Ufuoma Ekpecham left Lagos for London eight years ago with her suitcases, two kids and a heavy heart. She had to leave; she needed a change: the heartache following her parents’ death, three months within each other, was too much to handle. She had to divert her mind, and quickly.
She always had a flair for fashion – she had previously been “making some good money” designing clothes for friends and family, but not as a full-time professional.
Thanks to a supportive husband, who said “go back to school, learn it properly”, when the opportunity presented itself, she left Lagos to take up a degree in fashion design in London.
Her husband stayed on in Nigeria, and Ekpecham dove into her studies, managing the home and looking after the children on her own “minus the luxury of nannies or drivers”.
It was tough, but today, the 42-year-old is the London-based creative director of her clothing brand Josh & Nicol, named after her children.
Recently in Johannesburg for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa, showcasing her spring summer 2015 collection, Ekpecham says she is in a happy space, stronger and independent, just like the motif she uses throughout her new fashion line.
Her Popidia collection for the show was a tribute to Queen Idia of Benin, the only West African warrior queen from the Niger Delta.
“She epitomizes the African woman, strong and dependable,” says Ekpecham, who returned to her roots for inspiration for the new line.
As a child growing up in Benin and Port Harcourt, she wanted to become a doctor. She graduated with a degree in microbiology, but her love for fashion and Asoke fabrics overtook all academic pursuits. Her visits to the markets and her Ghanaian tailor, who gave life to her sketches, became more frequent. After a brief stint as a computer analyst, Ekpecham married at the age of 28, and between changing nappies, tailored wedding gowns and traditional outfits out of her garage.
Describing herself “a passionate go-getter”, Ekpecham’s goal is to start her own manufacturing unit in Lagos in 2015. London is only a six-hour flight away, and the new venture will see her returning home more often.
Riding A Wave
Noni Rwaxa, better known as the radio jockey ‘Ms Cosmo’, who hosts The Stir Up hip hop show on radio station 5FM, is now part of a collaborative campaign between Australian jewelry firm Mimco and Frends to promote – what else – headphones.
The 26-year-old radio personality, also a veejay on Channel O, has opened for big artists like Kanye West, Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz.
Her family wanted her to take on the tried and tested route through education. She had other plans.
“My father’s concern was for me to get a tertiary qualification. I graduated with a BCom degree in finance from the University of Johannesburg; my mother still finds it amusing when I pack my equipment for an event,” says Rwaxa.
After graduating, she worked as a property finance consultant. The time she spent in the corporate space is a period she describes as the worst, as she suffered depression. It was clearly not for her.
Hip hop musician Khuli Chana suggested she join the Fuse Academy school for female disc jockeys. She enrolled and after the course, made inroads in radio in 2012. She was invited to play on Channel O Bassment, and YFM, a South African youth radio station. She finally joined 5FM hosting The Stir Up.
“I’m happy the projections for radio in South Africa are positive. That said, I can’t ignore what is happening in Ghana, Kenya and particularly Nigeria. Nigerian artists are collaborating with international acts. Nat-C, Davido and P-Square are breaking boundaries putting in the hard work to reap rewards.”
She wants to be in the industry for the long haul, and is doing everything to ensure the longevity of her brand.
“I have sought partnerships with various brands for growth for myself and the brand of choice, as hip hop is cool influential culture…I have two other event deals I want to announce but you will have to wait until January.”
Watch this space for more.