Chinero Nnamani: I want to be remembered as a conscientious person who was Black, a Woman, and Proud

I created @ChineroNnamani to celebrate & give well-deserved credit to Africa’s influence in our culture Click To Tweet

Since childhood, Chinero Nnamani has been fascinated by the world around her. As someone with too many ideas, deciding a career wasn’t a straightforward process. Chinero wanted to be a nurse, a graphic designer, a lawyer, a social activist, an inventor, a politician, a psychologist…and the list goes on.

In her search for a calling, Chinero learned about: computer science and graphic design in Sweden, creative writing and public policy in California, philosophy and psychology in London, statistics and data management in India, anthropology and human anatomy in Nigeria, and much more. With these experiences, Chinero learned how deeply embedded African influences were to the foundations of civilizations.

She then created the Chinero Nnamani brand to celebrate, and give well-deserved credit, to Africa’s influence in our culture and other cultures throughout the world.

How do you blend technology and art in your aesthetic?

The many interconnections between technology, mathematics, and art provide a wealth of material to emphasize the fusion of African influences.

My patterns tend to also celebrate math and technology with geometric influences, and the use of simple grids and linear perspective. The symbiosis of art and technology, in my opinion, allows for the most striking prints and clothing designs.

You make your own original prints, how easy or difficult has it been creating them?

I enjoy making prints by hand, but I can’t emphasize enough how technology has changed the game, and become integral to how I create my patterns, as it is incredibly convenient to travel with a tablet and stylus.

So to answer your question, it is very easy and fun to create my prints!

Can you tell us more about what you worked on before starting your brand?

Before starting my brand I worked as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and web designer. I also worked as the Practice Manager of a Mental Health clinic.

These experiences have only helped consolidate my undergraduate experiences, and contribute to my personal and professional growth as a thinker, advocate, collaborator, manager, and leader.

What was particularly challenging to you when you decided to create the Chinero Nnamani brand?

The most challenging aspect of starting the brand was human resources, and finding and/or training reliable people to uphold my quality standards in Nigeria.

You really have to firmly and consistently foster an organizational culture of efficiency and high quality in Nigeria, or the quality will suffer without proper systems in place. Fortunately, I have steadily built an amazing team of people in Nigeria that are always eager to learn and excel.

...the most valuable things I learned were how embedded African influences were to the foundations of civilizations. Click To Tweet

You are present online and your flagship store is at the Jabi Lake Mall in Abuja. How did you go about opening the physical store?

Opening the store in Jabi, Abuja was a beautiful experience.

From our massive ornate mirrors, to our gold shelving, and blends of ornamentation and joyful visuals, I really was able to fulfill my vision for the space and have it emphasize global acuity and African pride.

What’s the creative process like for you? Where do you go, and what do you do, when you need inspiration?

I typically begin with a simple doodle or sketch in a moleskin notebook. I like to be out in nature or sitting by a window when I want to create.

Inspiration is drawn from the fluid forms and sharp colors of nature, music, traditional food, Nigerian folk art, masked dance, ancestral drums, Igbo attires, and the shear wealth of African influences and innovations in cultures and textiles throughout the world.

What is your three-year growth plan for Chinero Nnamani?

My three-year growth plan for the Chinero Nnamani brand is pursuing more expansion opportunities in the U.S. with physical store locations in malls, and pop-up events.

I also plan to release more lifestyle products like furniture, leather goods, and more!

In one sentence, how will you like to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as a conscientious person who was Black, a Woman, and Proud.

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Aphia Sekyerehene: I design clothes for non-conforming women

aphia sekyerehene fashion

Aphia Sekyerehene is an emerging fashion designer, choreographer, singer and event decorator who discovered her passion for fashion at age 14. However, she could not fully pursue her passion until her 20s. Even now after going through design school and establishing her brand, Aphia still feels unsatisfied. She believes that starting her career later in life has deprived her of opportunities she would have had if she had started at 14. Aphia shares with SLA her experience in fashion design and developments in the industry.

Why do you think you would have gained more grounds in the fashion industry if you had started at age 14?

Having an early start in a career offers you ample time and opportunity to try your hands on the various aspects of the job. This means more time to delve into related options and more time for trial and error. Starting at age 14 would have given me more experience and variety to explore but now, I have to first build a brand before I can try my hands on other options.

What prevented you from pursuing your passion after your discovery?

I would say lack of funds. This is because fashion designing is more of a practical course than theoretical. So you need to get materials needed for the course and this was something my family could not afford at the time.

In order to keep my passion alive, I came up with alternative methods like connecting with fashion designers across the world through online forums.

