Ivy Ekong on Building Her Fashion Empire
Ivie Ruth Ekong, popularly known as Ivy Ekong is a Nigerian native who has proved she knows a thing or two when it comes to fashion. Through modeling and beauty pageants, Ekong found opportunities to create quite the name for herself. She served as an image consultant and fashion influencer. In 2017, Ekong launched her own fashion brand for women. We caught up with her to discuss what it’s like being a Nigeran woman founder, the creation of Ivy Ekong, and much more.
What inspired the creation of your brand Ivy Ekong Fashion?
My inspiration is mostly the everyday woman. I was inspired by women who juggle it all. Women who juggle being a mum, women who live fast paced life, women who work multiple jobs just so they can be independent but still wants to look great while at it. Those women who wants to feel great for a night out after a long week of constant juggling. Women who are strong in themselves was certainly a great inspiration in creating my brand, because I think there’s that woman in each and every one of us. I’m such a fashion lover and having modelled and worked in the fashion industry in my early late 20s, I knew I wanted to create something for women at some point in my life. I didn’t know then exactly what I wanted to create or the type of fashion brand until I became a mum. I wanted to be able to feel good about myself flaws and all, and I knew so many mums and women out there felt the same. For me, it was important for women to not just look good in what they wear, but also look their best and feel great in their own body while embracing who they are both on the inside and out.
“I want women to feel empowered, sexy, unapologetic, confident enough to chase their dreams and confident to be exactly who they want to be.”
I think being a mum gives you a certain clarity and strength in life. It shapes your will power and makes you feel like you can achieve anything you want to achieve in life.
When I started my brand, it was very small. We had only 10 bandage dresses on our then website. Whereas now, we’ve grown and are still growing. It’s not just bandage dresses anymore, it’s tailoring, skirts, accessories, swim wear, tops, it’s a complete wardrobe except for shoes and bags. I have learnt a lot over the years. Most importantly, I have learnt who my customers are, I have also learnt from my team and those I have had the opportunity to work with and meet along the way.
It doesn’t get any easier doing what I do but I love all the challenges that comes with it and wouldn’t have it any other way. Most importantly, I love the personal notes my customers write to me, thanking me for the confidence wearing my brand gives them. These are what inspires me every day to keep working hard to creating a brand that women can relate to.
Can you share with us why women’s empowerment is important to you?
As an ex beauty Queen, I have had the opportunity to meet women that are displaced in the Society either due to lack of education, poverty, early forced marriages, or those who did not have a voice at all due to low self-esteem. I have worked with women through my then Pet Project and various NGO’S to help them realize their full potential. During my pet projects as the then beauty Queen and working with UNICEF and Young girl’s foundation in Nigeria, it became very apparent to me that more needed to be done to empower women especially the younger generation. I believe that women must possess self-worth, confidence and freedom to dictate their future and their own life. I also believe that when women are rightly empowered, we will be able to make our own choices and most importantly have the opportunity to make our choices that is right for us without restraint or judgement. I also, think as women we should all come together to lift each other up in work environment, in businesses and all sectors. The change we strongly desire, starts from us.
What is it like being a Nigerian woman founder in the world of fashion?
Being a Nigerian female founder of a fashion brand in London is very exciting and challenging at the same time. I have walked into rooms and meeting were people are completely shocked when they realize that I am the founder of Ivy Ekong Fashion brand. It’s still very shocking to a lot of people especially realizing that I am female, and black in this industry. This is a challenge which I love because, it pushes me to work even harder. I do wish in these meetings and social settings, that there were more of women who look like me sitting in those meetings and tables. This is why I am so moved to help empower women. I believe there is a place for each and every one of us especially as black women in the fashion industry. Even though I am from Nigeria originally, I do love London and love living and creating here. London is the city of Fashion and that comes with its own challenges too, but I have been very fortunate to have a brand that has been embraced by this country and by women all over the world including Nigeria. I believe that no matter where we are, we can create the changes that we desire, while impacting the community we live in positively.
What can we expect to see from you in the years to come?
I have a lot of plans for the future. I am hoping to create a perfume collection, a shoes line and also have a few other ventures I am currently working on. We are also working on our VIP styling service for clients who are too busy to shop. This will be a lifestyle session of the brand.