The UAL West Africa Alumni Group has been set up by Leigh Odimah (LO), Pepper Chikezie (PC) and Bomo Anthony (BA). They’re all graduates from London College of Fashion (LCF) and since graduating each has gone on to set up their own business. We chatted with them about what they are up to now and why they wanted to set up the group.
What made you choose London, and LCF to study at?
LO: I was born not too far away from John Princes Street so London is my home. I grew up around industrial sewing machines, overlockers, and end of roll, bolts of fabric which my mother would transform in outfits. I started designing ladies bags and accessories and later decided to study an MA in Strategic Fashion Marketing at LCF. I always seem to come back to UAL!
PC: I was born and raised in London and I’ve always known that LCF was and still is a highly ranked school globally and so I knew it would be the best place to further my study and knowledge in my chosen subject area. It also helped that a friend studied at LCF and was able to give a good recommendation.
BA: I always wanted to study here because I like fashion style/culture in London – cosmopolitan, Soho, mods, kitsch, retro and all that vibe – so it just seemed an obvious choice to make and I don’t regret it.
What do you all do now?
LO: I’ve worked across fashion, film, television and music, for organisations like The British Fashion Council, London College of Fashion Business School, Southbank Centre, Central Saint Martins, Harris Elliott, NIKE, and MTV. I now work focus on event marketing for the fashion and beauty- industry.
PC: I work as a creative consultant in West Africa and in the UK and I am the founder of The Assembly, a platform that supports the growth of fashion and creative entrepreneurs and emerging talent in Africa.
BA: I specialize in the technical side of fashion including garment production, pattern cutting and project management.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
LO: I am most proud of my work that focuses on showcasing creatives of colour and projects that are diverse and inclusive. I tend to use my platform, Style Canteen to draw attention to news and events about creatives who are producing amazing work that is often ignored in main-stream fashion media.
PC: It would be hard to pick one, but I would definitely say taking a bold leap of faith to help launch and build Africa’s first international fashion and lifestyle television channel, SPICE TV in Nigeria. Launching The Assembly and definitely graduating with a Distinction in my MA despite almost giving up due to a personal trauma.
BA: I started my clothing label about 5 years ago, albeit prematurely, I learnt a lot about how to run a business and what not to do. I look to re-launch it next time with a solid foundation and a loud bang.
What do you like most about being part of the UAL Alumni community?
LO: I enjoy being part of a group of like-minded individuals. It has been an inspiring journey connecting with alumni and mentoring students who are extremely talented.
PC: Having a support network to stay connected to and having the opportunity to mentor fresh graduates by sharing my industry knowledge and experiences.
BA: It’s nice to be part of a creative-hub, knowing that we can make small contributions that will reach far beyond my surroundings. Also, having access to the vast resources available in the community is a huge benefit.
Why have you set up the West Africa Alumni Group?
LO: UAL is an international organisation with a well-respected reputation. It is important for alumni from all disciplines from West Africa, of all together as a creative community. I first approached the alumni association back in 2016 with the idea to set up the West Africa Alumni Group. Being part of the PgCert Academic Practice course in Art, Design & Communications with Shades of Noir Teaching Within programme helped to shift my focus. So when I re-connected with Pepper who is based in Lagos, Nigeria it made sense to re-ignite the idea. From there Eleanor put us in touch with Bomo and we decided to come together and create the group.
PC: I believe this is an important time for Africa’s fashion industry in general, we have a voice and are happy to celebrate our identity as a collective and as individuals. We’re also starting to recognise that we have an important role to play on the global stage, but have a lot of work to do in order to develop a sustainable and viable industry. Against this backdrop, it is also very important that as alumni of one of the best fashion institutions in the world that we don’t work in silos and instead explore collaborative opportunities and supports systems. Even at the very least, let’s all be aware of who we all are in our respective fields.
BA: To reach out to like-minded alumni who share similar ideas or ambitions and face familiar challenges in business or work, in order to discuss solutions and problem solve.
What do you hope the West African Alumni community will achieve?
LO: My main goal is to create a platform for alumni to connect, engage and support each other’s work. It would be amazing if we can create life-long creative relationships and opportunities to work and grow together. The idea is to inspire the next generation of creatives in West Africa.
PC: I hope we can draw on the many talents, networks, knowledge and skills of the Alumni that can be utilised to not only contribute to the industry’s growth but to enable our individual goals too. I will also hope that we can increase dialogue and achieve greater cross-cultural connections within West Africa too.
BA: I hope it will open up the channels for greater networking amongst members.
What is next for the group?
LO: We’re hoping to host our first event very soon in Lagos, Nigeria. We will let you know when that will take place.
PC: Such a cheesy thing to say but watch this space!
BA: We’d like to set up social events to meet everyone and possibly start discussing more on what this group can do for us. We look to the future to grow our numbers and become recognized as a voice for fashion in West Africa.