I had known him from my days back in Unilag, I was a freshman, he was a final year student who loved to sing! As destiny would have it, he went on to be one of the biggest names in the Fashion and Lifestyle industry in Nigeria.
During one of my most recent encounters with him, I knew I just had to interview him when he spoke (for what have been the umpteenth time for him) about the power of branding and how it relates to perception and eventually , your success. This happened at a workshop and he was kind enough to grant an interview to Lifestyle hues, to share snippets of his story (we really could go on for weeks if we were to get in his full story)
Uche Nnaji is a renowned Fashion and Style Entrepreneur who needs no introduction. His Brands: Fashion Label Ouch and Style Academy have been know for World class, Premium Quality Clothing and Accessories for mostly men. Born and raised in humble beginnings, he began his entrepreneurial journey making shirts for his fellow students in school.
Determined and tenacious, he invested his saved up Post Graduate Degree tuition fees in his first store at Onigbongbo-Maryland; this was after he was denied a UK Student visa . That same store still exists today alongside 3 others in Surulere and Lekki.
Today, his journey continues with a foray into the international scene with participation and showcase of his collection at the New York Fashion Week, The African Fashion Week London. Furthermore, his bespoke shoe and accessory designs are done in collaboration with European manufacturers and craftsmen. He remains an inspiration to many of us!
Q:We would love to hear the story of your personal rise and the rise of the Ouch brand, we are aware it’s been a long road. We would love to read an abridged version of the good, bad and ugly .
A: The story of OUCH is simply that of a young man’s dream to dare follow his heart and kept advancing even against all odds.
I am actually flattered when I hear such words like THE RISE OF OUCH, because personally we haven’t started, we are not on Oxford Street, 7th Ave and other major fashion districts /Streets of the world. until then we keep breaking new grounds.
Q:What exactly does it mean to be a Style doctor?
A: Someone who provides Sartorial -Healings to people in need of Style Therapy.
Q: Were you always accepted as the Style doctor?
A: Well, the OUCHAHOLICS ( clients ) started calling me that and it stuck.
Q:You are one of the most respected Style and Image consultants in Nigeria today. Who do you look up to and listen to? Who inspires and coaches you?
A: Wow! That’s a huge thing to say because there are a few Image professionals in Nigeria doing amazing stuff, but nevertheless my teachers / coaches are outside Nigeria as my schools were in Dubai and FIT New York, but on the image matter I spend time discussing with a great man called Fela Durotoye,he understands executive presence and the importance of projecting the right image.
Q:In the course of your work, you have worked with prominent individuals, celebs and even the President. How were you able to pull that off?
A: I just get calls to do these projects, never lobbied for any and hopefully won’t. All I do is strive to continuously update knowledge and skills as the world does that on a daily basis.
Q:What would you say has been the most re-current challenge with Nigerians and the way they dress? What are the solutions to that problem?
A: I would say the most re-Current challenge has been with the adoption of ANKARA into the Nigerian corporate dress scode, President Obansanjo tried to promote this style which was never followed through , I personally believe, as a solution, it would also contribute to solving our present challenge with foreign exchange as it would share the market of the imported finished garments that most people in the corporate world wear 5times a week.
Q:You have been able to do business successfully in Nigeria, in spite of the odds. Aside from hard work, dedication etc, what specific steps did you take to achieve success?
A: The daily kind words and testimonies I get from people who say because of the OUCH-Story They are doing what they are doing today, such stories are the other reason why we refuse to give up against all odds
Q:What would you say are the daily habits you have personally imbibed that have made you successful? Give us a list of specific things you’ve done daily for years.
A: I simply try to imbibe and practice some of the realistic habits associated with Successful, namely FOCUS-DETERMINATION and my favourite, DELAYED GRATIFICATION.
Q:We know the things you have succeeded at, tell us a couple of things you’ve failed at.
A: I refuse to accept that I have failed on them because in still alive . But learning Italian and Chinese are some of the challenges I am presently trying to overcome. oh! Did I mention I used to be a very good dancer? #Straightfaced.
Q: Was there ever a time, at the beginning when you doubted yourself, didn’t dare to dream that you could achieve anything? How did you overcome that?
A: Interestingly, I don’t have memories of any such time, I was just a curious lad who decided to embark and explore the whole length and breath of the Fashion & Style world.
Q:On the blog, we have been sharing on 10 Wardrobe essentials a woman must have, as an initial foundation to a stylish wardrobe. Pls give us the male version of that i.e 10 things a man must have, to get started on having a decent wardrobe.
A: I already talked about that in my forthcoming book, now that is a reason to look out for the book when it comes out .
Q:Do you think there is a direct correlation between how you dress and daily success? Pls share your thoughts on that.
A: I believe there is, because when you take time to put your ensemble together, you mostly likely want to behave in a certain way which invariably affects the way you handle your job and also your general business dealing for the day.
Q:Please tell us a fun fact about you, something many don’t know.
A: Well I love to make voices, so most times I call the radio and just have fun.
Q:You have such a full plate! How are you able to relax and recharge your batteries?
A: I just shut down some days and work from my bed because even traveling doesn’t help as I am at the airport at 4am taking time out to reply to this interview after responding and doing several emails since 3am
Q:You’re no stranger to the International scene and fashion shows like the ongoing New York Fashion week.We also know its a deliberate time and resource investment on your part, what kind of impact have those experiences made on you?
A: Yes it is a deliberate move and of course investment. What these fairs and shoes do is keep us ahead of our game back home by not just forecasting trends but also meeting with the right suppliers which at the end of the day eliminates the Middle man!