I am so excited to feature Ugonna Omeruo who is the Founder and Creative Director of HSE of Nwocha; a renowned fashion label that is transcending the shores of Africa. The first fashion designer to be interviewed on KonnectAfrica.Net, we uncover the layers to discover the vision behind the highly successful, indigenous fashion label, and learn from the life of this very young woman who has found a way to live her dream in the realms of high fashion.
KA: HSE of Nwocha…A very unique name for a fashion outfit; what is the concept behind the name?
Ugonna: My label is named after my grandmother who was my fashion icon while growing up; her name was Madam Nwocha Ezuma. She always looked so elegant and fabulous and she inspired me to start my label. Hse Of Nwocha is simply the place you come to when you want to look elegant and fabulous.
KA: Let’s get comfortable with the person behind the brand. Who is Ugonna Omeruo?
Ugonna: Ugonna Omeruo is a very simple lady; I live by the saying, “Hard work never kills anyone”. I surround myself with positive energy so as to make each day a productive day. I am from Abia State and I was born on the 26th of September. My hobbies include reading detective novels, watching movies when I have the time and visiting with my nephews and nieces.
KA: You are a ‘fashionista’ through and through…was it something you learned or have you always been this high on fashion?
Ugonna: I picked up on fashion in my teenage years and I never let go. I am a firm believer in looking good at all times, No matter your body type, there is always a way to look good. I will honestly say that I have always been ‘high on fashion’; it makes me happy.
KA: I find that most people tend to abandon their certificates and degrees after putting in all that hard work for all that time. Is this true for you? Where and what did you study?
Ugonna: You can say I am one of those because I studied International Relations but I am currently doing fashion. Education is absolutely important but once you are passionate about something you can’t run from it. I love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else.
KA: Would you advice your child to go the long route or dive head-first into their obvious passion?
Ugonna: My advice would be the same advice my parents gave me, which is to have a first degree that can get you a job just in case your passion doesn’t quite work out. Once you have that then you can chase any dream of yours.
KA: HSE of Nwocha has become a design brand to be reckoned with in Nigerian high fashion; how smooth or rocky was the path that led you here? What are your challenges?
Ugonna: It’s not been smooth at all; from dealing with starting and managing a business to the daily running of it, to staff management then to unstable power supply. It’s by the sheer grace of God that businesses survive in Nigeria. But we can’t stop, no matter what challenges or problems we face, we have to overcome and keep forging ahead.
KA: What inspires you to create a particular outfit or collection?
Ugonna: I get inspired by everything around me. Things like nature, buildings, architecture, colours, fabrics etc. Most times when I am about to design a new collection, I travel for a few days to get inspired by something new. A new environment always helps; I am relaxed and my creative vision is clearer.
KA: Must a designer also be a good tailor?
Ugonna: Not in all cases. Most designers don’t even know how to sew but have the ability to design and translate their designs into finished garments. It’s good to know how to sew but it’s not absolutely important or necessary. Once you have the right tailors or production company your sketches will be translated properly.
KA: Any mentors along the way?
Ugonna: In the Nigerian fashion industry I looked up to Zizi Cardow a lot because her shop was very close to my family home in Ikoyi, so I always went in there to chat and ask her questions.
KA: What role does social media and networking play in propagating your brand?
Ugonna: The importance of social media has become imperative for any business. It helps to get the word out fast and people immediately pay attention. It’s magical.
KA: Any plans to take your creations beyond Africa’s shores?
Ugonna: The world is so small now that we have people placing orders online from the US and UK so in a way we are already across Africa.
KA: Where has HSE of Nwocha shown its collections? Who wears HON?
Ugonna: Apart from organising our own fashion shows, in 2012, HSE of Nwocha has showed at the African Fashion Week London (AFWL) and the Arise Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria. Actress Stephanie Okereke Linus, Damilola Adegbite and rapper Eva Alordiah are a few of the celebrities who rock HON.
KA: What guidelines would you give to an up and coming fashion designer about materials, tailors, financing and all such matters?
Ugonna: The business of fashion is not as easy or as glamorous as it looks; one has to educate oneself in the field they wish to go into, also one must be ready to work very hard and be very patient with your staff to achieve your vision and dreams. As For finances you can start small and grow from there. You don’t need millions to start a business. All you need is the zeal, tenacity and wisdom from God.
KA: Life is…
Ugonna: Life is what you make of it.
KA: Inspire an African youth with one sentence.
Ugonna: Work hard while you are young.