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For how long now have you been involved in fashion?
My whole life has been in the fashion business for as long as I can remember. I do know that I love clothes and how they make one feel and allow one to express one’s mood since I was young, so I’ll say I’ve been involved in fashion since I was 8 years old.
Can you tell us how it all started?
Since when I was young, I chose how I was dressed and chose the clothes to wear. I even went as far as picking out my dad’s ties. At 16, I worked in retail, offering customers advice on purchases and what to wear.
I became a professional fashion model at 19 and for 10 years walked many runways for designers, and did commercials and print shots. In 2010. I relocated to Nigeria and set up my business, Vane-Style. My services include co-ordinating fashion shows, personal styling, wardrobe consultations, personal shopping and building capacity in the local industry by organising style seminars.
How was the modeling experience like?
It was really interesting and fascinating, I enjoyed every bit of it. I have had this fashion and carriage instincts in me from childhood, so modeling and fashion business just brought it out the more and of course,I’m passionate about it.
What about the fame and wealth that came with it?
Well, it was all good and properly managed. Normally, those two are consequential to modeling. I enjoyed it and managed it well. I was very professional as well as well-mannered all the way. So, no big deal.
But you left modeling for real time fashion. Why this development?
Well, first of all, fashion is my first love, I have passion for it. Also, everything in life is about stages and time, I guess after ten years on the runway and print cover models, it was just time for me to pursue in real time my passion. Mind you, the two go together, so I’d say I’m still in that business too.
Why did you choose fashion styling as a vocation or was it by chance?
I love to see women and men look smart and style themselves according to their personalities. And I made the decision that once I stopped modelling, I’ll focus my attention on offering services that would interpret one’s individuality. So, basically that is why.
As a member of the panelists in the MTN Lagos LFDW 2012, how would you appraise the crop of young designers, models, stylists, makeup artists and others that entered for the contest this year?
It was an honour to be asked to sit on the panel for MTN LFDW, and I was very impressed with the talents that came forth. Quite a number of contestants that auditioned showcased pieces that were well-thought out and constructed. These obviously are young lads with a lot of promise, and a platform such as the MTN LFDW is just the right boost required to encourage them to aspire to greater heights.
How would you appraise the Nigerian fashion industry today?
The fashion industry in Nigeria today is still at the teething stage, on the verge of something big. We are learning to trust each other in an industry where we all need to contribute collectively in order to establish a proper platform of validity.
Tell us a bit about your company, Vane-Style.
Vane-Style offers services such as celebrity styling, personal and luxury shopping, styling for fashion shows, wardrobe detox and rebuilding, wedding style consultations, designer brand consultation as well as corporate etiquette and grooming seminars.
What are some of the peculiar challenges you face in the industry and how do you tackle these challenges?
There are several challenges such as a proper protocol between stylists and designers. Many of them refuse to loan their clothes to stylists to dress clients they feel are below their standards.
Instead, they prefer to loan to less known celebrities abroad in the hope of international press. Now, while I understand a designer has the right and it’s more about sales, it says something about our growing industry that if we don’t take care of home first, who will?
Another challenge were the proper outlets in which to loan pieces for the client’s needs, we lack retail stores and the boutiques we have loan at ridiculous fees causing even the up and coming stylists to shy away from the business. My way of tackling it is by establishing a solid rapport with the designers and forging relationship with up and coming designers who I know need the exposure.
What exactly does being a professional fashion stylist entail?
As a stylist, my job entails researching the latest trends and reporting them to all. It also requires me to work on mood boards, make lots of phone calls and collaborate with photographers, magazine editors, journalists and bloggers. It also involves planning and prepping photo-shoots, visiting designers and boutiques, consulting with clients regularly and working on upcoming projects.
Fashion is a billion dollar business in some parts of Europe and America, how close are our local fashion industry players to turning their outfits to huge business empires?
A lot of the fashion insiders are already there. If you take a look at some of the biggest names at the top of their fields from designers and photographers to make-up and hair artistes, I’d say their resilience and success is encouraging.
Do you agree that designers, stylists, makeup artistes and models are not getting the respect they deserve from members of the public?
Not really, I understand that one has to fight for what one believes in and no one is going to just respect you for being yourself. Once you pay your dues and work hard on your passion, the respect will come. I personally don’t look to see what people think of me, I let my work speak for itself and that for me, is where all the respect comes from.
Some corporate organisations like MTN are coming out to support the Nigerian fashion industry, an example of which is the MTN Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
What in your opinion will such corporate sponsorships bring to the industry, using the MTN LFDW as a case study?
Corporate sponsorship brings in financial funding and the much-needed awareness on a national and international level.
What role can government play to help?
Our government can institute paid seminars and inaugurate a national board of the arts to help support this growing industry. I know I would have loved to have seminars to attend, with experienced speakers to help encourage me when I was living in Nigeria. If they set these up in schools nationwide, then the youths have something to assist in their development and passion for fashion.
Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Veronica Ebie. I’m from Agbor in Delta State; I was born in Houston, Texas and I schooled there, and later moved back to Nigeria. I then attended the Nigerian Navy Secondary School. I later relocated back to the United States and finished high school at Elsik in Houston and graduated with a BA in Communications from the University of Houston.
What does fashion means you?
Fashion to me means life. It’s really about telling this evolving story of expression through culture, art and style.
What are your hobbies and what do you do for relaxation?
I love to read books, watch movies, travel and experience different cultures and spend time with my family.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance considering how busy your work schedule is?
All my life I have been a very organised person and multi-tasking runs in my blood. I guess it’s the Virgo in me. Everything in my life is on a schedule, from the moment I wake up. And I spend time with my sons, and attend necessary meetings, work functions. I also try to enjoy my weekends and holidays.
I’m thankful that I work well under pressure and I’m not someone who needs a lot of sleep. Usually, five hours is enough for me in a whole day, I’m a workaholic.
If you weren’t a fashion stylist, what would you be doing today?
If I weren’t a stylist, I would be working either at a major fashion magazine house, or working in fashion merchandising as a buyer.
How important is mentoring in the fashion business and are there a few protégés you have or are currently mentoring?
This is the most important of all things in this industry to me. I am most passionate about building capacity, especially in the next generation.
I’ve often yearned and wished I had someone I could soak up information from especially at the budding stage of my career. So, to answer your question, yes I’m always open to the idea of welcoming young stylists to train under my tutelage and internship. Currently, I have four young adults who work with me on styling projects throughout the year.
Where do you see the Nigerian fashion industry in the next 10 years?
My hope and vision is that in 10 years, we would have established government programmes to encourage textile warehouses to produce, corporate organisations to collaborate with and more local talents. In other words, I expect we’d have more public private sector partnerships, corporate sponsorships, endorsements and involvement in the industry. In 10 years, our fashion industry should be internationally recognised and acclaimed as the fashion capital for Africa and respected worldwide.