My name is Onyeka Okolo, a plus size fashion designer. I loved to sketch beautiful designs for myself and some friends while I was in school. It was just a hobby until I travelled with my older sister who happens to be on the big side, and every time we went shopping I noticed it was quite challenging to get her perfect size. She never used to feel the need to dress up and I felt it was time to do something about it.
My dream was to get to a point where the plus size would look so nice that slim people would wish to dress like them; this was the inspiration behind my clothing line – CURVE. It is happening now, as slim people now call me to shop designs they’ve seen on plus size ladies; this makes me really happy and fulfilled.
I think creativity is what makes a great fashion designer; I once had a collection with crop tops and some of my customers were like “oh I’m plus size, I can’t wear crop tops”, I had to explain to them that they can actually wear crop tops with a kind of cut suitable for curvy women. You also need to be unique and have great customer relations.
One of my greatest challenges as a fashion designer is convincing plus size ladies to be confident; you see that they have good legs or arms to flaunt but they are not just confident enough to do so. For example, I have a client who ensures that all the clothes I make for her come in black. It is really hard to convince most plus size ladies to step out of their comfort zone.
I think being big or thick has always been an African thing so I don’t know why it became a problem to the point wherepeople got stigmatized for being big. We Nigerians just love to copy the western world. I love that the plus size fashion industry is growing really fast. We now see a lot of plus size women feeling really happy with their looks. I hear some people say we are promoting obesity, but this isn’t true. In the past, there were stories of people committing suicide because they were being bullied due to their body size. These days, plus size people have become more confident and stylish.
As a designer, my watchwords are simplicity and comfort; I always want my clients to be comfortable in my pieces. I take our weather in Nigeria into consideration when creating my designs.
I grew up in Onitsha where I had my nursery, primary, and secondary education, I had my tertiary education at the University of Lagos where I studied Technology Education. I actually have no formal background in fashion; I’d say fashion chose me. The truth is, I can’t remember the exact time I started designing. My mum was a Fine Arts teacher and this influenced my sketches a lot.Follow on twitter Follow @BeautifulBlogga