Were there any setbacks when you finally got into the industry?

Yes! Raising capital was one of my major setbacks. I am glad I have crossed that hurdle. Now, I am very excited to achieve more and more.

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Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

Now that you have acquired a certificate in Fashion Designing, do have plans of furthering your education?

Yes! Certainly! There is so much more to see, learn and explore. I will never limit myself to just the basics. I have to expand my knowledge. I am looking forward to acquiring a Master’s Degree in Fashion or any other course which will add value to my work.

I am hoping to get into the Parsons School of Design in New York.

How does your designing process work? What are you currently working on?

Every project I work on has its own procedures. But usually I sketch ideas as they come and do clone drafts before the actual design. Some projects take just a day to figure out, others are time consuming. The latter requires a lot of inspiration which I get from the various colours that surround me.

I am currently working on my summer collection. It is a hip, fun, free, colourful, light, stylish and original for every woman. This collection depicts the African culture in a creative way. It will be out in July.

What part of your job do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?

Working with indecisive clients is very stressful. I tackled this challenge by coming up with a very detailed order sheet that allows clients to vividly explain what they want. This way, we get a win-win situation.

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Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

In one word, define your work.


Who is your target audience?

My main target is the woman who is not afraid to stand out in her own unique self. My designs require my breaking free from the usual expectation so I target those women who stay true to their nature and are non–conformists. Having a target group also creates a niche for you, making your brand easier to handle and be identified.

Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

Which African fashion designers do you admire the most?

For one there’s Christie Brown, I admire her abstract, sophisticated and classy designs. Then there’s Pistis, her beading creates exceptional masterpieces. I also admire Oswald Boateng, his eye for clean cut is evident in his designs.

I would love to work with Christie Brown. She is sophisticated and transfers that attribute into her work. She has a way of blending totally different styles into an admirable design. Her designs are modern yet traditional; contemporary yet antiques. This is something I will love to learn.

What developments on the horizon could positively affect future opportunities for fashion designs?

For an African designer, I would say the removal of cross-country trade barrier laws could be an opportunity. Though this would introduce more competition in the fashion market, it would also provide designers with the chance to diversify and expand their market.

If you were to design an outfit for an African celebrity, who would it be and what would you make?

I will love to design a fitted floor length backless lace gown with long sleeves and beading for Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji. Genevieve has an hourglass figure and a high front neckline fitted floor length dress will compliment her figure perfectly. The backless part will give her a sexy touch and an opportunity to show her amazing skin tone.

Alima Bello: My fashion company was becoming an expensive hobby

Alima Bello

She Leads Africa connected with Alima Bello, a fashion entrepreneur from Accra, Ghana to learn more about how she’s turned her passion into a full-fledged business. This is part of our series, From Startup To Grownup, which shares how young women entrepreneurs have moved beyond the startup phase and transitioned their businesses into sustainable enterprises. 

How did you start Bello|Edu and what did you know about business before getting started?

This might sound cliché, but Bello|Edu started off as a personal need. It was hard looking for clothing or fashion pieces of my own aesthetic so I started designing my own stuff to have them made for me. This developed into designing for family friends and then later on I took a pattern drafting course to further develop my passion.

I majored in business administration both in secondary and undergrad so I had theoretical knowledge in business. I was also fortunate enough to work in a family-owned company so I had a bit of experience in business management before I ventured into Bello|Edu.

Bello Edu

How long did it take for you to view your company as a serious business and start to professionalize it? Did something happen to get you to that point?

I always viewed my passion as a business. But I guess what you’re trying to ask is at what stage I started treating it as business. There came a point where I had to be firm with myself and admit that it was becoming an expensive hobby and I needed to put certain things in place in order to realise my dreams.

I tell myself that until I am able to lock down 300 – 500 orders per collection or season, this will remain a hobby.

Bello Edu logo

What bad business habits did you need to give up in order to help your business grow?

Just because I like it doesn’t mean it has to make the cut. That’s a grown-up decision. This is where the business side of me has to override my creative side. I know most creatives go through this process where we tend to create or design something that speaks to us or reflects our mood at any point in time.

In business however, that design piece might not be feasible and so you have to do the bold thing and drop it. And oh, I have this impulse to buy any fabric that speaks to me. Now, that’s not a smart business choice.

What business investment was hard for you to make that you are now so grateful for?

With my theoretical and practical knowledge I don’t think any decision was hard to make. It was just a matter of prioritising and timing.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs interested in building a sustainable fashion business?

There’s never the right time to start a business. The time is always now.

Data is also very vital for your business. Keeping the number trends will let you know which smart and not so smart business choices to keep or to drop.