Shop Talk: Obie Iloka

Owner, <a href="http://stylesbyodi.com/">Styles by O.D.I</a>
Obie Iloka's custom designs use traditional Nigerian Ankara fabrics in modern, high-style silhouettes.
Obie Iloka’s custom designs use traditional Nigerian Ankara fabrics in modern, high-style silhouettes.

Photograph by Ryan Kurtz

You’re an environmental engineer. How did you end up with a clothing line? Going shopping, it seemed like a lot of the pieces I saw were all very similar. I felt like there was a need for more unique and meaningful clothing, but it was hard for me to find any. I’m Nigerian, and so I started making pieces out of traditional Ankara fabrics for myself. I mix them with modern clothing; I would wear an Ankara skirt with a button-up shirt. Once I began wearing my pieces, I got a lot of positive feedback, which motivated me to start my clothing line.

Tell me about Ankara. Each piece tells a story, and it is so vibrant and festive. It’s mainly in West African cultures—each tribe has colors, symbols, or patterns they incorporate. That’s what I want to do with the Ankara pieces: tell people that there’s a story, there’s a heritage in Nigerian culture—not just Oh, they wear beads.

What’s your design and fabrication process like? I find material at African shops that get their Ankara fabric shipped from Nigeria, in Ohio and out of town—bigger cities have more supply. I also personally handpick fabrics whenever I make trips back home: I went to Nigeria in April and found so many beautiful ones. As of now, everything is custom-made. I want all of my pieces to be unique to my customer’s story.

Obie Iloka
Obie Iloka

Photograph by Ryan Kurtz

 

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