Egypt Ify Ufele: Plus-size fashionista
Egypt Ify Ufele is the CEO of Chubii Line, a plus-size fashion line that specialises in styles for curvy women and caters to sizes 00 to 26.
“When customers come to my rack, they’ll never hear the words, ‘We don’t have anything for you,’” says Egypt, who also designs for men, children and puppies.
Explaining how it all started, she told Africa Renewal in an interview: “At age five, I began helping my grandmother by pushing the pedals on her sewing machine. At 10, I was the youngest designer to feature at New York Fashion Week.”
She is currently planning her fall 2019 collection for shows in Paris and Milan. This time, her grandmother is helping her with the African-themed ready-to-wear.
Egypt is a frequent guest and featured speaker at the United Nations (UN) on behalf of the Centre for Global Education, which is part of the US Federation of UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations. She also serves as a “Young Ambassador” for Guns Down, Life Up, a New York City-based antiviolence initiative.
Ify is also a United Nations Junior Ambassador of Peace and an anti-bullying activist. She started a non-profit ‘Bullychasers’ to create awareness to help other kids that are being bullied. Through sharing her bullying experience and how she overcame it, Ify’s mission is to empower girls and boys to build confidence.
Under the auspices of Bullychasers, Egypt has travelled to Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Togo and the Virgin Islands.
During a trip to Nigeria in 2017, she noticed some children weren’t wearing shoes. Once back home, she launched a shoe-collection drive.
“We collected 2,000 pairs of shoes. People were donating, and we shipped them to Nigeria for the kids,” said her mom, Ms. Perry-Ufele.
In addition to Egypt’s success as an entrepreneur, she maintains an A average at Medgar Evers College Prep School in Brooklyn. She told Africa Renewal she is debating whether to become a cardiothoracic surgeon or a pharmaceutical chemist. And then she added, “Maybe I should be an astronaut. There’s a whole galaxy out there, and what if we are the aliens? Do you ever think about that?”
But whichever path Egypt chooses, she has no plans to give up Chubiiline. “I like to recreate my old designs and make something new,” she said with a smile.
Egypt has been profiled for her achievements in the fashion industry and for Bullychasers.
It wasn’t always a kind and gentle world for the amiable teen.
“I was bullied and called names in school,” she said, recounting incidents of being punched in the back and having her finger dislocated. “One time, a boy stabbed me with a pencil,” she recalled.
Egypt recalls a particularly painful moment at a community fashion show. A thoughtless designer had rebuffed her, saying she didn’t make clothes for “fat kids.”
Her mom said: “I tell her all the time: You’re a princess! You’re beautiful! You’re intelligent! When people attack you, that’s a way of God elevating you to a different level.”
Ms. Perry-Ufele is a chaplain for the New York Police Department.
Born in the United States, Egypt has a Nigerian father and an American mother, but she considers herself an “Igbo princess.”
“My mom always told me to turn a negative into a positive—that’s why I started ChubbiLine,” explained Egypt “Ify” Ufele, the designer who was inspired to create a clothing brand for people of all shapes and sizes after being teased for her weight.
“I was verbally and physically bullied and knew that being creative was my comfort zone. So, I used it to my advantage.”
Having learned to sew from her grandmother, Ify’s first foray into fashion was making dresses and skirts for her dolls. At age five, she was proficient at using the sewing machine, and by the time she was nine, she was creating wearable pieces for her mom and sister.
“I was making them things like dresses and pants. But when I couldn’t find clothes that were my size in stores, I started making things for myself as well,” she said.
Since then, the young visionary has honed a design aesthetic she describes as colorful and urban with the occasional vintage influence.
“I really like the fashion of the 60’s. So, a lot of my clothes are inspired by that,” she said. “I like the flared sleeves and A-line skirts from that era.”
The most notable signature of her brand, however, is undoubtedly the vibrant African fabrics that are heavily integrated into her line and serve as homage to Ify’s cultural roots.
“My father is Nigerian, so it’s important to me to show my heritage in my clothing,” explained the sartorial whiz who visits the country twice a year and has her father ship textiles to America, when she needs them for new designs. “There are different patterns that represent different tribes. We’re from the Igbo tribe, so I use mostly those.”
Despite the fact that she was only 10 years old at the time, Ify was invited to show her vibrant line during New York Fashion Week last spring — an opportunity that many experienced fashion designers could only dream of.
“There were a lot of people there at my show,” she remembers excitedly. “When it ended and I stepped unto the runway, they were like, ‘A kid made that?’ They were very impressed!”
Though she’s already achieved monumental success for someone of her age, Ify is still dreaming bigger.
“My goal as a designer is to dress Sasha and Malia Obama one day — I love their style,” she said. “But when I grow up, I want to be an architectural engineer. I’m looking forward to that.”
Today, she is one of the fashion designers known for plus-size outfits in the international fashion industry.
From being called names, to having her lunch slapped out of her hands, and even stabbed with a pencil; Ify’s experience with bullying, when she was in 5th grade, made her find solace in sewing, which later birthed her clothing line, Chubii Line.
Unknown to her bullies, Ify’s weight stems from taking steroids for her severe asthma.
While she was having a hard time in school, her mother urged her to turn a negative into a positive; an advice that inspired her to create her clothing brand for people of all shapes and sizes.
She has also made the Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 List, having been described as one of the girls changing the world.
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