Linda Idegwu… Curvy and enterprising
Linda Idegwu is plus-size model and founder of Dearcurves, a UK-based African Inspired clothing line for plus size women. She uses Dearcurves as a means of positively promoting and bringing African fashion and culture by making clothes for curvy women using African prints. In this interview with Guardian Woman, she speaks on what inspired her creative choices and how she coped with personal tragedies.
How has it been being a Nigerian fashion entrepreneur in Europe?
Been a fashion entrepreneur with Nigerian roots is an advantage for me as it allows me draw inspiration from the varieties of cultures we have in Nigeria, and have key elements of these cultures implemented in every creation of mine. Crucially it also means am able to offer the western audience a unique experience in terms of how they shop, the varieties of product available to them, the origin and inspiration of the unique fabrics used in the creation of our products. Each item tells a story and through Dearcurves the plus size audience now have easy access to beautifully made, African inspired apparels which successfully competes with any other fashion brand out there on merit and aesthetics.
Did your family background prepare you for entrepreneurship, especially in fashion?
Not exactly, I was raised in a military environment. My late dad was a commander in the Nigerian navy and mum was a teacher with the navy. They were very much keen on the kids going through the conventional route of getting a stable job and having a stable source of income. Having said that, they were very supportive of my dreams and aspiration in the creative field and actively encouraged me to pursue them.
You are operating in a niche market, what prompted the focus?
Dearcurves is my interpretation of what beauty is. I wanted a platform where aspects of our culture: the appreciation of the curvaceous female form is celebrated the brand aims to showcase Africa’s perception of beauty whilst inspiring women with curves to love their bodies.
What were the problems you had to deal at the onset of the business?
Conducting extensive research on the plus size market and the fashion industry at large meant i was prepared. I was aware of the would be challenges and had solutions for them. I have learnt over the years unexpected variable cost do arise and the survival of the company may in some instance depend on how well such costs are managed.
What informed your choices in terms of designs and colours?
I am inspired by varieties of factors such as: nature, colors, travel, poetry. These factors work together in influencing my decision on fabric and colour choice.
Your market is based in the UK and the US, any plan to come to Nigeria?
Absolutely! I love the awakening we are presently experiencing in the Nigerian fashion industry. Lots of talents and opportunities out there. I am also aware of the fact that the nigeria plus size market remains untapped and we (Dearcurves) intend to bridge that gap. The long term goal is to move production to Nigeria thereby fulfilling plus size women’s needs of having access to aspirational and stylish clothes, creating job opportunities, inspiring the new generations of creatives and help in strengthening the Nigerian economy.
How did you cope with losing your parents? How much of impact has that have on you as a person?
Losing my parents at the age of 26 completely changed my perception of life, I was left with a distrust and safety of life. Though it’s been eight years my grief is still very raw. Am not convinced the hurt completely goes away, I’ve just learnt to take it in my strides and carry on…just as they would have expected me to. This experience brought me closer to God and my belief remains a fundamental source of strength especially when I’m faced with challenges that comes with been an orphan.
What are the most important lessons you learnt from your parents that you have found important to your business?
They encouraged me to build and maintain a close relationship with God and helped me to be resilient in the face of adversity. By their example, I learnt the importance of been committed to whatever i project i embark on. I proactively implement these lessons in my work and personal life and found them to be invaluable.
Does being a woman affect your business decisions?
I work efficiently and make strategic decisions based on my knowledge, application of skills, experience in the industry, continuous development of oneself and having the right networks and mentors.
Who are the fashion icons – Nigerian and/or international – that provide inspirations for your fashion choices?
I am very much inspired by Iris Apfel, Princess Abah Folawiyo, Carine Roitfeld, Masha Fedorova, Rita Dominic and Michelle Obama.
11, From when you started and now, will you say you are fulfilled?
I am of the opinion fulfillment comes with an element of complacency, though I am pleased with the consistent growth I’ve attained as an individual, as well as the growth of my brand Dearcurves. I believe my journey in the creative industry has only just begun.