#YemziGirl Interview November, Caroline
1. Please describe what you do, where you're from (and your age if you feel comfortable)
C: My name is Caroline Chi-Chi Chinakwe, I’m a Stylist, Creative Consultant and Artist. I’m originally from Lagos Nigeria, but grew up in London and Happy and proud to say I just celebrated my 46th birthday.
2. How did your career begin?
C: I studied fashion design and technology at London College of Fashion (LCF) back in the early 90s. My first job in fashion was working for Nicole Farhi as a quality controller, in the manufacturing department. I found a love for working in manufacturing and went on to work for various suppliers to high street stores as a garment technologist. This was back when we still had a lot of factories in the UK manufacturing for most of the clothing brands, before China and India became the number one destination for apparel manufacturing.
3. What to pull for inspiration for your artwork and client shoots, do trends play a huge role in your work and if so where do you 'discover' them?
C: My inspiration comes from my taste in style, what I would like to see on women and men, what my imagination tells me to create is where I start from. So much has already been done when it comes to fashion trends, styling and art. Trends have been reworked so many times, that I no longer see that as inspiration. The chances are that no matter what you can think of doing, someone else has already done it. What you’re left with is your imagination and creativity. I find inspiration in everyday things I see. When you walk down the street and see things you like, or watch a video, or visit a gallery, the things we like are automatically stored in our heads and hearts somewhere, so when I create an image, whether it be art, or styling, rather than starting again with pulling inspiration, I will want to go back to the stored data of images, I’ve collected over years of just living and use that as my starting point.
4. Are fashion weeks still relevant in 2018?
C: When I first started off in fashion, while at LCF and definitely before social media, fashion weeks were definitely very important, exciting and inspiring. Now not so much so. Social media has changed the way we view fashion, has opened up our access to the industry and those that work in it and run it. The average teenager with a sense of style, but no knowledge of the industry, can set a trend that everyone will follow including the heads of the fashion industry, fashion week has lost its aim and objectives, so what really is the relevance of Fashion week anymore?
5. What's been your greatest achievement?
C: Fashion and style were my first step into the creative industry, but my greatest achievement is where I am now, transitioning from fashion to art. It’s such a leap and challenge and something that I didn’t think I would do, but taking a leap of faith is exciting and has spurned a new energy and passion.
6. You’ve worked all over the world, which spot did you love most?
C: I love working in Africa. I recently did a shoot in Abidjan, working with the talent there and also models from Ghana. That was an amazing experience, shooting in different locations around Abidjan and also travelling to neighbouring city Yamoussoukro, some of my best work have come from this shoot.
7. Tell us your dream shoot - designers, models, photographer, MUA, set design/location...
C: I’ve never thought of this... I’ve never really followed anyone’s career enough to say they would be my dream anything. I’ve loved images I’ve seen over time, but try not to get too focused on what others are doing. But here are people that I have respect for their work and have loved their creativity and of course given the opportunity, would love to work with all of them on a shoot. Designer - Coco Chanel, Model - Naomi Campbell, Photographer- David Uzochukwu, MUA - Pat McGrath and location would be Imo state Nigeria
8. What's next for Chichi the Stylist-Consultant-Artist?
C: I’m so excited and passionate about where I am right now with my creativity. Building on the art and finding new ways to merge it with fashion is very much my focus. I’m still styling and consulting with different brands, but everything will now revolve around the art. I also have a manger/ agent who is amazing and believes in what I’m doing. Doing this alone is such a struggle, so having someone who you can trust and who also supports and believes in your creativity, is everything.
9. What are your 3 tips for succeeding in the creative industry?
C: First, you have to understand your creativity and trust in it. Different people will try and change what you’re doing, but remember that your individuality is what is going to make you stand out and succeed. Second, get out there and network, meet people and talk to them about you and your work, you just never know who you’re going to meet. Third, your business can’t grow without financial investment, so be wise with how you spend your investment, make sure everything is looking right and tight for when you are ready to attract more money.
10. As a busy freelancer and full-time Mum how do you find time for yourself, to unwind, space to reflect on life?
C: I’m lucky to be a freelancer working mostly from home. So, I have time to be a mum and run around for the kids, but also have time to work at my own pace. It’s important to make space for yourself, hang with friends, date and look fab. As a single mother of 3, and selfemployed creative, having your own space where- ever and when-ever you can find it is so important. Sometimes it could just be staying all day in bed and catching up on reality tv, once the kids are out, or just going for a walk. It’s just something I’ve always done and pray to continue doing, the balance of everything keeps me going.
11. You look so good in the pieces that you purchased from our summer sample sale at Soboye, it was a special statement when you said “I want to start dressing like this more.” For you what defines the Yemzi look or the #YemziGirl?
C: I love clothes that are loose and free, nothing too restrictive. I did a modest wear, hijab shoot in Abidjan and I loved how you can be covered, but still feel empowered, sexy and beautiful. The Yemzi collection has pieces that allows me to be this, empowered, sexy and beautiful.
12. And finally what is your favourite quote?
C: I have two favourite quotes, the first is by Sigmund Freud. “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise” And the second is by Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles, begins with one step”
See more from Chi on IG