Jane Michael Ekanem made a bold transition from celebrity styling to full on designing months ago and both collections she’s released have gotten rave reviews.
With a resume that boasts styling top celebrities including Tiwa Savage, Waje, Yemi Alade and more Jane Michael Ekanem isn’t taking her new role as the creative director of her eponymous brand lightly.
She had a fierce showcase introducing a menswear line at the 2018 Fashions Finest Africa closing the show with a sultry performance. One known for attention to details, Jane Michael-Ekanem is dishing on the transition and everything in between in an exclusive interview with ZUMI.
On taking on fashion designing
I have always wanted to be a designer. As a child, I was completely taken by the ideas of dressing up and I remember vividly how I used to sketch my designs. I think as meticulous as I am about my designs, I dare say I pretty much have to be involved in the entire process; even if I have 9 amazing team members I work with.
On what prompted her transition from a celebrity stylist to a fashion designer
Designing had always been a dream of mine; and styling was basically a prelude to learning the ropes of the fashion and designing business. Styling gave me the exposure and platform I needed, while allowing me experience fashion up-close. However, I realized most times that I could not always find a complete and utterly satisfying interpretation of my style; so that hastened my resolve to begin designing.
On how she felt, finishing her first ever Jane Michael piece
The feeling I had was not far from the feeling I always have as a stylist (I guess this comes with being a creative… we are never satisfied). I was a bit unsatisfied and had the need to do more, I still do have the need to do more and I am happy that when I look back at our designs and compare them to our recent designs, I see a tremendous difference (in a good way).
On how she’s been accepted so far (Jane has released 2 collections)
To be honest, it has been a nostalgic reception so far. On the one hand I have people who are happy and proud of me, and on the other, people who think I need to do more to earn my place at the table. But in all, being a fresh business and a newbie in this competitive design industry, I believe I am handling well with the challenges that come relentlessly. I have my moments, ups and downs, my mistakes and glories and I never get carried away by the accolades by constantly reminding myself that there is no testimony without the test of time.
On the inspiration behind her 2nd collection presented at Fashions Finest Africa 2018
My last show was inspired by my resolve to take on this year intentionally. One of my 2018 resolutions is to be intentional about my dreams so at the end of the day I can live a life of luxury, which I love. I crave to live a luxurious life, luxury being a life of great comfort and elegance without intimidating people around. So for me, while designing the pieces for the collection, I kept thinking of the fashionable business woman who desires to exude elegance; and for whom luxury might come at a cost, but not an extreme expense. The title of this collection is ‘La Panache‘ which says it all.
On delving into menswear with her recent collection
What prompted me to delve into designing a capsule collection for men was a challenge by a male client who in his words said, ‘you don’t know how to design pieces for me, stick to your female wears’. I thought that was a very restrictive statement to the brand. I felt he had us stereotyped and boxed in, so I took up the unspoken challenge and it was a good step for us too.
So yes, I am officially a unisex designer.
On the Nigerian fashion industry
The Nigerian fashion industry is constantly growing. It is a tough competition and we have designers working day and night for consumers to have value for their money despite the high cost of production which can be discouraging. I am proud of the Nigerian designers, I am proud to be a Nigerian designer.
On what keeps the Jane Michael brand going
The motto for the Jane Michael brand is ‘Fine Lines and Clean Cuts’.
What keeps me going is waking up and knowing that there are people who look up to me and are not giving up because I am not giving up. So, it is okay to say that I am drawing strength from you as you draw from me. It is also okay to say it is a case of ‘iron sharpeneth iron’. You keep me going, you are my strength.
On what she’s out to do differently?
I think being a perfectionist instills the habit of being attentive to details, that I can boast that I do differently… I pay attention to details.
On what inspires her designs
My late dad has always been my greatest source of inspiration as well as Oprah Winfrey. The inspiration for my designs are diverse and could be anything. It could be a spur of the moment, a need for a particular design / outfit or a change in environment.