporate sustainability into my fashion brand. I started to research ways I can be green, while still maintaining fundamental design principles.
There are several ways I have built in ethical fashion principles in my processes, including using recyclable paper packaging, ensuring minimal waste, ethical production processes and fusing sustainable materials.
What are the possible career options here?
It’s quite evident that the Africa fashion space is experiencing the highest rave she has ever had, and doesn’t seem like it will decline anytime soon.
The demand and interest in the over $50bn industry have been incredibly progressive which also implies that there are tons of career opportunities, even in a sustainable fashion.
Some common ones are textile producers (in knitting, weaving, dyeing, etc). Even here in Nigeria, we are yet to scratch the surface in exploring our indigenous woven fabrics from different tribes.
We also have fashion designers, illustrators, machinists, thought leaders in ethical fashion (not very popular in Africa but there are) who are consultants, show curators, editors, etc.
Where do you see this line of business taking you?
Building a strong ethical fashion brand that promotes African craftsmanship and design innovation, and of course, a profitable fashion business that will birth several other ethical fashion advocates and workers is my overarching goal.
Our zest for color, patterns and the intricacy in our embroideries are phenomenal and it appears we are not exploring what we have enough.
This is what I want to project to Africa and the world by exploring eco-friendly materials and African art.
What are the challenges in the fashion business, and how do you manage them?
Production is slow and expensive. But I have realized through this journey that the process and result are far more important than the speed.
It’s also more expensive to run, because eco-friendly materials are not exactly cheap (more expensive than regular fabrics), meaning that your pieces will not be cheap.
But once you can properly project your value and find your target market, you will be just fine
You use water hyacinths for some of your products, why water hyacinths? What was the reception like at the UN?
It was just an experiment, to be honest, I didn’t expect that it will be this serious o..lol!
I was researching on sustainable fabrics, something different from our woven fabrics, I bumped into this social innovation enterprise who also up-cycles waste for furniture and home decor pieces.
I found that water hyacinths can be dried and woven into panels like our Aso-oke.
I said, ‘I never saw anyone try this out in fashion, is it even possible?”
The fact that it wasn’t popular in Africa drew me further into the research. I tested it and realized it could work but the dress will be dry clean only, no machine wash.
We are constantly exploring more eco-friendly materials we can fuse into our designs to create statement pieces.
Some of the water hyacinth pieces we fused with Adire were showcased at the 4th UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and received resounding acclaim from assembly members and delegates.
We were published in the Kenyan dailies and featured on the UN Environment news updates. Between April and today, we have shipped over 50 pieces to the US and UK, following the contacts made from the UN event.
This is a testament to the fact that, even though our designs have the African aesthetic, they are also globally appealing.
Got any advice for younger fashion entrepreneurs?
Some say the industry is saturated, well maybe in some context. But also remember it is growing incredibly and the demand is looming.
There are several ways to stand out. Look around you, look inside of you, talk to people that have the capacity to help you discover new territories.
You can tweak your strategy, innovate, and position your brand for opportunities that are strategic to helping you grow. Not just for fashion entrepreneurs, the journey is HARD, trust yourself and trust the process.
I still have feelings of self-doubt, but I constantly remind myself how far I have come and how possible my dreams are.
Where can we see, follow and support your work?
You can follow our updates and see our pieces on our website, and our Instagram handle is @redbuttonng.
To follow my not-so-fun and unstructured personal stories, my Instagram handle is @chiomaredbutton.