By Chinasa Afigbo
Whitney Okpalamoka, a graduate of political science from Covenant University, is an emerging fabric artist. Her brand, Whitney Black, evolved into making exotic bridal wear with luxurious fabrics and piquant designs. Okpalamoka reveals how she uses her craft to boost confidence in women.
When did you decide to go into this business, and what inspired you?
I decided to be a fashion designer officially in 2016, fresh out of the university and had just completed my NYSC as well. I was good with my hands to a large extent and could sketch a little, so I decided to give fashion a try. My biggest inspiration is my mum. She owned a fashion house when I was little and that inspired me to also work towards being my own boss.
After your youth service, did you do job hunting before the decision to settle for fashion?
Not at all. Before my service, I had already made the decision to be a fashion designer. So, I went straight to fashion school.
How has the process been in terms of building your customer base and satisfying their needs?
The first year (2016-2017) was strictly about building my knowledge. I spent 8 months in fashion school and a year internship with a fashion house before I officially started Whitney Black. Building my brand and gaining customers has been solely from referrals and social media, especially referrals. I have been lucky to meet customers who unconsciously sell my craft so well to their family and friends and strangers as well. At the end of the day, some of them contact me to make clothes for them.
How would you define your style of fashion?
My style is very Youthful, Artistic but Simple. I love to pay attention to how my designs fit the body and highlight the favorite features of my customers. I believe in making attires that exhibit femineity and boost your confidence as a lady.
The Nigerian fashion industry is broad; how do you intend to make yourself stand out and dominate the market in years to come?
The truth is every day I keep growing and searching for new ways to improve my skill. I recently started a bridal line that caters specifically to brides and all outfits they would need on their big day. I intend to keep working on my designs and I know it’s only a matter of time and the right opportunity.
How do you meet up with demands during festive periods?
The demands are always very high during the festive periods, so we work overnights during this time. And we always encourage clients to book earlier so it doesn’t get too clogged up and stressful.
What was the first piece you ever designed that fetched you money?
It was a two-piece ready-to-wear outfit made with an aesthetic Ankara fabric. I called it ‘the cape pants set’, it was made for a blogger who wore it for one of her campaigns when she came to Nigeria and I sold over 30 pieces of that outfit in a space of 2 months.
Wow! What would you say are the most life-changing impacts your love for fashion has made in your life?
I would say, being financially independent and being able to provide a source of income for the people I’ve employed. Now I so much believe in myself and in the dreams, I have for my brand.
What is it like doing business in a time of the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s been quite tough due to the fact that people aren’t going out as much as before the lockdown. But we are picking up again.
What advice have you for aspiring designers unsure of how to take the first steps?
First, I would say give it a try and then put in all your best. Do more, talk less; work smart and hard. Be consistent and always willing to learn more. It would all work out once you believe in yourself.