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Afropreneurs: This Company Is Bringing Luxury African Fashion Under One Roof Online

Meet the brain behind ONYCHEK—an ecommerce company using African fashion to foster job creation and culture preservation through fashion.

For 26-year-old health and safety expert turned tech entrepreneur Chekwas Okafor, fashion is a family business. “To a certain extent, I’ve always been running away from fashion,” he explains. “When I was younger, my father imported textiles from China. At the time, I didn’t want to get into the business, which I didn’t think of as fashion—just as something that paid the bills.”


As a biology student at Voorhees College, a historically black institution in South Carolina, Okafor chose practicality over passion. Although his well-tailored, bespoke suits garnered the attention of classmates and led to a short stint in modeling, he cast aside the idea of a career in fashion until a friend introduced him to the work of up-and-coming Nigerian designers.

“I began to wonder about how the fashion industry at home was changing, and how I could leverage that growth to expand opportunities,” he says. “I spent the next two years learning more about the industry, and diving into the world of luxury.”

Chekwas Okafor. Photo courtesy of ONYCHEK.

Okafor’s newly launched e-commerce website, ONYCHEK, is the result of that intensive research period. The site, which stocks a range of clothing and accessories for men and women, aims to foster job creation and cultural preservation in Africa through fashion.

But developing relationships with designers hasn’t been easy. As a new concept, ONYCHEK initially struggled to bring designers on board. Designers protective of their brands were initially hesitant to collaborate, so Okafor adopted a guerrilla approach to making a pitch.

“Because I prefer to show instead of just tell, I bought products from all the prospective brands I was targeting,” he says. “I made an editorial with high-quality images and a mock-up of the company and the website. Based on that, some of them reached out because they were able to visualize what I was building.”

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ONYCHEK, which now stocks seven brands including Kenya’s Adele Dejak and South Africa’s MaXhosa by Laduma, focuses exclusively on brands based in Africa. “There are many African designers based in the diaspora who make their products around the world because the continent’s fashion infrastructure is still underdeveloped,” he explains. “However, our focus is on companies that maximize value addition in the region by boosting employment of local suppliers, craftsmen, and manufacturers.”

In 2017, Okafor hopes to expand ONYCHEK’s offerings and has his eye on leading designers like Deola Sagoe and Lisa Folawiyo, favorites among Nigeria’s jet setting elite.

African luxury may be a foreign concept to a fashion industry dominated by western brands, but ONYCHEK hopes to educate consumers on Africa’s diverse cultures and the history behind textiles from batik to adire and imigwegwe through its “African Fashion Dictionary.” The site’s blog, THEINSIGHT, walks customers through traditions around head attire to the new attempts to repurpose the sacred Ankole cow horn.

Through ONYCHEK, Okafor aims to offer consumers something more than just click-to-buy. Through its products, editorials, and social media, the platform hopes to inspire a wave of conscious consumption that inspires consumers to consider the origins of their clothing and accessories.

“In the same way, consumers look to France or Italy for high-quality goods,” Okafor tells OkayAfrica, “I hope they begin to look to Africa.”

Akinyi Ochieng is a writer and researcher of Gambian and Kenyan origin who studies the culture and politics of emerging markets. You can follow her on Twitter @kikiochieng and her blog.

Style
Photos by David Pattinson.

First Look: This New Collection from Art Comes First Is Peak Black Yeehaw Aesthetic

The design and brand consultant duo previews the SS20 collection displayed during their residency at The Mandrake Hotel in Paris.

Following their wavy Surf Afrika collection, Art Comes First (ACF) shares with us a preview of their SS20 collection that is all things Black Yeehaw Aesthetic.

Dubbed El Charro Negro, the collection features neutral colors and an array of textures—from leather, embroidery, fringed denim and ponchos, to vests, suede jackets and straight flyness.

Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh of ACF are known as the "Travelling Tailors" where their ventures around the world influence their designs. This time the nomads, who hail from the West Indies, Ghana and Angola respectively, have landed in Paris.

Earlier this month, ACF curated a week-long event-filled residency at The Mandrake Hotel in Paris that encapsulates their ethos of taking cultural influence from around the world and only staying still long enough to create. There, Lambert and Maidoh presented an installation, live musical performances and DJ sets, a film screening and a pop-up shop leading up to Fashion Week. The residency also showcased the duo's latest collaboration with London mainstay Fred Perry.

El Charro Negro will still be showcased in Paris at another location from June 18 to 23. Keep up with ACF on Instagram to stay tuned for details.

Check out our favorite images from the collection below.

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Nonso Amadi & Kwesi Arthur's 'Comfortable' Will Get You In Weekend Mode

Watch the trippy new music video for this link-up from the buzzing Nigerian and Ghanaian artists.

Nonso Amadi is one of the standout acts from a young wave of Nigerian musicians blending afro-fusion with RnB and much more. He's now dropping the brand new single "Comfortable," an addictive self-produced track that sees him linking up with bubbling Ghanaian act Kwesi Arthur, which we're premiering below today.

"Comfortable" is built on woozy synth keys and sparse beat work, all spearheaded by Nonso Amadi's vocals about wanting freedom in a relationship.

"The song is inspired by experiences with having a girl over and not wanting them to get too comfortable by staying too long with you," says Nonso Amadi. "I thought it'll be interesting to create a song around this 'cos it's not a perspective were used to hearing from guys very often."

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Screenshot via YouTube.

Maleek Berry Makes a Statement with His First Track of the Year, 'Flashy'

And the music video follows suit.

After months of anticipation, Maleek Berry finally dropped his first track of the year, "Flashy."

The Nigerian crooner-producer surely makes a statement on the track while flexing his rapping skills, as he chronicles how he leveled up to be flashy—and it's well-deserved. The video shows us a scene of a fly photo shoot that's underway, where Maleek is dripping in gold and fancy cars surrounded by stunning black women and his homies—Eugy, Tinie Tempah, Juls and more.

Watch the video, directed by Capone and Guise of Vissionaire Pictures, below.

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