The Visionaries: Igee Okafor

Igee Okafor lives and breathes fashion. As a child in Nigeria, he’d always note what the adults around him were wearing at social gatherings, and started to develop his own personal style as a creative outlet. Today, he’s made a career out of his precocious eye for fashion, as a New York-based style aficionado he writes a popular lifestyle blog with a focus on menswear and culture, and has collaborated with the likes of Mr. Porter, GQ, and Timex.

Igee dropped into Zachary Prell’s showroom recently to try on some pieces from our collection. We talked about what he’s learned about blogging since he launched in 2014, and how influencers have changed the fashion landscape.

Tell us about your journey before you came to the U.S.

My parents spent most of their lives in Lagos, Nigeria, making a name for themselves in the oil industry. I was sent to study in France and Spain as part of their grand plan to make sure all of their children were ambassadors of the world. As their first child, I was the example; if they did it right with me, my siblings would follow suit. Growing up in Lagos was a wonderful experience. The food is brilliant, the culture is brilliant, the fashion is brilliant. However, it was very important growing up, that I was aware of other ideals and options. The first few months of studying in France and Spain were my first experiences of culture shock, before moving to Virginia in the U.S., and then on to New York to study Business and Marketing at St. John’s University. Very quickly, I learned how to be my own person and accept different kinds of people and culture. Learning how to adapt and adjust are my strongest qualities today, and I have the process of moving so often to thank.

Igee Okafor is pictured wearing the Aster in Navy, the Plymouth sport coat in Navy, and the Quincy cardigan.
When did your interest in fashion begin? Did anyone inspire you?

I think growing up as a very artistic and colorful child, I was always aware of fashion. I paid attention to what the men and women wore at social gatherings. I would untuck my shirts after my mom tucked them in for me, I would fix up my sister’s Barbie dolls, and more. It was an untapped talent I believe, and I did not tap into it until I moved away from Nigeria. Before I moved, I was focused on being a performer—I wanted to act, sing, and dance, inspired by Old Hollywood movies. I guess it was no surprise fashion was a part of my DNA as a visual and creative person.

I remember my personal style really becoming an interest around 10th grade. I was starting at a new high school, and I wanted to go in establishing my identity and character. My personal style was my outlet for that. Starting out, I pulled from different genres of men’s style, and I wanted to mix everything up to stand out as much as possible. At some point in high school, I dyed one side of my hair blonde. I also wore ripped skinny jeans, and clip-on earrings from the mall. I loved a pair of checked Vans, bow ties, and hats. I was going for that whole Jonas Brothers thing.

How would you describe your current personal style?

I would say my style has become a little more mature. I have a better sense of who I am, the man I want to become, and how I want to live my life. Currently, it’s more about what looks best and feels most comfortable on me. It’s quite minimal and clean—a bit traditional. I don’t like anything too complicated. I like to feel as light as possible, with a bit of detail. I am very inspired by the men of Old Hollywood like Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Christopher Plummer; the men who looked amazing in the most simple pieces. Today, I really enjoy people like Victoria Beckham, Leon Bridges, G-Easy, and Tom Ford, who seem to align in the same way. There’s something so mesmerizing about effortless fashion, and they all do it really well.

You launched your blog in 2014. Can you remember the moment you were inspired to do it?

I had always contemplated starting a blog but never went for it. Instead, I decided to be on everything else to compensate, from Lookbook to Tumblr, and I also contributed to other blogs. The truth is I didn’t have the confidence in myself to take on such a huge job. To a certain extent, I realized the amount of work it would require, but I did not feel like I had the resources.

All it took was one push from my mother to go for it, and I remember the moment I realized I was actually going to commit to it. At that point, nothing else mattered except putting the blog up. I stayed up late at night producing write-ups, researching, and learning how to code. It felt exciting, and I was so driven to make sure it was successful. I hoped one day I would be able to make it my career, and I gave 110%—it was my full-time job before it even became a full-time job.

What have you learned in terms of blogging in the last four years and how has that world changed?

I have learned so much about branding, being a student of the industry, serving yourself and your audience, focus, expectations versus reality, the importance of community. So much!  The blogging industry has changed, but certain things are the same. For starters, now you can actually make it your full-time job, and if you keep on track by acquiring certain marketing skills, you can work your way into a business that travels way beyond blogging. When I started out, the idea of regular people being able to have an opinion in an industry that was led by signature heads wasn’t really embraced. Everyone was comfortable enough with the likes of GQ and Vogue. There has been a shift in the last few years with people trusting bloggers and influencers because they seem to be more authentic and straightforward. Brands that were hesitant about embracing bloggers now seem to be full-fledged supporters. The way bloggers are received today has been the biggest change. It’s really impressive because it marks the day and age we live in where everyone is capable of writing their own story.

In other ways, blogging hasn’t really changed: content is still being created, we still have to work hard to secure brand deals, and we are constantly looking for ways to expand our reach/audience. It can become a repetitive task, but if you’re someone who is constantly looking for ways to use your talents as a collaborator in other fields, it’s a great job.

There are a lot of influencers out there these days. How do you stand apart in this crowded market?

There are a lot of influencers these days. There are also a lot of singers, actors, comedians, doctors, and the list goes on. The ones that stand out, and are recognized for their work, are the ones who stay consistent and work hard. They trust their instinct, they work hard, and they're kind to people. That’s my motto, and I hope to follow it for the rest of my life.

You’ve been wearing the aster pant, Plymouth sport coat, and Quincy cardigan. In what areas of your life do these pieces work best?

The Aster pant, the Plymouth jacket, and the Quincy cardigan all fall into the comfortable clothing category in my wardrobe. None of the looks are super dressy, but the special details make them significant enough to add an element of relevance to a look. All of the pieces can be worn daily to semi-casual events, work meetings, and during my travels. All three pieces are relatable to how men like to live these days. Minimal and functional. It works!

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