[MIKARA] For anyone new to the amazingness that is WUMAN (fashion), how would you describe who you are and your becoming into WUMAN ?
[Ekwerike] My name is Ekwerike Chukwuma and I am no more than an artist with a distinctive urge to express my unique sense of view. Fashion is an end use to my art. WUMAN was born out of my yearning to express the bing bangs in my thoughts, a lot of which are born out of abstraction and the reality of me as a human. The birth of WUMAN was a procession and is still one,just as art.I was buzzing with ideas/sketches from my high school to university days, from my bed to books and conversations. I was hugely uninterested at medical school where I had a love-hate affair with human anatomy as a subject but was fascinated with the female anatomy/being. I noticed my drawings even in abstraction were linked in one way to the female anatomy and elements. I saw a correlation between the process of making art and the reproductive power/anatomy of a woman and it struck me that I needed to create a brand that communicated that as a story from an African perspective.
[MIKARA] How did you come up with the name and spelling of your brand, WUMAN?
[Ekwerike] At the time I knew I wasn’t going to continue my degree in medicine and was set for my path, I had tried so many names that didn’t resonate with my core. It struck me at some point in my soul that the name ‘’WUMAN’’ was the right one taking cues from the last four letters of my first name ‘’CHUKWUMA’’ with an ‘’n’’ at the end of it.
[MIKARA] How did you get your start as a designer? And how did you know that’s what you wanted to do?
[Ekwerike] My start as a designer seemed like Eureka.Back in medical school, I knew I was an artist,though hugely naive about the path. I decided to draw to be complete and whole and I started to notice it was what made me happy and fulfilled. I began to see that I couldn’t live a day without a line/stroke on anything I sketch. It was usually spontaneous and I was blazing with ideas/styles. I was scared at some point but the dynamics of my change from just an intellectual seeking a ‘’certify-me’’ university degree to a culturally aware/distinct individual was just so much to ignore. I had finally found my voice.By virtue of being eclectically fashionable at the University, I decided that fabrics/garments would be my medium of expression as I was naïve towards the art world. I created from the heart,wore and embodied them. Each day I stunned people and annoyed many.Initially I was called a designer by my peers, but as I grew, I decided to dispel that tag as I knew I was an artist and garments/fabric was my medium, I didn’t necessarily buy the name designer.
[MIKARA] How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
[Ekwerike] My brand is African/artsy/distinct.
[MIKARA] So from an artistic approach to fully functional pieces of clothing for men & women, what does your design process look like?
[Ekwerike] My design process is most of the time spontaneous with the strike of an idea which graduates to sketching on paper or object close to me at the time, progressing to deep intense meditation on the idea followed by colour coding as I call it. Initially I struggled with color as I felt my world was in monochrome, I did not even color drawings until I met a Ghanian art professor who gave me a life changing perspective about color. I gradually incorporated it into my creative process, initially creating without the borders of risks and functionality in mind but solely for building a unique sense of beauty/aesthetics. I enjoy designing more for women because you are not entirely conservative and have more fluidity at risk. When I am satisfied with the raw sketch, I go through a painstaking technical drawing process to create the final look. Afterwards, I try out fabric options in texture, color and type before I choose which suits my drawing/idea. Dialogues with my team proceed production.
[MIKARA] Since you have the title, Designer, are you the Creative Director for WUMAN as well? If yes, How much of the business side of things are you involved in?
[Ekwerike] Yes, I am the creative director for WUMAN. My brand is still growing and young, so for now I am almost hundred percent involved in the business side. Truthfully, I am not really a business person as I would only wish to create and focus on that completely. I struggled with the fear of it until I summoned up courage to it by taking a few lessons and courses on it which gave me a lot of insight/clear cut approach to it and its strong relevance to the creative side. Right now I am doing better than before but may be in the future I will switch to a creative role solely.
[MIKARA] What’s next for The WUMAN Brand (for the year 2018)?
[Ekwerike] Being a spontaneous person I would tell you that I will have too many plans in 2018. I am sure to focus on expansion in terms of customer engagement, production capacity and reach. I will also be exploring various media in communicating the brand’s aesthetic with also very strategic collaborations. In total, we will focus on growth as a brand with more collections, exhibitions and sales.
[MIKARA] How do you like being in the fashion industry? We’re you excepting this kind of feedback being in the industry? And on social media?
[Ekwerike] Initially I saw the fashion industry as too rigid but I guess I am very much akin to know more and understand it. Thanks to social media,it is a lot more disrupted with so much power going to creatives to be able to create and earn almost seamlessly without necessarily following a cliché larger-than-life system. For me, I would feel that the right to be free and create without too many borders or rules is best and doing what suits you as a brand is key. I am a very private person so initially I despised social media. Right now, it is a great tool I am in a relationship with getting to understand its dynamics.
[MIKARA ] If WUMAN could have any celebrity or personality as a spokesmodel, who would it be?
[Ekwerike] Right now I just have my mind on Ronyca Kelly. There are also a lot of individuals from the arts to music and acting I would love to affiliate with. Its about the mood and time.
[MIKARA ] Outside of fashion, what do you do for fun ?
[Ekwerike] I don’t really have too many go-to activities for fun. I just draw, read and have positive conversations. I used to play a lot of games in the past but it has reduced drastically as well as AND-1 basketball or football.
[MIKARA ] I’d like to close things out by mentioning a line from your Instagram: “Garments are Story-tellers….” How do you see this message coming to life in the women and men who wear your designs?
[Ekwerike] The statement ‘’Garments are story tellers’’ is very much what my works are all about. The colors, threads, cuts, fabrics, patterns, seams, motifs and technique as well as poise/image of the man or woman in the garment are all excerpts of the full story communicated. Every part should be perfectly related to the other with a deep sense of emotion which stems from its creation to give its full story. With fashion, you judge the book by its cover. I want to make clothes that are real/engaging with messages people can relate to with a unique sense of beauty, pride, identity and cultural awareness.