Let’s talk about the beginning of your career. How did you get started in fashion and what first ignited your passion?
In 2008, I decided to follow my creativity and see what was out there. Growing up in South London, United Kingdom, fashion always provided a way to express yourself; be it through the leading US brands or high-street retailers. However, I didn’t feel that they catered to style-conscious individuals in London, like myself. I wanted to infuse my personality with inspiration from my surroundings to create a classic yet diverse brand inclusive of all genders, ages and backgrounds. “Standing in to Stand Out” is our mantra and in simple yet timeless collections, customers are able to fulfil this in any environment.
ODF (One Diverse Fashion) Clothing was growing tremendously with various collections but I had found difficulty in finding opportunities to maximise the exposure for the brand. With nowhere to turn for guidance on the best way to create opportunity, Rip the Runway UK was born, a bi-annual event to showcase the talent of emerging brands, entertainment and creatives such as stylists, photographers and makeup artists. This presented creative individuals, like me, with exposure and a chance to change the narrative in the community.
Who inspired you when you started out in the industry and how did you open the door to get in?
A combination of individuals has inspired me due to the legacy they have been able to create in the fashion industry, such as Sergio Tacchini, Avirex, Adidas, Ozwald Boateng, P. Diddy (Sean John) and Ralph Lauren. The culture and legacy that had been created by these men, who chose to drive forward their vision and own their talents, were very inspiring to me when I was starting my journey. It just reassured me that it is possible. Constant rejection and being declined did motivate me to create my own opportunities, push through and never give up which wasn’t easy. There wasn’t much support at the time to keep my vision afloat, mentor and provide guidance, so I had to do it for myself.
What has been your best learning experience to date working within the industry?
I would say the biggest learning experiences are to firstly, trust your own journey and believe in the vision that you see for yourself. Document the process so you can look back and see how far you have come. Finally, be willing to learn something new every single day. I feel that the day you stop learning, you stop living. Whether it’s from culture, industry or individuality, it can always contribute to creative inspiration.
If you could go back in time and give some advice to your younger professional self, what would it be?
I would advise myself to be more willing to ask for help. Growing up I was so focused on succeeding solely by myself, but now that I am older, I understand that a collective agenda and collaboration can really make change and impact. Also, that you win when you don’t quit; quitting is not an option, rest but keep pushing towards your goals.
Who inspires you within the industry today and why? You created ODF. What do the initials stand for and why are they significant? / What is the difference between diversity and inclusivity?
The person that has inspired me throughout my journey, that is actually not in fashion, is Steve Jobs. His level of innovation and the fact that he has not allowed the traditional business (or tech) model to limit his vision for his brand. ODF stands for ‘One Diverse Fashion’, I believe that we are one as people, there is diversity amongst us and the connection is fashion. It is significant as it represents the brand’s ethos, and that we are an all-inclusive fashion brand.
I think the difference between diversity and inclusivity is that diversity is different cultures, backgrounds and being able to have the opportunity to have an equal right, as well as access to a common goal based on colours. Inclusivity to me is equal opportunities as some individuals may not be able to operate in the same manner as another individual due to a limitation. I believe that both diversity and inclusivity need to be celebrated and accommodated as success. The future requires the contribution of all individuals to be fruitful and progressive, as our differences make us who we are.
What would you say were your “milestone moments” so far?
Being able to reach over a decade in business with ODF Clothing was so rewarding for me personally. Another milestone has been receiving awards and recognition from industry staples such as Forbes, Vogue & GQ. Through our work as a brand, we have been able to create opportunities for the younger generation and create a platform that can serve the community.
What has driven your success as a lifestyle entrepreneur?
I have not allowed myself or my brands to be labelled or placed into a “box” so to speak because it limits the possibilities and where inspiration may take me. Where I have made successful connections within the corporate world and the community, I try wherever possible to connect these environments to elevate projects and ventures. And finally, just knowing I’m here to make a difference, not just for me but for others wherever possible. We are blessed with talents and gifts to share with the world, and I always aspire to do that.
Why is intersectionality important for the future of the industry e.g. ethics, sustainability, intersectional feminism, diversity, gender, ethnicity?
It’s important because we are evolving as people. The more we adapt, understand and appreciate the unique characteristics of people, the better it will be in benefitting the progress we are making, our collective agenda and a solid foundation of unity across the industry and its professionals.
Speaking of challenges and change, what would you say were the main hurdles that you had to overcome working within an industry, which is homogenous, in every respect?
What can we do to attempt to change the industry?
I think a big change that needs to happen is the number of people of colour in senior positions within organisations. I feel that this really contributes to the culture, the education and the celebration of diversity within the industry so that when it comes to collaborating with people and brands like myself, I can speak openly and honestly in a comfortable environment; with sufficient resources to support ventures that may affect specific backgrounds or demographics.
Do you have any hints or tips you can share for young people within the Black and minority community wishing to work within the fashion industry?
Always be yourself, come as you are, be willing to learn and ask questions, as we are all learning and collaborating with our experiences. If you have a passion to be within an industry, don’t allow any bias to hold you back from reaching out and trying to gain experience. You have to be willing to kick down those doors and show that you want it when it comes to opportunities.
You are a new member of the Fashion Minority Alliance Committee. What are you hoping we can achieve together?
I am really happy to be a member of the Fashion Minority Alliance and so grateful to head up the Culture and Lifestyle Committee. My hope is for us to celebrate diversity and utilize our unique styles and personal touches, to provide any opportunity. We can connect the dots, make a difference and benefit the community when it comes to representation across the industry.
Why is the black community so influential in modern pop culture and how is it possible that an “underrated” community, by the majority, can have such a huge impact on music, language, fashion, trends?
Historically, the impact the black community has had across music, fashion, politics, sport, trends are huge and in general, we are very influential. There is a creative fire that we carry and it is always so organic for us. We always find a way to stand out wherever we are in the world. If we paid more attention to the business side of creativity and educated ourselves in the right areas, it would be extremely beneficial to ourselves and the community, in terms of protecting intellectual property and ensuring we are recognised for our creations.