“Style is a mentality, influenced by fashion, but it comes from within”, according to ONYCHEK’s blog. “All that matters is that it feels right to you. If it gives you that extra boost of personal confidence… That’s style”. Fascinated by the story of one young entrepreneur’s quest to bring African fashion to the world, we decided to find out more.
Now in its second year, ONYCHEK is positioning itself as THE store to check online when you want luxury goods that have been designed and produced by African craftsmen and designers – using African materials. Founded by Chekwas Okafor, the site is crisp and responsive – while the products themselves are very appealing – a combined testimony to his family’s background in textile distribution and his personal background in advanced computer programming.
While Nigeria’s Alara promises luxury in a retail environment, its wares come from across the globe. In Africa Fashion’s most recent survey, more than half of our readers told us that they want to see the ‘complete manufacturing cycle’ taking place in Africa: From initial design to the sourcing of quality materials and final production. In that respect, ONYCHEK is perfectly attuned to our audience.
The see for ONYCHEK was planted when a young Chekwas was contemplating his father’s exporting of Chinese material into Nigeria. ‘What if the cycle could be reversed?’ he wondered.
“African fashion is unique because African designers are telling the African narrative from the African perspective”, says Chekwas. “They are doing it by infusing craftsmanship, culture, and history into their designs”
As well as the traditional designers, Chekwas has been inspired by a new generation of artisans.
“Designers like Zainab Ashadu of Zashadu, are using leather sourced from Nigeria – and Nigerian native techniques – to create beautiful bags”, he explains. “Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa by Laduma is incorporating the South African Xhosa inspired rite of passage into his timeless knitwear, Charmaine Taylor of Legacy Collection is using the ruins of the Robben Island Prison Fence that housed Nelson Mandela to make jewelry in South Africa. It can’t get any more authentic than this”.
Chekwas Okafor is an ambitious young visionary, with a 5 year plan and a strong focus on ‘execution’.
“It is important to tell the stories of successful local startups”
“When I was in Nigeria”, says Chekwas. “I hardly knew of young founders leading a top company. Telling the stories of African entrepreneurs to young Africans is equally important. You never know whom you are going to inspire”.
We could not agree more!