“I have been a fashion enthusiast early in my growing-up years. To me, fashion is fashion, luxury, lifestyle and natural in me.”
Jane Michael Ekanem is the creative mind behind JaneMichael fashion brand. A name she coined by joining her name with that of her father’s first name to stick with her clients as a brand. The brand made a great impact and closed the first day of the show at the just concluded Fashion Finest Display in Lagos due to her high imaginative mind and detailed works. Speaking with Saturday Sun, the dark-skinned Akwa Ibom lady talks about the fashion blood that runs through her veins and what it takes to sign off a JaneMichael outfit as ready-to-wear.
How did it all start?
I have always been a fashion devotee from inception. Fashion has been my thing from the inception. Nothing attracted me to fashion though; I can tell you it is intuitive in me. I have been a fashion enthusiast early in my growing-up years. To me, fashion is fashion, luxury, lifestyle and natural in me. People around me are not surprised that I ended up in this industry. My father was particular about quality, while my mother is very fashionable. The combination of both worlds makes my pieces fashionable. In fact, at a tender age as a fashion fanatic, I wanted to own a branded ‘T’ shirt like Polo Ralph and St. Michael. The journey started for me in the last 12 years with selling silk fabrics and clothes before I diversified into styling and then started designing because of the consciousness in me. It has been from one journey of fashion into another.
Did you study arts applicable to fashion?
Not arts; rather, I studied Business Administration at the University of Lagos even though it was a struggle for me. I was already doing my fashion business but my mother would not let me be. She needed me to get her a university certificate even though my business was gradually progressing. So at the end of the day, I ran a part-time course and it was the most difficult part of my time
especially during examination periods. But I did it.
What fabrics do you like to work with?
I prefer to work with crepe because I am very particular about straight lines and clean cuts. Again, it is easy to handle and quite comfortable with our weather. Though I actually started off with Ankara and similar fabrics before I ventured into what I like to do with other fabrics, then what my clients like as well.
What specialties do you concentrate on, traditional or English?
I do both, but now, I concentrate on what brings in the money because the cost of production is high and the business must be sustained. Even as a designer, I love to showcase my aesthetics and details, but then salaries must be paid, the business must also be continuous. I do quite a long range of outfits. I do aso ebi as well for clients who understand the need for a fashion statement.
Again, I do ready to wear by having my pieces and make them through pre-orders. That has worked for me because I used to have clothes made and just hanging there, and money is being tied down.
How did you come about the name JaneMichael (JM)?
I got the name JaneMichael from my name, Jane and, my dad’s, Michael. I am his last daughter and we were very close when he was alive. When I was thinking of how to rebrand, I thought I needed a name that would stick with people the way you have Polo Ralph T-shirt as a brand. We are young but very thoughtful in our mindset. I have designers that are on my speed dial who comes through for me.
Do you sew or run through tailors?
I run things through my production manager who understands my flair for fashion. For every fresh design, I must be there to see it completed. Paying attention to details is not about talking from a distance, it is for me to see every inch of the production play out.
Have you encountered challenges?
By this time last year, I had no hope, business was stagnant, it was very difficult to pay salaries but somehow, it just happened like a boom and we are still here with quite a handful; things are really looking better and brighter. God made it possible. Job started coming in, people began to know the brand and here we are today.
How do you come on board fashion shows?
Like the just concluded Fashion Finest, it is like every other good fashion show in Nigeria. It was my second fashion show; the first one was Lagos Leathers Fair, thanks to Oluwatosin, a stylist who believed in what my fashion house could do. It was a small but great show. For Fashion Finest, I applied and that was it. I was supposed to showcase the second day, but was asked to close the show; I went all out and thanked God. I went all out, for every opportunity that requires me to show my window, I open my door. It was a great experience for me because I always remind myself that, “Jane, you are only as good as your last show.”
What advice would you give to younger designers?
Never give up. Keep believing and trusting in God’s grace. God’s grace can take us to the level we never expected.