Someone in here is about to take the Fashion world by storm, I tell you. Chika is the dynamic brain behind a new and versatile line of accessories.
A passionate young man, his love for what he does is contagious. Chatting with him reminded me of this phrase – ‘If you can dream it, you can have it.’
The fashion status quo is getting transformed by the day. More Creatives are rising to the challenge and here we chat with one of the bolder ones. Enjoy!
We’d love to meet you
My name is Chika Nwakanma. I am an entrepreneur and writer. I love the arts and sometimes like to fancy myself as an intellectual.
Give a brief introduction of your business endeavor
Afrocentric accessories is a fashion brand that employs local fabrics to explore creative fashionable designs. We started operating November last year, and so far the journey has been quite interesting and educative. Like our motto says, we are bringing in the African style of global fashion. This we hope to achieve by using local materials, craft and fabrics to come up with indigenous African fashion accessories.
Do u see yourself as a creative individual and at what point did this happen?
I would not say I started off seeing myself as a creative individual. I just know that I was inquisitive and always wanted to do something different from what others were doing. I was the type of guy that would want to make his own path through the forest than following an already designated way. I always resented the pre-condition of life or social patterns in whatever form. It was later in life and through maturity that I recognized those as elements of creativity.
What source(s) do you draw your inspiration from?
Everything around me – my environment, the way people relate with each other, the way they react to things, the dress codes, just anything. I believe in making the most of what you have. Look at the environment and seek ways to exploit it, to create things. I am like a sponge, I soak up whatever artistic or innovative ideas I come in contact with.
Describe your journey so far
Like I said earlier, it has been an educative process, which I think is very important in my quest to grow as an individual. Things started off slowly, but they are picking up. Our designs are getting attention and acceptance from people; but there is still a lot to be done.
How did you start/ get into what you do now?
Well, I just got tired of the normal 9-5 kind of life. I wanted to control my own life and decide my own pace. I did not want to be at the whims of someone who calls himself my boss or at the mercy of a monthly salary. Besides I thought if I put in half the effort I put into working for someone for myself, I would be better off. Though, I always knew that it would not be an easy road.
Did you receive any training?
Yes. I received a little bit of training in beading while I was in NYSC camp, and thereafter I got trained on Ankara accessories.
Did you get discouraged at any point?
Yes. At a time, it felt like I was just spending my money on a futile venture. But you have to realize that business is like a school of life. You are tested in all areas. Your patience, prudence, creativity and even morality is tested as an entrepreneur, you have to learn to be patient, position yourself and implement your strategies. You have to learn how to swim against the tide. Calm waters don’t make good sailors. It’s only your passion that would keep you going when you are discouraged. Don’t get into it unless your heart is in it.
What made you stick with it?
Passion. The desire to see the fruition of one’s ideas. The satisfaction that comes with seeing how other people can value your creation and design. The need to break free of the corporate slave cycle.
What sets your work apart from others in your niche?
Quality. What is worth doing is worth doing well. But of course, one cannot go the extra mile unless he has a passion for that thing. At Afrocentric accessories, we stand out from other fashion brands, first with our particular bias to local fabrics, craft and textiles; then, there’s the professionalism in the finished work and the quality of our products.
We don’t aim to be the run-of-the-mill type of designer that goes with the trend. We intend to be pacesetters and creators. That is why we are coming up with designs that would challenge our creativity. We are breaking down fashion borders that have conscripted the use of Ankara, batik, kente, and other African fabrics to a very limited spectrum.
Where do you plan to take this to?
Global. Think Louis Vuitton, think Calvin Klein, think Salvatore…. then think Afrocentric. In fact, we aim to be the African response to those brands.
We want to show that the same way linen, cotton and silk are used to create a whole lot of clothing and accessories, so we can do with local fabrics. African fashion and textiles cannot be held to such relic in this global age. We have to explore creative and innovative ways to using and wearing local textile, which is what Afrocentric accessories is all about.
What hurdles have you encountered and how are you dealing with them?
Our fashion sense when it comes to local fabrics. People still think that if you wear an Ankara sneakers, you must match it. Women still think that an Ankara bag must go with a complimentary dress. This is the type of mentality we are trying to counter with our designs.
Then there is also the problem of skilled personnel. They do not deliver on time and are never short of excuses. I just don’t understand how people can be so complacent and nonchalant after collecting money for unrendered services.
What habits of yours would you say contribute to your creative output?
Inquisitiveness, the tendency to find my own way instead of waiting or relying on other people, the willingness to try new ideas. All these contributed to my creative output
How do you see the level of creativity and innovation in our society?
Nigerians are very creative people. There is no doubt about this. What I have a grouse with is the wastefulness of our creativity. We do not want to harness our potentials. We are always waiting for someone or something. Be it the government, pastor, miracle, rich relative, boyfriend, husband, children, wife, we are always passing the buck to someone else’s table. We do not want to accept responsibility for our lives or the outcome of it. The moment we begin to accept responsibility, things would change
Do you have a mentor in the business or people whose works you respect?
I do not have any mentor. But I admire the work of other designers. People like Christie Brown, Ava Morrison, Ohenma and Design for love. I also admire Estee Lauder for suceesfully managing 27 world class brands and the LVMH group which also owns over 30 brands including Thomas Pink, Moet & Chandon, Bulgari, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hennessy and others.
How would you encourage aspiring creative business owners?
Never give up. It’s a fight to the finish. Today’s global brands were the products of someone’s idea. Why should yours be any different?
And there you have the Afrocentric guy! Chika looks forward to your feedback and questions. Do make use of the comment box.
He may be contacted on +2348157605889 or +2348060793263. Email him on email@example.com. You need more of him – Visit www.afrocen3ic.com or make a stop at 5, Maduike way, Off Akerele road by randle junction, Surulere, Lagos.
‘I am like a sponge, I soak up whatever artistic or innovative ideas I come in contact with’ – Chika