Tonye Olisa Ifeachor
Tonye has forged a career in fashion, as the owner of her own brand and e-boutique Her Ego London. She tells us how she came to study at LCF and her experience of starting a business.
Could you introduce yourself and your current role?
My name is Miss Tonye Olisa Ifeachor, I’m 24 and Owner & Lead Designer of the new women’s clothing e-boutique Her Ego London. I have just started selling my own clothing designs that I have produced in Africa and sell from London.
What did you study at LCF?
BA (Hons) Fashion Retail Management.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
London College of Fashion is very well known and is one of the top places to study fashion in the UK. I wanted to get the best education and preparation possible to give me a good foundation to build a career on. I also found that during my short course at LCF I could see myself studying in that creative atmosphere for a longer period of time.
How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in the UK, with Nigerian parents and relatives, I was always surrounded by bold styles of traditional African fashion. Taking pride in how you dress and expressing a part of yourself through one’s clothing is apart of my parents’ culture so I became fascinated by fashion from a young age.
After GCSEs I studied Fashion Design and Textiles at art college. It was here that I decided I wanted to design women’s clothing, as at this stage I was always buying clothes, taking them apart and modifying them on my sewing machine. However, it was my success in a ‘Design to Sell’ project that captured my interest in the fashion business and sales. This project gave me an opportunity to sell my own designs of embellished handmade headbands and silk scarves to the public. To my amazement I managed to sell all my stock and make a profit. From that point on, I was sure of what I wanted to do.
After finishing college I took a gap year where I decided to take a part-time retail job, do internship work within fashion, and take short courses at London College of Fashion, to learn about the different roles in the fashion industry (that I would later need for my clothing business). This really helped me to decide on the 3-year degree course I should study.
I graduated from London College of Fashion in 2013, where I learnt so much not only about myself, but everything that goes into running a fashion store business, and everything I have been working towards. It was shortly after this that I first created the concept of my online fashion store Her Ego London.
What were your biggest challenges along the way?
One of the biggest challenges was people telling me that it was unrealistic to go out on my own. Some people tried to get me to conform to their way of thinking, to adopt their mentality and the ‘ norm’. But, I grew up with strong Nigerian parents, who always taught me to believe in myself and reminded me daily. No matter the obstacles, whether they be related to the colour of skin or race, physical, a learning challenge or gender. This was why I decided to forge and create a new path. I really hope this inspires others to do the same too.
Do you find London inspiring?
Yes, I love how multicultural this city is. Coming from a much smaller city, but having relatives who lived in London, I was fortunate enough to travel up to the city regularly. I experienced and felt from a young age a lot more freedom to express myself in this city. Fashion was a big part of that and it was something I have always connected with. I always felt the most comfortable here because of that.
Tell us about an average day at your job?
One of the things I love about owning my own business is that there is no such thing as an average day. Each day is different. I get to create new fashion designs and research the latest trending patterns and fabrics and maybe even create a trend myself! Asos and Coca Cola have both independently head hunted me to come and work with them on different projects. My day can consist of anything from designing, updating and moderating my website and social media platforms, dispatching orders to clients, fabric shopping (my personal favourite), web conferences with my production team in Ghana, negotiating with my manufacturers, and promotion.
I have a lot of job titles which I oddly enjoy, because it means anything I create I can truly say I believe in the way it’s being presented.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I have future hopes of expanding to different audiences with concessions in various chain stores. Sourcing the African print fabrics straight from Africa is something I find important in keeping those particular designs authentic, while giving fair trade back to some of the locals. It would be great to see this done in some larger chain stores too.
What is your top tip for people who want to get into roles like yours?
Find a mentor. It really helps having someone you can go to for advice. It can save you from many unnecessary errors.
Three words business owners or retailers should live by… ?
Trust your instincts.
What words of advice would you have for LCF students embarking on a career in retail?
Connect and network with people/companies, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and go to events, talks/master classes or going for internships. With so much competition in general it is good to be a step ahead in terms of opening up doors for yourself. Even if you don’t see an immediate outcome from these things, you will plant seeds and certainly learn a lot and from people who are doing something you yourself would like to do. You can never know too much.