CITY clothier, Ngozi Nkoloenyi is gradually having her groove back after the trauma of losing her husband two years ago. She recently staged a classic wedding for her first son, Obinna where the crème de la crème converged to celebrate with her.
The amiable woman behind Bloomingale bared it all in this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly. She spoke about life without her husband, business and of course, if she would take a leap into the marriage institution again.
Your first son got married a couple of weeks back, how does it feel?
The wish of every human being, whether a mother or father is to see your children progress. As they are growing, there is a sort of joy in you, moving from primary to secondary, university, then getting to a marriageable age and bringing somebody into the family. I feel on top of the world especially when I have been in a very sad mood for two years, having lost my husband in 2011. There has been a state of melancholy around the family. My son’s wedding brought joy into our extended family. Everybody is happy for us.
Now that you are getting your groove back, should we expect to see more of you in social activities?
As a matter of fact, my social outings in the past were not because I was looking for where to go, neither was I looking for where to have drinks. I don’t drink alcohol. I am not trying to be boastful. If I stay at home, I am happy and more comfortable. When I go out for socials, I just go to support our friends in whatever they do. What my husband never liked was to open the papers and see me there. He never liked it, but I am into the fashion line, so people identify with me. I still attend events of my friends and well wishers. You have to be part of me before I can be seen there. God gave me health and good looks, therefore, I will continue to attend my friend’s event. Even your boss, Kunle Bakare has been so nice to me. Even if it is to show my face in whatever he is doing, I will do that and he also reciprocates. Love is reciprocal. It is in this country people misinterpret it when you have a male friend. Kunle is my friend, likewise Seye and Dele Momodu. There was an interview I granted when I started out early, maybe in my late 20s. I started life pretty early. By the time I was 22 years, I think I have had my last baby. My husband caught me early and I loved him. We started life early. My siblings used to say I am on the fast lane. In the interview, I said I prefer male friends to female friends. Male friends do not have time for competition and gossips. But I don’t hold any grudge, I am not jealous of anybody.
When you started out, a lot of people knew you as Bloomingale but you later rebranded to La Valerie?
As a matter of fact, I had both my first and second degrees at the University of Lagos, when I finished my husband did not allow me to work. I even had my youth service in one of his companies. I was more or less like a housewife. That gave me a better bonding with my children. I remember when my husband wanted something from the children, he would ask me to talk to them. By the time they were growing, it became very boring because they were in secondary school. So, I was home alone. Then I had realized that I had a knack for fashion designing. I can remember that I was very good at it in secondary school. I used to make skirts with my needle and thread. So, I went to learn how to sew, then went abroad to further. I started in a very humble form. I started with my dining table, from there, I moved to the boy’s quarters, from there, God blessed us with a home. So, I started using our former house as my office. From there, I moved to Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos. I started sorting out fabrics, getting shoes, hats for my clients. By then, my shop was a one-stop place for fashion. Then, most first ladies were into fashion than any other thing. I had quite a lot of first ladies as my clients. From there, I started making wedding gowns, went abroad to customize my gowns. I went into a lot of businesses. There was a time I was selling cars. That is another knack for me, I love cars. Yes, I love cars but I am known basically in the designing world. I started with Bloomingale, I still have Bloomingale, but La Valerie is a subsidiary of Bloomingale. Notwithstanding, I am a director in my husband’s company, now that he passed one, I am the chairman.
When you started out, you were designing for a lot of people, do you still do that till now?
Yes, this is something I have passion for. I am still into designing, but my kids have warned me that I have paid my dues, I should take things slowly. I have limited the number of clients I have. I work with my pace now. There was a time I get to my office around 8, 8.30 a.m, there was a time I worked into the night, up to 2 a.m. My husband of blessed memory will ask me how much my clients will pay me, he was ready to pay double. But it wasn’t the money, it was just the passion. I had an award years back, it was given to me by City People magazine, my husband was given the opportunity to talk about me that day. He celebrated me and talked about my passion. I did all that when I was much younger. I thank God for the kind of children I have, who want me to retire. I also thank God for my late husband. I married a man who loved me, everything he did was for me.
