Currently, African luxury is arguable a foreign concept to the high fashion industry, especially since it is dominated almost exclusively by western brands. But Chekwas Okafor plans to change that.
Chekwas is a 26-year-old Nigerian resident in Upstate New York. He attended Voorhees College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) in South Carolina where he received a BS in Biology. He then worked as a health and safety expert for a while. All while dressing in well-tailored, bespoke suits, of course.
Chekwas transitioned into a fashion-tech entrepreneurship, two years ago, when his friend introduced him to the work of up-and-coming Nigerian designers. This led to him launching his luxury fashion e-commerce website, ONYCHEK. ONYCHEK is aimed at making African luxury fashion easily accessible to the world.
Speaking to OkayAfrica, Chekwas said:
"I began to wonder about how the fashion industry at home was changing, and how I could leverage that growth to expand opportunities. I spent the next two years learning more about the industry, and diving into the world of luxury."
Chekwas explained that the name, ONYCHEK, was inspired by his dad's company (of the same name), that once imported textile from China to Nigeria.
The website, launched officially in September 2016, has since established its competitive advantage: all the products on the website are made in Africa. The site stocks a wide range of clothing and accessories for men and women solely from African designers working from within the continent, including Kenya’s Adele Dejak and South Africa’s MaXhosa by Laduma.
On why he chose to focus only on designers based in Africa, he shared:
"However, our focus is on companies that maximize value addition in the region by boosting employment of local suppliers, craftsmen, and manufacturers."
For the near future, Chekwas hopes to expand his offerings to include the work of leading designers like Deola Sagoe and Lisa Folawiyo, favorites among Nigeria’s jet setting elite.
ONYCHEK understands that the luxury African fashion industry is still in its infancy, so the website's blog, THEINSIGHT, is committed to educating the world about this industry. They put out weekly long-form content that ranges from the history of a particular product to how products are made, to an African fashion dictionary.
In the next 5 years, he hopes that ONYCHEK becomes the world’s most compelling destination for ‘Made in Africa’ luxury fashion.