Ifeoma Anyawu is the power behind Ogodor Fashion House, an Abuja based fashion house that caters for women who have an eye for style.
For 10 years, Ifeoma’s name has been synonymous with the pinnacle of glamour and haute couture, creating extraordinary, beautiful and timeless designs. Throughout her career, Ogodor’s garments have graced the bodies of popular figures including celebrities, business executives and political giants in the country.
Ogodor Fashion House is a designer brand based on the idea of edgy simplicity and unpretentious luxury. The brand stands for style and thought-through women’swear design that has its own flow, unconcerned with the fast paced tempo and globally imposed ever changing trends. The important part behind the Ogodor Fashion is ethical approach to fashion design, sourcing and manufacturing.
Ogodor Fashion’s vision is to achieve sustainability by keeping the traditional & local production, artisanal hand-making and a personal approach to each garment. By that principle, Ogodor is adding more value and personality to clothes while maintaining an approachable price. It’s all about high quality garments, handpicked fabrics, handmade prints & clothes with unique personality and longevity.
There are no rules, and change is the only constant when it comes to garment’s aesthetic value. It doesn’t long for mere beauty, but an emotion, functionality and statement. The garments differ in style but the signature is always recognizable. The design concept is based on a juxtaposition of opposing elements – line, shape and texture, creating a modern and sophisticated look. The key elements, besides patterns, are fabrics and textures upgraded with bold forms, prints and monochrome palette with limited colour. The fabrics range from ankara prints, silk, cotton mix, wool, viscose, leather, polyester, etc. Each collection is a reflection of Ifeoma’s current state of mind. It’s all about the story and the concept behind, therefore design principles are often changing in order to better project designer’s vision.
The approach is very individual and Ifeoma is involved in the whole process. With more than 10 years of experience in designing, Ogodor has also directed, produced, styled and photographed most of her collections. The design process starts with detailed concept research, development and building the collection piece by piece. Garments are meticulously crafted and produced as limited or small scale editions with the option of made-to-measure. The design range is broad and includes ready-to-wear, traditional wear, casual wear, exclusive evening wear and custom –made bridal gowns. Therefore the customers are women who recognize its design quality and appreciate Ogodor’s philosophy.
In this week issue of Pleasures Magazine, we are happy to share the one of Nigeria’s most talked about A-list fashion designers Ifeoma Anyawu ‘s entrepreneurial journey interview with you. Meet the Queen of Fashion & Beauty, Ifeoma Anyawu as she shares her journey so far.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Ifeoma Anyawu, I am the Managing director of Strands and Ogodor fashion house. I am a fashion designer and the second child of a family of six children. I studied English at the University of Ibadan but the idea initially was to study law.
Tell about Strands and Ogodor
Strands is a beauty parlour that exclusively offers a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to enhance beauty with our world class and state of the art facilities. Strands provide a large selection of beauty services and treatment which includes massage, waxing facial, body scrub, oxygen therapy etc. Strands offers a complete head to toe beauty solutions which brings a striking change in the looks of our customers. While Ogodor is a fashion house that makes ready-to-wear dresses and provide accessories. Ogodor is staffed with well focused and well trained tailors committed to give the best services. Our trendy and elegant designs undoubtedly speak a lot of Ogodor.
How long have been in this business?
This is my 18th year in the business of beauty and my 10th year in the fashion business. I started Strands on the 10th April 1999, and then we were in Garki while Ogodor was in 2007.
In the beginning what motivated you to start these businesses?
For Strands, I must say it was my love for good hair and the fact that braid was the hair-style in vogue them, especially in Port Harcourt. For Ogodor, I used to give my tailor my designs and he was always coming back to tell me how much people liked them and wanted the designs. While going for my mom’s burial I gave him a design for the dress I was to wear and this time the compliment over this design was awesome that he called me and said “Aunty why not open a fashion house?” I thought about it for a while, and then I started, though I had flair for good clothes. I started Ogodor in an already existing fashion shop. I paid for the shop and the sewing machines.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
It’s a long story that happened within four months in 1999, but I will make it very simple. Lagos and Port Harcourt were the favorite destination for aspiring National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members when I finished school but I prayed to be posted to Abuja to explore the opportunities and life of the capital city since I grew up in Lagos and Port Harcourt. Fortunately I was posted to Abuja and I served with the FCDA under the land planning department but I never liked it because it was too dogmatic form me. I’m not the routine person. After the NYSC, I was praying for a multinational company offer but none was coming until 1999 when my friend’s aunt gave me some wrapped valentine gifts to sell for her.
I started taking those stuffs from office to the other and one day, a friend advised me to take them to Sheraton Hotel. Securing a space for my table at Sheraton Hotel was a long story but divine because it was the beginning of my breakthrough. I started selling and my table became a very popular and stop-spot for valentine gifts. While the sales kept growing, a customer who was an African Union (AU) official that came to monitor elections in Nigeria walked up to me and asked me if I could get a lady like myself that can work as a protocol personnel with the organization during the election period. Since valentine was over, the rent for the table had expired and because it was just my kind of dream job I quickly accepted the offer, I was given an office, accommodation at Sheraton and also 2 Limousines and 3 brand new Mercedes Benz as official cars to welcome former Head of States and Ambassadors coming from all over Africa. I handled the job well and the former Head of States and Ambassadors I worked with were so impressed that this prompted the Secretary General of the AU to ask for my CV.
