• Thursday, February 22, 2024
businessday logo


UCHE NNAJI,  style doctor, change maker

Uche Nnaji also known as the ‘Style Doctor’ is the visionary founder and creative director of OUCH; one of Africa’s most respected premium style brands. This sartorialist is also a notable public speaker and founder of the OUCH Style Academy. With some training at the prestigious F.I.T [Fashion Institute of Technology] in New York, Nnaji adds an unmistakable blend of practical luxury and world class methods to his pieces.
Launching with a first store in Maryland, Lagos, Nnaji’s OUCH brand has expanded to five outlets across Lagos with branches in Lekki, Lagos and the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. Two more stores are already scheduled to be opened in January 2016 and two more will be added before the end of 2016.
Nnaji has taken his work to some of the fashion capitals of the world; showcasing at the New York Fashion week 2011 and the African Fashion Week London in September 2012. He also presented his collection at the ECOWAS Fashion week in 2014.
Nnaji is passionate about inspiring excellence in young people and acts as a mentor in different organisations across Africa. In October 2012, Uche was invited as a guest speaker on an entrepreneurship panel at the prestigious Columbia State University in New York. In September 2012, he was also invited by the Africa Union to share his inspiring story and experience as a panellist at the African Union youth conference in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, where he represented over 80 million Nigerian youths. He continues to speak regularly to young people across Africa and is a mentor for Ashish Thakkar’s Mara Foundation.
In 2014, Nnaji was called upon to style the then Presidential candidate Muhammudu Buhari for his iconic photo shoot. The images are now regarded as the key game changer in the run up to Nigeria’s 2015elections. Nnaji’s clientele includes influential political leaders, clergy, CEO’s and captains of industry for whom he provides solutions. In entertainment circles, Nnaji is the preferred purveyor, working with major players like PSquare, MI Abaga, Don Jazzy and the Mavin crew, Ice Prince, Sammie Okposo, Timi Dakolo and JMartins amongst others.
As part of his travels around the world, Nnaji in August 2015 launched the ‘Style Doctor Series’ a project which takes him to cities around the world.
I grew up with strict parents who instilled in every one of my siblings the importance of hard work and Integrity.  At an early age, it was tradition to go assist my mother who was a petty trader at the market. I would say that upbringing has in no little way helped to shape my perspective in my entrepreneurial quest.
Journey to the world of Fashion
The need to start the OUCH fashion brand was borne out of the desire to solve a problem. In 2002 as an undergraduate, I was already having fellow students come to my hotel room to get styling tips and all, this made me realise that I have some form of gifting which needed to serve more people so I started going to Yaba market in Lagos to buy fabrics and make shirts which my fellow students happily paid cash for. First, we started out making shirts and Caftans for men, but in 2012, we decided to experiment something for the ladies and it went well, but we had to stop because the plan was to run it for a season and it served its purpose
hopefully, we shall resuscitate the women collection in the near future.
Economical effect on your business
Hhhmmmm! Personally, I am optimistic that light would surely come at the end of the tunnel. When I look at most of the policies, I just smile because they aren’t entirely alien to the world, it’s just that we as a people have done things differently from the rest of the world, so it’s only natural after doing the wrong thing for decades, it starts appearing to us as if it is the right thing and so we fight change. My prayer for the Nigerian economic leadership is that God grants them wisdom to do the right things and adopt policies that will bring us out of rocky paths.
Dressing President Buhari pre-elections
I was called upon by my good friends at State Craft to come do what I am born to do, and I went there and had it done. I must say it was a humbling experience for me as Mr. President showed a humourous side that most people are oblivious of. He was sceptical on my ability to make him look good in a suit but at the same time, he was open to the possibilities. This for me was a seed and at the right time the seeds will germinate for all to see however, our OUCHaholics are proud of me when they step into the OUCHlets and see the picture of me dressing up Mr President in OUCH Suits and accessories. The feeling is good and will forever live with me.
Affordability of OUCH items
Our pieces surely cannot be for everyone, the market is too large to want to cover it all, even the likes of Zara which is the most successful fashion brand now with highest numbers of stores globally, they still do not have a single store in a market of almost 200million people called Nigeria, so likewise us at OUCH, we are building a brand that will attract individuals who have discernment abilities to know what works for them. In terms of cost, I will say it remains relative as something regarded as expensive to one is cheap to another.
Why the name Ouch?
Ouch because, we wanted a name that is an expression but at the same time global in pronunciation.
Is the average Nigerian fashionable?
Most definitely YES! After the Italians in Europe, the Japanese in Asia, Nigerians come next in Africa.
Local and international exploits
As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home” this has informed everything we do, from our choices of fabrics to the cuts, we have come to understand the unique features of the Nigerian man which is taken into cognisance during production, this has increased our value in their eyes. Internationally, I would say the journey has just started; things will keep unfolding as the years roll.
Dressing the way you want to be addressed
It is very simple; it shows and tells an instant story about you. Adhering to dress codes can let people know your level of exposure and education, if you were well brought up or not. Be courteous enough to obey instructions of the dress code on your invitation card or letter, this can also give you the opportunity for either shut or opened doors.
How do you relax?
I am a connoisseur of good music, tilting more towards jazz and alternative music, which I relish when I am not working. I also enjoy watching movies at home.
Final words
Always dress for success as you never know when the opportunity to make the winning impression will show up.
Kemi Ajumobi