Inspirational Woman: Ivy Ekong | Fashion Influencer & Founder, Ivy Ekong Fashion

Ivy EkongIvy Ekong is a fashion stylist and Image consultant. She is also an influencer and the founder of a women’s luxury online fashion brand – Ivy Ekong Fashion.

Ivy has been working as a fashion stylist for the past 8 years with clients of different background both in the United Kingdom, Dubai, Los Angeles and around the globe wherever her job takes her. It was at Colour Me Beautiful Academy London where she brushed up her natural styling skills. She also, has a vast knowledge in designing which led her to starting her own fashion brand for women of all sizes and ages – Ivy Ekong Fashion . She has built her solid understanding of fashion and styling. Ivy strongly believes that everyone has their own style and her job as a stylist is to enhance that style in her clients. Hi, Impact Recently featured by YAHOO NEWS as the number 1 out of 5 UK influencers of 2020, Ivy has shown that you can do it all. In Ivy’s words ‘’ my journey hasn’t been easy. It has been one of dedication and resilience, but I wouldn’t have it any other way’’.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Ivie Ekong, popularly known as Ivy Ekong.  I am an entrepreneur (founder of Ivy Ekong Fashion) and a fashion influencer. My career background has mostly been in fashion and beauty; I was a ‘fashion girl’ right from my early years. I was like the Kim Kardashian of the family; the one that styled everyone’s outfit – even those of our family friends. Everyone always came to me for a style advice. It was just natural to me.

When I was younger, I won a beauty pageant and was crowned a Queen (The Face of Esan), which opened more opportunities to model and wear different haute couture dresses for designers. Before moving to the UK, I was a very established model and a Beauty Queen in Nigeria and through that role I had the opportunity to work with a lot of non-governmental organizations and charities under my then labour of love, which was “Eradication of Stigmatisation of those living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria” and some economically deprived societies in Africa as a whole.  I also had the opportunity to meet and work with women who are displaced in society either due to lack of education, poverty, early forced marriages, and those who suffer from low self-esteem due to their voice being silenced by situations in their lives. As Beauty Queen and working with my state government, UNICEF and YOUNG GIRLS FOUNDATION, just to name a few, it became very apparent to me that more needed to be done to empower women and young female. 

That’s why anyone who knows me know that “Women Empowerment” is very important to me and it’s a huge part of my brand and of who I am.  This is how it all started. 

A few years later, I met my husband and we moved to the U.K. After being unsure of what to do in a new place where no one knew me, and whilst 4 months pregnant with our first daughter, my husband turned to me and suggested I just do what I was best at, what I did back in Nigeria. 

So, I googled charities close to my then home and chose “The Young Carers Foundation”. Three times a week, children who have to care for an unwell adult in their lives can come to the Young Carers Foundation to take a break. This foundation helped these kids to feel like kids again and to be able to do what kids do. Volunteering here felt like home, it felt like I was me again doing exactly my part to give these kids some joy and happiness.

Much like in Nigeria, this wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, so I took up a course in design and image consultancy. This knowledge allowed me to start a small business, where clients would come to my studio, and I would do their swatches to show which colours and fabrics they should be wearing, as well as give them style advice. 

One day during a consultation session one of my clients suggested I start a blog so they could view my style advice on-the-go. The blog was mainly for my customers at first, just to advise them on what to do, what to wear to a wedding or event, and fashion, style, and beauty tips. After about 3 years, I started being contacted by brands for advert spaces and getting offered money to publish articles and post on social media. Naturally that was where I started thinking of my own brand.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I did not. I knew I wanted a career path in the fashion or creative industries, but it was never planned.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

First, it was financing the business – I was making some money from paid ads and influencer collaborations but it wasn’t enough to start because of the quality I wanted for my products.

Secondly, it’s being a black female founder of a fashion brand in the UK. Even though this is very exciting, it comes with its own challenges too. I have walked into rooms and meetings where people are completely shocked when they realise that I am the founder of Ivy Ekong Fashion; that I am female and black in this industry. This attitude pushes me to work even harder. I do wish in these meetings and social settings that there were more of women who look like me sitting in those rooms and at those tables.

Another challenge is balancing being a mum of 3 and a running a business. Since the pandemic, it’s been tougher as I have less help at home, so I work everywhere. Sometimes the computer is with me in the kitchen, sometimes it’s with me in the bathroom, I’m feeding the baby with one hand and on a call on the other, juggling emails, working on my influencer campaigns. It’s a lot of juggling every day and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievements in life are my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I think my career is a great achievement and I have worked very hard to get where I am, but having kids who are grounded, loving, thoughtful and happy is one of my greatest accomplishments. How far my brand has come and seeing so many women all over the world wear my clothes is incredible as well.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I believe it’s been my passion and resilience. I am extremely passionate about what I do and that has transcended into the success of my brand.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentorship is very important in business and also to any individual, whether in business or not. I remember when I was starting my business, I did reach out to a few people who I thought I could learn a thing or two from asking them for mentorship, but they never replied back. Since then, I have not reached out to anyone else, but I do have a few people who I mentor myself. One of them is in the beauty industry while the other is trying to get into the fashion and lifestyle industry. I am very open to mentoring; I believe in constantly working to be the best version of oneself and there’s always room for improvement.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

It would be bridging the pay gap between men and women and empowering women to take on more challenging roles in our society.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t doubt yourself.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have a lot of plans for the future! We are currently working on our first bridal collection which will be launching soon, and sometime in the future I am hoping to create a perfume collection for women as well. There is also a home care line amongst other plans, so its all go go go!

Mostly, I want Ivy Ekong Fashion and the Ivy Ekong brand to be a household name both in the UK and all over the world, so we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Do you feel as though the call for entrepreneurship is growing within the black community? Why is it important that we support black owned businesses?

Yes, I do feel so. It is amazing to see more black women launching new businesses and doing it so well, too. I am big on Women Empowerment and women supporting women. I feel it’s important to support black owned businesses to break the stereotype circle.  Also, it encourages other black women to start their own when they see the support that their cohorts are getting. Gone are the days when women competed against one another; I think we need to build each other up and help one another succeed. When black women succeed, it draws us a step closer to the high table where we all want to have a sit. We should all be represented in these high tables. A representation for one black woman is a representation for all.

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