Nikki Khiran Odu, a graduate of Design Technology from London College of Fashion, United Kingdom, is the Chief Executive Officer of Nikki Khiran Coutoure, a fashion and lifestyle brand. In this interview with TAYO GESINDE, she speaks on her passion for creating beautiful pieces and how she wormed her way into the hearts of Abuja women.
Foray into Fashion
I’ve been creative since I was a little girl, even though I come from a family where both parents are academicians, much to my parents surprise I insisted on studying fashion design instead of being a scientist like my dad or an educationist like my mother at ages 12 and 13, I was already making the dye, batik, pottery and clothes, my creative side is from my mother, she was a college professor, who was very creative, she made everything with her hands, ceramics, cakes, clothes, and taught her daughters to be very independent and to pursue our dreams. I had my grade school in Lincoln Nebraska, United States, but finished high school in Queens School, Ilorin, Kwara State. I went on to study Fashion Design Technology at the prestigious London College of Fashion.
My most challenging time would be when I moved to Nigeria, because having lived abroad most of my life, the lack of basic infrastructure wasn’t something I was used to. So, I had to do everything from the scratch as well as to provide alternative electricity for production. I had to bring in my zips, trimmings, fabrics and everything else when I travelled and had to deal with staff who were half baked and had to be trained from scratch and some clients who would decide they didn’t want to pay when their bills were due. It has all been a learning experience.
Secret of success
Perseverance, adaptability, not comparing myself to anyone else as well as not following trends and always trying to improve my craft.
Inspiration for my designs
I’m inspired by women around me, travel, music, different cultures and art. My ideal woman is a global traveller, exotic, free spirited, ladylike, sexy, individualistic and confident, these are the women that inspire my work every day.
My unique selling point
Everybody has their own niche. I try to create clothes that one can wear for a lifetime and not follow trends, and I dress real women, irrespective of size. My goal is to bring out a woman’s best assets whether she’s a size 8 or a size 24 and I’ve been fortunate that I have clients who have been very loyal to our brand, we thank God.
Combining the home front with my career
Most women are multifunctional and have the ability to multi-task. I happen to be one of them.
What you need to succeed in the fashion industry
I would say a high level of creativity, skill and teaching ability. Another thing is that you should always try and upgrade your skills and try to work with different fabrics. If you’re just starting out, work under an established designer for a few years to gain experience.
Most defining moment of our career
I think dressing celebrities, style icons, first ladies and women who love fashion all over the world for years has given me strength of conviction that I’m on the right path.
Why I ventured into interior décor
I wanted Nikki Khiran to be a lifestyle brand not just fashion. I am about lifestyle and comfort. I want people to have beautiful homes and beautiful clothes. For me, the two are interwoven, I also have a sister who is a brilliant interior decorator, so, when we get projects we work together.
Secret of my good look
I honestly think good genes, I’m very active and I drink plenty of fluid. They say 50 is the new 40.
How to look good despite the economic situation of the country
I think we as women should be true to ourselves and not try to live up to the Jones. I’ve always been a firm believer of not comparing myself to anyone else. If you live within your means and are ready to adjust as the need arises you won’t be under pressure to impress anyone.
Assessment of the Nigerian fashion Industry
We now have a lot of up and coming talented designers. When we started, there were just a handful of us, but now we have a lot of younger designers with international exposure coming back to Nigeria, to infuse fresh blood into the industry, so it’s great, but we still need creative people to work together to take the industry to the next level, and so many people just copy, people are making Ankara everyone decides they have to make embellished ankara, I would like to see more risk taken in terms of fabrics used and better finishing.
Fashion essentials everywoman must have
I think inner wear is just as important as outerwear, so first, well fitting underwear, then well fitting clothes. If fitted dresses are in, everyone wants to wear them, regardless of their figure. Also, good quality perfume, there is no bigger turn on than a great smelling woman. Good quality shoes and a decent handbag are also part of fashion essentials for women. And please if you can’t afford good quality hair don’t wear weave on.
Why I expanded my business to Abuja
We have been doing private viewings for clients in Abuja for several years. A lot of them encouraged me to open a showroom in Abuja which we did just over two years ago in Wuse. My Abuja clientele have been very supportive.
Making a mark in Abuja
I love clothes that are fluid and drape, and Abuja has a mixture of women from different parts of Nigeria, so the fact that we have a variety of stock makes it more interesting to them. Our home wear store is also at the same location so it’s a lifestyle shop with women’s wear, accessories, and home decor. We thank God we have been well received in Abuja. People have the impression that it’s only women in Lagos that like dressing up, I beg to differ; I’ve met a lot of very fashion forward women in Abuja as well.
Advice for aspiring fashion designers
Hmmm, first it’s better to have formal training if possible, Next work under an experienced designer. Be true to yourself as to whether you have what it takes, creativity cannot be forced. Be humble and willing to learn, the fashion business is pure hard work and not about glamour, it’s extremely competitive.