‘My dream is to clothe MICHELLE OBAMA’- MAUREEN OKOGWU-IKOKWU, CEO Sunny Rose Fashion
MAUREEN Okogwu-Ikokwu is one of Nigeria’s talented fashion designers. Her label, Sunny Rose is gradually taking over from the established ones with her participation at A-list fashion shows in Nigeria and abroad. The ex-model also made her name on the runway and in commercials, an experience which she disclosed in this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly has helped her build her brand. Presently based in Thailand, the lady from Delta State and niece to former first lady, late Mrs. Maryam Babangida tells her story.
What are the designs in your collection this year?
It is a collection for the trendy women who want something very wearable and at the same time something that looks African. It is a mix of classical clothes.
Is it different from what you showcased last year?
Yes, it is very different, and at the same time it is more or less the same because I use African print in creating the style.
What has been the impact of this fashion week to your business and label?
It has a very huge impact because now in Nigeria, people want our designs. People now request for some of our collections being paraded on the runway. Many bloggers worldwide now write about us, a lot of people worldwide now know about the label.
Where are you actually based?
I am based in Thailand. I am sometimes in Abuja and Lagos to showcase what I have for the Nigerian designers.
Thailand has been my home for eight years. Abuja is like a transitional home. I live and work in Thailand. My factory is there and my collections are also there.
How long have you been doing fashion?
For eight years now. I started with accessories, handbags and the clothing line now.
What motivated you to continue whereas you would have given up?
I have always loved fashion right from my childhood. I have trendy and fashionable parents, aunties. As a little girl, I watched them. It has always been something in my heart since childhood.
Who encouraged you, that you could make it in this venture?
I am someone who believes in myself, in my dreams, in my ambition. So, I have always encouraged myself to go for it. Anything I wanted to do, my parents supported me and fashion is something I have always wanted to do. So, it’s easy for me.
So far, so good, has it been worth the while?
It has been very worthwhile. It has been amazing. You can push yourself to new heights as you bring in new collections. Sometimes it exceeds my own expectations.
What separates Sunny Rose from other designers?
The Sunny Rose woman is a glamorous lady who wants something different. What actually separates us from others is that we use the Ankara prints a lot, this is our statement.
Your brand’s name is unique, how did you come about it?
It’s the combination of the first name of my parents. My father is Sunny and my mother is Rose.
Are you a trained designer?
I trained as a computer specialist, software developer. Fashion is my passion.
Where does the inspiration come from?
Anything and everything inspires me. It could be a little insect you see on the floor, it could be the way they live. It could be the cloud. I see something and I start creating a new design.
Who are your icons in this business?
One of my icons is Valentino. He is someone I love and emulate. I love Oscar de la Renta. These are old school classic designers. You can wear their collections 50 years later and they will still look amazing.
Do you have a particular fabric you love to work with all the time?
I love silk. I always have silk in my collections. It’s a natural fabric because they produce the threads that are woven into the cloth. So, it’s 100 per cent natural fabric.
Are there celebrities you wish to clothe?
I love to clothe Mitchel Obama. She is high in fashion and she is emulated by women around the world. I like to empower women and I think she does that.
What are the challenges in this kind of business?
There are different frontiers, barriers you have to conquer. All countries have their regulations you have to comply with. You have to also come through different platforms, the logistics of moving your collections from one place to the other. These are the challenges but we are motivated to face them.
Tell us about your background.
I attended schools in Kaduna, Nigeria and then I left for Switzerland where I did my university. I was a model for 15 years. I did different catwalks for different fashion brands, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, I did all their catwalk shows. That is what also helped me in my business, because I could see the business of fashion from different angles, from being a model and also designer. I get to see the designers, where they source their fabrics and all that. I did a lot of campaign about fashion. A lot of editorials, all these helped me in my own business, because now I know how it works in relation to my brand. I was there for years, it’s like a huge leap for me. I have a lot of advantages. I worked in many cities, London, Paris, New York, all over the world. It makes me to adapt to different cultures. I can also speak quite a lot of languages. The experience made me whom I am today.