I spend some of my days scrolling through Twitter like every other social media obsessed zombie born in the internet age. It doubles as my mobile workplace and time waster but most of all it gives me access to a network of creative/innovative individuals doing things I like to write about. That’s precisely how I came across Nwando Ebeledike, a 29-year-old Kaduna born model turned Travel Photographer and founder of NALÉ Girl.
Nwando got her start in fashion in front of the camera as a model for six years, now she’s transitioned to the business of creating clothes allowing her to apply her first degree in economics and business management, she has also found love behind the camera as a travel photographer. Nalé Girl her fast fashion brand for bold, beautiful and cool African woman has created clothes with the ethos of pushing women to chase their dreams, something Nwando is doing pretty well.
You began as a model but transitioned into owning a fashion brand and becoming a documentary photographer, how was that experience for you?
Nwando Ebeledike: It’s been a journey and a half going from eating only carrots, sleeping in the gym, running from SOHO to the Lower east side for castings and now creating pieces in my head and having models run around for my castings. My journey has felt challenging, fun, confusing, frustrating, exhilarating and all that good and bad stuff. Being a documentary photographer feels unreal. I never saw that one coming. My friends often have to remind me to be confident when I say I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER because I still haven’t sunk into that one yet and I don’t always feel like I have the right to say that I am.
You’ve expressed on your website a desire to be ‘part of the development and distribution of fashion in your environment’, how does The Nale Girl fit into this narrative?
Nwando Ebeledike: I created NALÈ Girl and then it jumped right out of my hands and into the world, sometimes it feels like having a rebellious teenage daughter that’s going through phases trying to find herself. I want to create fast fashion that’s available to the woman that’s a dreamer, living life on her own terms. We are creating fashion items and we are selling them at home and abroad. It’s a learning process, but we are doing it.
In defining the ethos of The Nale Girl, how do you make your designs project the strong, bold, beautiful, driven, and effortlessly cool African woman? Who are the women that inspire this? What’s your design process?
Nwando Ebeledike: I am my target market. In creating the narrative for the brand, the creation of the design is one part of it and the telling of the story through photography is another part of it. They’re both as important. We create the strong pieces and we shoot them in strong women doing things at home and abroad so while we aim to sell the clothes, we also aim to sell the dream that you can also be striving to become the you that you envision. I’m inspired by women that are doing things, the non-conformists, the dreamers and the
Key elements in your designs are dresses, ruffles, and bold/creative sleeves, any reason why these appeal to the brand the most?
Nwando Ebeledike: I like simplicity with an element of ‘gragra’ – I believe that’s who I am also as a person.
Is it difficult being a female business owner in the fashion environment, what challenges do you face as you grow?
Nwando Ebeledike: In my personal experience, it hasn’t been difficult. I grew up in fashion, I was modeling when Nigeria had 3 or so notable photographers and today we have dozens of absolutely talented creatives. It might be easier for me because I know most people in fashion from designers to photographers to make up artists etc. The major challenge is existing in a system that just doesn’t work, it’s not enough to be creative and create, I must also buy diesel because there’s no constant electricity, fix broken down generators due to excess use, payout of the blue government fines, train and enable staff that are there while planning their leave without notice. It’s a lot.
2018 was incredible for the African fashion industry with an amazing amount of exposure, do you think Africans are now open-minded enough to grow a very stable fashion economy and industry that will allow brands to build incredible structures concrete enough to compete with European labels?
Nwando Ebeledike: The question should not be are Africans open-minded (the answer to that is YES) the question should be would the government create a business environment that enables growth and sustainability? Will they?
Your price points have the middle class Nigerian in mind, was this a conscious decision?
Nwando Ebeledike: Yes, it was. I want women to be able to come in and walk out with an item for date night or a party or an event and not worry about splurging a significant percentage of their income.
You’re also a documentary photographer, what’s been the most inspiring image or story you’ve experienced traveling?
Nwando Ebeledike: Experiencing Chale Wote in Ghana blew my mind. After that, I just wanted to run and shoot. There was something in the air that I never seem to be able to put in words.
In the African fashion scene, what brands do you think stand out? And what do you think your brand brings that’s unique from others?
Nwando Ebeledike: There are a lot of brands that stand out (especially in 2019) in their own unique way. WHAT A TIME TO BE AN AFRICAN CREATIVE!! I never really look at my brand in relation to others; it is unique to me because there is no other fashion brand out there that is owned by Nwando Ebeledike.
What are you currently working on?
Nwando Ebeledike: I’m working on the first official collection for NALÈ, I have always created pieces but never a collection. With regards to photography, I’m working on my first photo project exploring what ‘home’ means.