I love prints and I love colours! A lot of sustainable brands, use a lot of neutral colours, and I understand that as most days I wear black, but my customers love my prints and bright colours.
Oge Ajibe, a Vancouver based fashion designer her self named brand, formerly Fashion Voice, creates styles in sizes XS to 5XL that are size inclusive, sustainable and 100% made in Canada.
Originally from Nigeria, Oge immigrated to Canada in 2015 with the intent of studying psychology at Simon Fraser University, but after failing the first semester she tried out communications and technology before realising that fashion was where her heart was and enrolled at the fashion and design programme at LaSalle College.
During her time as a student, Oge found a passion for blogging and styling, which progressed into creating garments for the models she was styling, as she couldn’t find the looks that she wanted.
In 2018 SFU reached out, and invited her to be a part of a fashion show, showcasing African prints and after the show, someone bought her dress.
I was so surprised! I asked her, Do you really want to buy my dress? And she was like, Yes! And that’s how I sold my first dress.
“The next day I went to Walmart and bought an ironing board and an iron and I still have those!”
“That was the first money I ever made. I remember thinking, wow, so people will actually pay for garments I made!”
The next week she was invited by another university, this time in Kamloops to show her designs.
This progressed in 2019 to creating made to measure prom and wedding dresses, traditional African dresses and a lot of alterations.
During this time, Oge was also working full time in retail; the same job she started since arriving in Canada.
In 2019 I did an independent fashion show, with the help of my friends and over 150 people attended, and that’s how a lot of people got to know my name.
Honing her skills in the fundamentals of the industry at LaSalle, she graduated in 2018.
The beginning of 2020 saw Oge reduce her retail hours from full time to part time to focus on her made to measure business.
My calendar was already so booked! I was so happy.”
And then covid hit.
My confidence went from 100 to 0.
I said to myself, Covid is not going to be the reason that I am going to stop. I started making face masks and I created jewellery so that‘s what I was doing.
In June 202, she was laid off from her part time job.
“At this point, I’m not sure and I’m just going to do what I do best, and that’s making clothes. So I went from making dresses, I love making dresses, that’s my speciality, to making shorts and styles you could wear at home.”
“During lockdown I watched a lot of Youtube videos and listened to podcasts on how to grow my business so it was a learning period for me”
“During the resurgence of BLM, there was a woman reached out to me via IG, telling me about a scholarship from Free Label, a local Vancouver based brand.
I was tired of brands trying to support Black business, and I was like, not another one!
Someone’s death lead to this, and my brand Fashion Voice, was being promoted on social media, but I wasn’t in the mood.
But I read the requirements and I followed Free Label and when the competition opened I reached out to her and applied within 2 days of the deadline. I was notified in late August that I had won the scholarship.
“I told a friend I won and we screamed!”
At that point in my life I was looking for someone to tell me, ‘I believe in you’ and to help me with the information I didn’t know and to guide me.
“Just the fact that I won something changed everything for me. We connected and talked through a few things and I ended up changing my brand name from Fashion Voice to my name Oge Ajibe.”
“From Aug, Sept it was full mentorship and in that time I planned my collection and on December 3rd, 2020 I launched my first full collection.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it went so well and initially I cried and I received 20 orders on the first day!
“I have a new collection launching early June, and I think it’s my 5th or 6th collection.”
Not bad for someone who launched 6 months ago!
And it not just creating new collections that has kept Oge busy, but also sourcing help with manufacturing and sourcing fabrics.
“I feel like I should be doing more. When I talk to my mentors or with people like you, and they say I’ve done a lot, it’s quite surprising.”
“When I met you in that meeting, I was so surprised. I was like, there’s another Black person doing sustainable clothing? Because I felt that I was alone. That I was the only one doing this. People don’t give out information or advice, and this is what this industry actually needs.”
“I consciously try to not let all those things affect me – I’m an over thinker. My brand is a little different in that I love colours and that was something that during my rebranding I struggled with. A lot of sustainable brands use neutral colours and in my first collection I did just a pop of color and that was the styles that sold our in the first day.”
I am still growing and I am still figuring things out.
“Fabrics inspire my collection! I love prints and colours. My previous collections also inspire me, but each is a new experience. I’ve been waiting on Summer for the longest time – this is my time to shine. I went all out, using a lot of colour.”
“I don’t think my process is complicated, but sometimes I feel that my process is a bit everywhere! I start out writing on paper and make notes, prices, size range, sketches and attach fabrics – then I put it into my excel sheet.
I try not to be uptight, with everything looking perfect. I over think everything, but everything happens here (motions to her head!)
I’m just one person – I don’t know who I am, wanting to do all these things!