THINGS are on the upward swing for top model, Ishioma Onyebo. The former Nokia Face of Africa contestant took everyone by surprise recently when she launched a red BMW convertible and a Range Rover Sports SUV. And now capping it up with an executive fashion outlet, Esther’s Closet, in Ikeja, Lagos. The tall and beautiful model insisted fashion has been her pastime while she strutted the runway but stated all her achievement is the result of her years of hard work and dedication. ENCOMIUM Weekly took her up on her new found venture, marriage plans and more…
For how long have you nursed the idea of going into fashion business?
I have actually had it in mind for over four years now, but sometimes I just thought I have done shopping for people, I buy a lot of clothes, I am a fashion person and then I said to myself, why don’t I just do this thing and stop procrastinating.
You are a model, how fashion oriented are you?
Because of the modelling thing I am exposed to a lot of designers and fashion lifestyle. I really, really love fashion. I spend a lot of money shopping for clothes, not just any clothes, I have been doing styling for a while for few friends and celebrities, that helped me in this venture.
This is a highly competitive sector, how prepared are you?
There might be a lot of people doing this but I will carve a niche for myself because I am not out there doing what everybody is doing. A lot of our celebrities don’t know what styling is all about, that’s what I am offering. You don’t have to break a bank to look good. We also advice people that have style issues, people that don’t know how to dress themselves, and those with special body size.
Who and who can come and do business with you?
Old, young, very stylish people who are daring. Anyone who wants to look great and feel great.
How did you come about the name of your store?
Esther’s Closet, I wanted to use my name. The Esther there is my mom’s name.
Like how much did you start your business with?
I can’t actually give you an exact figure. Before you start a business, you must have a budget. I didn’t just wake up and started, I have been styling all along, I have done a lot of styling for Globacom, for private people, I style from my house. I turned my bedroom into a closet, I have been doing all that for a while. You don’t need to just wake up and say, ‘Oh, I want to set up this.’ You can start from the trunk of your car, your house, your hostel, wherever you find yourself and with hard work, one day you will get there.
Do you think you can do well in this venture?
The first day, we almost ran out of stock and after that people came and left. So far, the response has been good, that means we are on the right track.
Doing fashion business now will somewhat take you away from what brought you into limelight –modelling. Are you done with the profession?
No, jobs are still coming but you know you get to a certain age and level and you want to do something else. I am not getting younger though my age is still low maybe because I was exposed too early. I love fashion, I want to do something else. I am still a model but you see, Nigerians don’t appreciate our models. I still model outside the country because they appreciate us much better out there.
Will you say you have made a lot of money modelling?
It’s not just modelling, I do a lot of things. I am a businesswoman, an entrepreneur. Apart from modelling, I style for people, I shop for people. I am into interior décor. The house I live I fixed everything, I am into everything that brings money.
What about your new car?
The car is not actually new, it’s my birthday gift last year and this year the fashion store is my birthday gift to myself. Most times, I am not around, so I barely use the car.
It’s a unique car, a BMW convertible, how do you fall in love with such sleek car?
I was actually in Abuja when I saw the white and I said to myself, I am going to get it, people say it’s too flat for our road and I said when I started cruising in it, the government will be forced to fix the road.
As a model and fashion entrepreneur, what are your inspiration now?
The people around me, the colours, things of life, my mood, my everyday life.
What has changed about you over the years?
Nothing, it’s just that I am in Nigeria more now than before.
Things are going on smoothly for you, don’t you think of marrying some day?
Why not? I will definitely marry, I don’t do things because others are doing it. Maybe because I grew too fast, people tend to forget my age. With marriage comes a lot of responsibilities, I am going to take my time.
Is it that you are too free and you don’t want to be slowed down by marriage?
It depends on the kind of man you are with. When you work your man has to understand. I have been working since I was 17, so any man that wants to come must understand I love work, marriage won’t slow me down.
How do you enjoy your spare time?
I watch a lot of fashion programmes on television.
- FOLUSO SAMUEL
This story was first published in Encomium Weekly edition of Tuesday, July 17, 2012