Port Harcourt based designer, Akpos Okudu is one designer to watch out for. Her chic designs have made her a regular fixture at Le Petit Marche, Lagos and celebrities Joke Silva, Adesuwa Onyenokwe and Omowunmi Akinnifesi have been spotted wearing her outfits.
Here, the Future Awards nominee talks to me about how she got started, her fascination with bright colours and some of her trade secrets.
Who is Akpos Okudu?
I’m a University of Port Harcourt History and Diplomacy graduate, a full time fashion designer and I live in Port Harcourt where I run my eponymous label.
What does Akpos Okudu, the clothing line stand for?
Akpos Okudu is a ready to wear line, known for feminine, bright, romantic pieces that are chic and fun.
Your retail prices start from N7, 000. Why should we buy clothes from you, as opposed to buying our own fabric and taking it to the neighbourhood tailor/seamstress?
Buying from Akpos Okudu is definitely stress-free. You get your money’s worth in terms of great fabric, great fit and great finish and I believe that N 7,000 is relatively affordable.
Your grandmother was a dressmaker; your aunt a designer. Obviously, you were exposed to the intricacies of fashion quite early.
Yes, my Grandma and Aunty both worked in fashion and I spent some holidays as a child at my Grandma’s and watched her sew so I guess that rubbed off on me. As I grew older, the interest certainly grew and I made the decision to learn more. The rest, as they say, is history.
What informed your decision to make it a career? How did your friends and family react?
It wasn’t a laid out plan. I started out making clothes for my friends, then friends’ friends, and it slowly transitioned into a business. My parents were very supportive of my decision. They were cool with it as long as I graduated. Having their approval was surely a blessing and my friends supported me by buying my clothes.
You have mentioned that among other things, you take inspiration from flamenco dancers. How do you think this has influenced your choice of colours and fabrics?
I really have a thing for colour, as I think it looks beautiful on women and can really lift your spirit so I gravitate towards colourful objects. It’s definitely something I inject into my collections, season after season.
Your signature colours are bright and bold but you have also worked with pastel colours, for example, the Lola dress from your 2011 collection. In your own opinion, what types of hues are most suited to the African woman?
I really love how bright hues look on dark skinned women. Colours like orange, turquoise and fuchsia can really make you glow but I know for sure [that] colour is a mood thing, so the colour a woman wears really tells you how she’s feeling.
You use a wide variety of fabrics and prints – from African prints to satin. Where do you get your fabrics from?
Sadly, I can’t tell. That’s a trade secret. [Laughs]
Your clothes all have interesting names – Tarela, Eniye, Nicole. Why do you name your clothes? Why not give them numbers?
[Laughs] I think it’s more fun when each piece has a name.
How do you come up with the names? Are they in honour of friends or does the style scream ‘such and such is my name’?
It’s really random how I pick the names. I name them after women I admire or my friends or just of whom the piece reminds me.
Your fashion shoots are always tastefully done and in very beautiful locations. How do you choose your models and locations? Is there a particular photographer you use?
Awww, thank you. I’m very particular about the mood I want to evoke with each lookbook so I put a lot of thought, time and effort into my shoots. Even with the models I’m very particular about whom I want. For the photographer it has to be someone who gets my vision.
One of your admirable traits is your out-of-the-box thinking. This is evident in not only your fashion style, but also the way you do business. You have chosen to sell your clothes not in a store but online. What informed this decision?
I started selling online because I didn’t have a store and because I have a lot of clients abroad who can’t buy from a store in Nigeria so it is convenient for me and my clients. Akpos Okudu is now stocked at L’Espace* though.
You started out with the blog Ijaw Girl and now you have your own proper website. How has the journey been so far?
My blog has been great but it was mandatory for us to grow into a website. I explained what I wanted and my boyfriend set it up. [Laughs] It’s been great and it’s been an easy way for the world to reach us.
*L’Espace is located at 19A Olosa Street (Off Karimu Kotun Street), Victoria Island, Lagos.