Nikki Odu-Khiran: Nigerian Designer’s Passion For Fashion, Styles And The Challenges Of The Fashion Industry In Nigeria

Nikki Odu-Khiran is an indigene of Kogi State in North Central region of Nigeria. She was born in Scotland, schooled in USA, Nigeria, and London. She is a professionally – trained fashion designer. In this interview with Pleasures Magazine, Nikki explains why she decided to settle for fashion instead of becoming a Scientist like her father or Academics like her mother despite her rich background.

Who is Nikki Odu-Khiran?
As you already know, my name is Nikki Odu-Khiran. I come from Kogi State. I was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. I started my education career at Lincoln Nebraska, USA but later returned to Nigeria to round off my high school at Queens School, Ilorin, the capital city of Kwara State. After my high school, I proceeded to study Fashion Design Technology at the prestigious London School of Fashion.

Nikki Odu-Khiran

Why did you choose fashion as a career?
I chose fashion as my career because I have passion for it. Actually, my dad is a Scientist and my mum, an educationist, and they wanted me to follow their paths of career, but I have a strong passion for fashion that if not it, I don’t see myself doing anything else and enjoying my time doing it. I have loved doing fashion since I was a child. At 12 to 13 years, I was already doing batik screen-printing. In simple words, doing fashion gives me joy.

When did you start the Nikki Khiran Couture brand?
I actually started my brand while I was still studying in London many years ago. However, I changed the brand name to Nikki Khiran about twenty years ago.
How do you get the inspiration for your designs’ creativity?
First and foremost, being creative is an innate thing, it’s part of you. It’s either you are or you aren’t. It can’t be forced. When I feel uninspired, I ask God for strength. Then, my inspiration comes from within, and from reading magazines, and traveling. I see new things that sometimes inspire me to create new designs when I travel to different places. Then of course, you know that life itself inspires ART.

How do you feel when you see people rocking your designs, especially high personalities?
I feel excited and blessed that people appreciate my craft and wear my designed outfits. The class of people that wear my designs doesn’t matter much to me because I make clothes for all classes of people. What matters to me is the fact that people who like my stuffs and wear them, look good in them to represent my brand well.

What are the challenges you face running your business in Nigeria?
The biggest challenge of doing business in Nigeria is lack of basic infrastructure: electricity, raw materials, having to train all staff from scratch and lack of access to funds to enable one buy the necessary basic equipment like trimming machines and so on. Most times, I have to travel to foreign countries to get most of my raw materials. That makes the cost of production quite high and creates another challenge of the difficulty of having to sell your products at affordable prices.

The textile industry in Nigeria is in comatose, how do you get fabrics for your production?
Hmmm, I bring in most of my fabrics from outside the country, with the exception of Ankara and batik fabrics that I source locally. No doubt, that makes the cost of making a garment go high up. However, exclusivity is very key.

Can you take us through the high-points of your Fashion Career?
It’s hard to pinpoint any particular thing, but I think being a household name and being able to stay relevant after about 25 years in the fashion industry is indeed, humbling.
Do you produce en masse for the market and do you design specifically on orders?
I used to do made – to – measure when I first started, now I have a ready – to – wear line that everyone can access but we still do occasion wear to order, and have different ranges in the ready – to – wear line.

What is your assessment of the fashion industry in Nigeria?
The fashion industry in Nigeria has boomed in the past few years. There are a lot of new and emerging talents, but unfortunately a lot of the young new designers simply copy and paste.

How helpful have the financial institutions in Nigeria been to the fashion industry?
The financial institutions are doing next to nothing. To get even sponsorship for events from them is a big problem, not to mention loans to buy equipment, which is why the creative industry lacks the kind of growth it should have had by now in Nigeria. We can’t even compete with some of our African counter parts.

What’s your opinion on Western designers who flaunt African culture on their runway?
I think we should be flattered that the West embraces our fabrics and culture, the same way we embrace theirs.

Can you explain the difference between the arts of African couture versus European couture?
I think that the difference is in the fabrics, colors, and prints. We tend to embrace more colours, bright prints, etc, because we live in a tropical country, but in the West, it’s by season: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. It’s cold most of the time, so they prefer to wear clothes that are much more sober.

Who is Nikki Odu-Khiran outside the Fashion Industry world?
I would describe myself as an outspoken, disciplined, hard working, God fearing and passion – driven person. I’m at peace with myself. I don’t look outwards for fulfillment but to myself and God. I’m an alpha female and I’m a happy person.

What’s next from the Nikki Khiran Couture brand?
I have some things in the pipeline but I will rather keep it concealed for now.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
Rome was not built in a day. If you want to take on the business of fashion, work under an established designer as an intern for a few years. That will give you an insight into the business. Be humble, and make yourself teachable. Most people see the glamorous side, and fail to realize that there is pure hard work behind the scenes. Moreover, be honest with yourself, as to whether you have the talent and the staying power or not. The fashion industry is not for everyone.

Nikki Khiran Couture is located at Shop B8 Oti Carpets Plaza 142, Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II Abuja.

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