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Damilola Oke: Modish, Fierce Style Queen

Damilola Oke

Damilola Oke, also known as Madame Modish, has written the first-ever Nigerian stylebook titled Modish Maxims: A set of style rules. The Alternative Stylist seeks to change the narrative in the creative space by re-emphasizing the power of styling, its professionalism and role in communication.

She speaks to The Guardian Life on her journey into the fashion industry, writing her first book during the COVID-19 pandemic and stylist’s evolution.

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What prompted you to delve into fashion and style?
I have always had a flair for fashion and pairing clothes in an unusual and stylish way. As a matter of fact, my parents are really stylish so I grew up seeing them put beautiful combinations together for diverse situations so that sort of informed my foundation in fashion and style. Becoming an adult, I further realised I have a place in changing the narrative as far as the kind of images we project from Nigeria and Africa is concerned. So, I decided to walk the talk by being an active soldier in that army.

Seven years running a business in style consulting and personal branding, what has evolved in the industry?
Awareness. When I started professionally in 2013, it almost felt like people didn’t quite understand what Styling is or the role of a Style Consultant, and I had to explain and demystify the term every now and then. Now, more people and brands know and recognise the term and role, respectively. This has definitely helped the service providers like me, within the industry, grow, get jobs, charge better and have more impact in marketing communications, corporate branding, storytelling, film and television, to name a few.

You have just released the first stylebook in Nigeria, what prompted it?
My initiative to put the basic, essential and advanced knowledge of my craft (Fashion Styling), which is a substantial part of creating a viable personal and corporate brand.

In March 2020, as nations shut their borders and effected every sphere of life as it was a total lockdown, I knew it was time to put pen to paper, to write the first Fashion Styling book to come out of Nigeria. With a total of 10 years professional experience, gathered abroad whilst getting a Master’s Degree in Corporate Communications & Public Affairs from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen, Scotland, and upon return back home to work with over two hundred varying clients between then and now, putting together this body of work to share relevant knowledge that will birth a better-informed fashion and style community, especially in Africa, is timely.

Describe the Modish Maxims person?
Everyone who wants a perfect wardrobe; the book is instructional and inspirational. It helps you become the best version of yourself so you can achieve whatever you wish to be. Modish Maxims simplifies the tools you need to create a larger than life persona, tell rich and aesthetically pleasing stories and advertise products, through a strategic and endearing appearance. It boasts of over a hundred illustrated images to aid easy understanding of the multiple stages of discovering, developing and honing a unique, personal and brand style. The book also delivers a reputable directory of Nigerian Designers and Retailers to patronise for male and female fashion (clothing and accessories) and 50 maxims, to live a fierce fashion and style journey by. It is a thorough and good read which truly empowers every reader.

How can stylists evolve post-COVID?
The pandemic has brought along and uncomfortable pause/limit to the possibilities and execution of creative jobs centred around persons’ gathering so it is time to de-centralise your knowledge and expertise from being peculiar to your presence alone, to one that is accessible with or without you physically being available. The end of an era often ushers in a new one, it is time to launch new approaches to an existing function, embrace technology and become a world-class brand. Enough of being local and subdued, the world is now, truly for the taking.

What are some of the challenges you face in the course of doing your job?
Every day comes with challenges. Being misunderstood, providing clarity because of the intricacy of the job of a creative, not everyone will understand what you do or how you do it. Maintaining clientele and getting new ones to keep your business afloat and remain competitive. Acquiring staff who work as hard as you do or even more because you cannot do everything yourself and in designating, you must ensure their execution isn’t below par or outright sloppy. Getting investment and funds to expand from one phase to the next. Building trust with colleagues and clients because sentiments could kill a business even before it starts.

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