(Lesson to learn: Ifeoma knew opportunity knocks only once, so she handled the job given to her very well, that the powerful figures she was assigned to worked with were impressed with the way she carried out her work. Remember, you may end up getting similar opportunities later on in time, but the one that came will never come again. when Opportunity knocks, take it with all seriousness.)
After the election and the inauguration ceremony of the president, the AU officials were leaving Nigeria when the Secretary General of the AU promised to call me to Addis-Ababa in Ethiopia to work with them my CV and they paid me over $4000. As a young lady, I didn’t know what to do with the money. I had serious thoughts of either to buy a car, rent an apartment because I was still staying with my uncle then or maybe I should start my hair salon business. I settled to have my hair salon business, and it was my salon business ‘Strands.
(When you are making a start-up decision, consider these 3 key areas).
Passions – For most world-class entrepreneurs, passion does not come primarily from the prospect of financial gain or personal notoriety; it comes from an innate desire to change the world. To make the right decisions for your startup, you must believe that if your startup succeeds, you will change the world in the ways you desire. The more your startup aligns with your passions, the more confident you will feel that you are making the right decisions for the right reasons.
Embrace the reality – You have to be able to properly assess and accept reality. Smart entrepreneurs do not see the glass as half-full or half-empty; they see a glass with a certain amount of water. Then, they decide to drink the water, or fill up the glass with more water. To make the right decisions, you must first see things as they really are.
Practice some balance – Your mind, body, and soul must be balanced before you can make good decisions. This is perhaps the most important prerequisite, and one that most entrepreneurs brazenly ignore. Startup culture encourages over-work and over-play; to be balanced you must also be mindful of your health and spiritual life, not just stimulating your mind.
Ifeoma’s story continues..
I received a call from Addis-Ababa to receive fax and report to the Embassy of South Africa in Lagos immediately. I was nominated as the only Nigeria to monitor the election and observe the handing over ceremony of late Nelson Mandela. I was attended to at the South Africa embassy within 24-hours and I flew into SA as a diplomat where I worked as an election observer with colleagues that were professors from prestigious Universities like Harvard. Since then, I have worked with several international organizations as a country manager but for now I want to focus to focus on my business.
What brought about the name Ogodor?
When I was thinking of the name for my fashion house, I thought of Akwa, Kampala and Ogodor. Akwa is an Igbo name for clothes but was too flat for me and Kampala sounded Ugandan. I opted for Ogodor which is an ancient Igbo word for cloth because a friend used to call me that and also the way the first four letters sounds O’GOD.
What would you be doing right now if you were not doing what you are doing today?
I think either motivational speaking or taking care of kids.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Creating my company to this level is a great achievement for me but my greatest of all is my relationship God.
How many workers do you have?
Over 50 workers
Describe the most exciting minute of your entrepreneurial journey?
That was the minute I opened the letter inviting me to be honored with a doctorate degree.
Most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
That was the peak period of work when all my tailors ganged up against me. It was during Christmas and I had a lot of clients depending on me.
What is the single most important reason for your success?
I have two. That is God’s factor and perseverance.
What is the biggest thing you struggle with as an entrepreneur?
Creating that ultimate balance between managing myself and the brand, which include my staff has not been easy
Looking back, what is one thing you will do differently?
I think nothing, because every experience is why I’m here today.
How does this affect your relationship with your friends and family?
Well, my job is very important to me and with the increasing clients, it has not been easy to honor many party, then you must be very close to me.
What do you consider as success as an entrepreneur?
If you have 70% or 60% of your clients coming back, then you are doing well.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is failure.
What makes you uncomfortable?
I feel uncomfortable when a customer is not happy and that’s why I try all my possible best to satisfy them.
How do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person?
Because I love to provide solutions to problems, this passion how now transcended into every part of my life. It’s now my lifestyle to always do things better. I handle the décor of this beautiful building from the window blinds, the art-work to even the painting on the wall.
Who are your role models?
My dad was my number 1 role model. He was a goal-getter who believed in putting all efforts to achieve success.
What is your advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
They should not put money first when starting. They should first of all develop passion for the business and start somewhere, no matter how small. They should also know that beauty is not enough. Asa female entrepreneur you need to be well positioned, informed and intelligent to keep your head about your shoulder and that brings me back to my project, themed ‘B.A.B.E’ ( Brain, Attitude, Beauty and Enterprise). B.A.B.E was created for the ladies and women since they are an essential part of the society and if women can get it right, then the society will get it right.
Thank you for your time
It’s my pleasure.
Ogodor House is located at No. 10b Sakono street, Opp AP Plaza, Wuse 2 Abuja
Tel: +234 805 798 6342