Is any of your children taking after your fashion business?
My daughter is a career girl. She made first class in Accounting and Economics. She is a chartered accountant. She went ahead to do her MBA in the U.S. She is just a career girl. But God has given me two other daughters aside the biological one. I also want to adopt one more. I think Joan and Karen are into the fashion thing. Joan should be able to handle that. I have taken the two of them to wedding fairs. I actually want to retire so that they can be paying me pension.
How will you describe life since your husband went to be with the Lord?
His spirit is always around us, in everything we do. He was such a wonderful man, he was an angel. I married a man who will tell me that I should treat my house help the same way I treat my children. He believed I must feed them with whatever I am eating. He cared so much about me. What people didn’t understand was that I used to dress for him. I must not dress shabbily when he was around. He also gave me a wonderful opportunity to make money. He was my gossip partner, even when each one of us travels abroad, we will chat for minutes on phone. I can hardly say a sentence without mentioning his name, even in death. I still call his name as if he is beside me. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it. Apart from God that brought me into this world, nobody has ever made an impact in my life like he did, nobody will ever make an impact again. No matter the kind of man. My children knew the type of closeness I had with my husband, they have been trying to bridge that gap. I was very sick after he died. I was going through a lot of trauma, one of the children called and asked if he could be my gossip partner like his dad. The children really tried for me.
It has not been easy since he died. It has not been easy, my husband was a house man, he never went out as such. He would play good music for me and we will dance together, the song they played for me when I was dancing during my son’s wedding was one of my husband’s favourite. He used to play the song and even danced to it. We used to do dancing competition together. I urge every man to disclose everything about their life to their wife. The day it will happen, she is the only friend you will have. I advice everybody to bond with their partner before one departs.
What has been happening to his business empire since he left?
To God be the glory, He is awesome, this is why we train children. Even if I don’t have children to take over his business, I think I am quite educated to take over. He exposed me to his line of business, I know his partners abroad. There was a rumour that his business will go with him but to their disappointment, business is moving forward. We have even employed vet doctors. We deal with farmers.
Will you consider taking another shot at marriage?
No, my boys are going to kill me (laughs). My boys are my husband, am I going to marry a man inside my house or am I going to move into his own. I am looking forward to grandchildren, my sons are my husband.
What do you think has kept your business over the years?
I don’t think I have attended to my business for the past two years. Since I lost my husband, I have been on and off the scene. You know what business is, when you are not there, if your people don’t have the fear of God, they will just do whatever they want to do. My clients always want to meet me to co-ordinate their things. We have just been managing, but now, I am back to work. I will say God has kept the business. Consistency, hard work has also helped.
Do you also make bridals?
There are some people who want their wedding gown personalized, we do it for them. I have people I give my designs abroad and they personalize them. For instance, my daughter in-law’s wedding gown, she wanted a vintage wedding gown, the Victorian style, and she wanted a fitted gown for the reception, we couldn’t get it abroad so we came back to La Valerie bridal and got her wedding gown for her. What she changed into at the reception was a hand beaded sequence gown.
What advice will you give brides who want to choose a wedding gown?
A lot of Nigerian brides want chiffon net, they are not bridal, though people us it but it is better to wear a vintage gown, something you cannot wear except on your wedding day. The look you want to have that day depends on you. Some people want conventional gown, the ball gown but I will say, your height, your complexion, your look should determine the type of gown you wear. If you are a petite girl and you say because people wear fitted, you too want to wear fitted, you will look so tiny on that day. But if you wear a ball gown, lift yourself a bit high with your heels that will suit your stature perfectly. For the tall ones, don’t wear anything dramatic because it is in vogue, you will look like a masquerade. That is why I say, there is no style when it comes to bridals that is not in vogue, all depends on your stature. In the last fair I attended in February, they had mostly the net and chiffon, it was just plain net, underneath some people put organza or satin. People are more interested in the ball gown now as well.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013