For those who?ve come across this young, beautiful and talented youngest designer, they would agree that she?s worth the while.

Stephannie Okeke is an 18 year old designer, and the Creative Director of the Sally Intiego label design.

Her work is that unique that it won her The Youngest Designer, 2013. In this interview, she talks about her brand and how she started, how she won the award, her plan for school and fashion label among others.

Read on:

Where did you grow up?

I grew up both in Nigeria and outside London. Although I also have the Nigerian culture imbibed in me, my mentality is different because of my experiences. My childhood was good, I grew up with my mum and my grandmum and cousins.

So at what age did you leave Nigeria?

I left when I was 9 and came back at 14 and I?ve been here since then.?

So how did you come about your fashion sense?

When I was younger, my grand father would always laugh at how every other child would look really nice with their cute hairstyles but I would always have that big Afro with bids on it. Everything about me was different-I like to watch fashion TV, modelling, cat walking. In fact, I had thought I would be a model but as time went on, I grew out of it and realized I wanted to be more into the clothes they wear.?

So how did you start to build your brand?

I think it was God because I was just talking to my mum about my career after I finished from secondary school. I told her I wanted to be a fashion designer and go to a fashion school. It was just a random talk then, my aunty and family friend of ours was having a fashion show to unveil her brand and she just said I could come showcase at her fashion show. So I showcased and that was my first show . My aunty really liked my designs and that was how she started inviting me for fashion shows in Lagos. ?And people started noticing me and started inviting me to do different shows. I?ve showcased my designs both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.

Your hair is huge. How did you come about it?

It?s my style and I?m very unique with it. If you see me on a regular day, I?m a very quiet person but there must be one thing that?ll be glamorous about me. Like whenever I go out and people see my hair, they complain it?s too colourful. So on a regular day, I might dress simple but my hair is always weird. And my clothes always have extra attachment to make it unique. ?My style is chic, creative and very different, just like an art work.

As a young girl, how did people accept you in the fashion world?

It was difficult at first because a lot of people expect me to be a certain age before going into being a designer, and even till now, people still discriminate. Some people have heard about my brand name and whenever they meet me, they are surprised. some people even doubt my age and I used to get text messages just to get me to prove my age because they think I?m older. But after getting several texts and calls about my age and I kept talking and talking then, one day, I got tired of trying to prove my age. I just left everyone to their thoughts and faced my job. I am who I am.

What about the acceptance of your brand?

It wasn?t easy either because there are many brands which are also growing. So people ask why my own brand should survive the competition and went to be the best young designer in Nigeria. I think it was just God. I won the Youngest Designer of The Year 2013 and loads of designers ask why they should bring me to their show instead of a main designer. So I tell them that I?m unique and God has blessed me, and when they get to see my designs, they end up accepting me.?

So how many people have ordered your designs?

I get orders. I have outlet in Lekki and people buy upfront or they call and order. So I send it to them depending on what they want. My orders always take one week depending on what it is. I?m based in Abuja and for instance, I got an order from a lady who got into the country and basically wanted just jackets and trousers with African prints, and they ordered for more than twenty pieces. Although I don?t get customers everyday but whenever I do, they?re always worth it.

How do you get your materials?

I go to Wuse ?and other markets with my mum because she?s my manager.

So where do you get them sown?

I have a small factory in my house where I sew. I have four tailors who sew after I?m through with designing. I also consult and make sure they sew it to my satisfaction.

How do you feel whenever you see your friends getting into school while you?re busy with fashion?

Sometimes I feel like stopping and going to school. But I feel if God wants me to go to school, he?ll bring school my way so why don?t I run with what he?s brought my way. If it?s his will for me to go to school why not? But for now, I have to face fashion and I don?t want to stop until I?m ready to go to school. I?m still young so I have enough time. But I plan on doing short courses in fashion designing because I want to have an edge over other designers. I want to get two degrees and that?s why I just want people to let me be and decide what I want because there?s time for everything. Not everyone?s path is the same. Like from what I heard, 2face dropped out of school and he?s one of the most recognised Nigerian artistes in the world.?

So how does your mother feel about you not going to school?

She feels the same because I?ve explained to her but she still maintains I must go to school. We are working on me going next September and also how to get my brand to stable so when i ?Ieave, it won?t fall.?

Do you look this elegant all the time?

Not always although I like looking good, and different. My image matters and I don?t want to be seen not representing my brand all the time.?

You are 18. Don?t you feel older and how do guys react whenever they meet you?

No I don?t feel older, and there?s time for everything. I tell them I?m a business woman and don?t have time to be wooed by guys. So I just keep a straight face and be ?nice. Whenever I meet guys and they pass complements, I just smile and give them my card so they won?t have that impression that I need their money. So I have boundaries.

Don?t you think guys would perceive you to be proud?

They can think that.

And you don?t care?

It?s not that I don?t care but at this young age, I have a lot to achieve.

So you don?t have a boyfriend?

No.

Aah, tell that to the birds. Better don?t deny your befriend in public

I don?t just want to talk about my personal life here.?

What?s your future plan for your brand?

I plan getting a big store in Abuja and getting my own materials. I plan on living for China soon to get some fabrics so I can improve my brand. I also want to have my own shows in different parts of Nigeria. I also want to work with youths. A lot of people are scared I?ll advice their kids to stop going to school. No I can?t do that because everyone?s path is not the same. ?I?m also working on going ?into male designs because I?ve been doing it in bit.

How does it feel being the youngest designer of the year?

It feels really nice and good. I was elected for it. Someone just sent me a text and told me they would like to give me the award. I was proud of myself because I know I worked really hard for it.

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