The fashion industry in Nigeria is one of the most creative but yet challenging professions to embark on; hence, taking a plunge into fashion as a career is one journey that has left many in a state of perplexity. One key player who has recorded great success in this industry is Ezinne Chinkata, the celebrity stylist and brain child behind Zinkata fashion store, who officially started her fashion career in 2009. Ezinne’s accomplishments in fashion is highly commendable as she has a wide portfolio of clients including notable celebrities like Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, Dakore Egbuson and Monalisa Chinda just to mention a few. She has also worked with corporate bodies where she uses her creative styling for rebranding; the most outstanding being her work last year for Union Bank’s re-branding campaign with a photo shoot themed “Fashion Evolution”, depicting fashion trends from past to present – how the old has become new.
Mastering the art of her craft, Ezinne understood the versatility of the industry and even though she started out as a stylist, forged ahead to unveil her eclectic boutique “Zinkata” in 2015. Zinkata is a one-stop fashion retail store offering a selection of women’s apparel; most importantly Zinkata stocks chic and unique outfits made by Nigerian designers. She is an ardent believer in promoting the Nigerian brand and recently debuted her “Made in Africa” 5 piece collection. For Ezinne, there is always something new to discover in fashion.
All these accomplishments did not come easy especially with a pure science background in Cell Biology and Genetics. In this interview, she tells us how she started, how she was able to carve a niche for herself as the industry became saturated, how to establish a relationship with brands you want to work with and some advice for the entrepreneurs who want to take their passion for fashion to another level in the Nigerian fashion industry.
What was your background before fashion?
I studied Cell Biology and Genetics (undergrad) and went further to acquire an M.Sc in Environmental Management. Fashion was not necessarily what I had planned from the on-set; I had a natural flair for it and sort of fell into styling accidentally. The rest as they say is history, as well as brush-up professional courses in fashion and styling and Fashion Design. It has been a deeply rewarding journey so far and I am extremely grateful.
Your style is very unique and rare; quite unconventional & different from what is often seen in our everyday fashion. What inspires your style?
My mood, I let my inner voice guide me. It tells me exactly how it feels and that way it rings true within and not swayed by trends or society’s standards.
You used to be an editor for Genevieve Magazine and also a stylist before opening your fabulous boutique. How did you know when it was the right time to make this move?
Career progression; ultimately, owning my own store and providing clothes for people to purchase and making them feel great about themselves is really an extension of what I did already. It also felt like a longer term plan, it was a big leap I took and I have never looked back.
The fashion & style industry seems to be saturated in Nigeria but Zinkata seems to be a trusted name that stands out amongst its competitors. How were you able to build the Zinkata brand?
Passion. Doing my ultimate best always, researching. It also really helps that I love what I do as well as my clients. Err… to be very honest, I would say it is a divine gift. The Lord has charted the ways even when it seemed impossible, I am a blessed girl!
How do you establish a relationship with fashion brands? For example, when you were a stylist, how did you approach them and now that you own a store & they approach you to sell their brands, how do you discern what brands to work with?
Relationships are slow and gradual, leaving a good first impression as well as keeping your word always.
What brands to work with….I try to remember that the buying customer does not necessarily like what I like. The main determining factor is the quality of the product, great finishing, great fabric and well cut pieces.
It can be quite challenging getting investors on board especially for entrepreneurs who are new in the fashion industry. How were you able to go through this path and what advice do you have for others?
I am still at the infancy but I would say at the beginning, keep your overheads low, try out slowly, understand the market and then take a leap. Keep your head down and be well abreast on the different grants and incentives for young entrepreneurs and budding creatives.
I’m an ardent reader on Zinkata.com and a good follower on Instagram; I’ve noticed you wear & promote many Nigerian fashion brands. Name your best 3 Nigerian fashion designers and why you love their pieces.
Quite a tough call as there are too many good ones and they all have different aesthetics.
What 3 major advice would you give to an entrepreneur starting out in the Nigerian fashion industry?
For all the aspiring fashion creatives or even fashion professionals, always take time out to study and learn new skills. Even if you already have a degree in fashion/the creatives, a refresher course is always a good idea. Acquire knowledge anyway you can. Associate yourself with people that would influence you positively and teach you new skills.Stay focused. It’s about the craft, not about you so stay very persistent and prayerful. Finally… Persevere.
What will the last quarter of 2016 be like for Zinkata?
So much in store – expansion for the store and web, E-retail!
Any last words for your fans out there?
Do not lose faith…
To check out more about Ezinne Chinkata:
Photo Credit – zinkata.com