Allure Cover: Jeremiah Ogbodo – Redefining Fashion Styling
Words By- Josephine Agbonkhese
Christened Jeremiah Ogbodo, Swankyjerry is everything rolled into one— an image/brand strategy Consultant, public relations influencer, fashion stylist, designer and much more.
The New York City and South Africa-trained designer, though a graduate of Insurance from the University of Lagos, became a global brand for his fashion styling prowess; a talent he describes as in-born.
The Creative Director/CEO of Swanky’s Signatures, Ogbodo, who was this year listed in Forbes 30 Under 30, is famous for styling A-list political leaders including Presidents, celebrities and socialites.
In this interview, Swankyjerry, a recipient of several awards for his many talents, speaks on his childhood, work and more.
How did you get into styling?
Growing up, I was always the go-to guy when it came to fashion. My family and friends formed the habit of seeking my opinion about what they wore or wanted to wear before stepping out. So, I’ve actually been styling since I was a boy.
I launched my fashion brand Swanky’s Signatures in 2012, but later added styling. I made my first collection and it sold out in three days.
Prior to that, I had worked as one of the biggest Public Relation agents on the Lagos Island for beauty brands, clubs, small businesses, hotels, etc. I practically specialise in helping businesses reach their next level.
Who gave you your first break professionally?
After the launch of my line in 2012, I attended my first ever fashion show in New York (Mercedez Benz Fashion Week). Whilst in New York, Davido contacted me for his music video shoot “All of You”. I styled him and I began trending in Nigeria from America during the shoot and after the video came out. I came back to Nigeria and suddenly, became the new bride among stylists in the country.
What was the experience like?
It was the most amazing experience ever. Styling a music video three weeks after my launch was definitely amazing. More especially, working in NYC was a first time experience for me; and it was definitely unforgettable.
What drove you on? Was it passion or what you earned from that job?
Of course, my passion drove me. I mean, it was the first music video I styled and it was international. You can imagine how excited I was. My passion and desire to put Africa on the map, drove me all the way.
Celebrities now depend heavily on stylists to create looks for them; share with us the process of getting the job done.
(Laughs) How much are you paying for this info? Honestly, the process is sometimes very hectic. Basically, I take a look at clients’ past and present fashion history so I know where to come in. I also try to get to know their preference, what they are comfortable in and what their dislikes are when it comes to clothes.
I proceed to sketching what the final look will be, present to the client and then make changes on request.
I make sure my client is comfortable and stand out in whatever I’m putting them in.
On the day of their events, we start off with hair, make-up, etc. before the final Swanky’s touch that transforms the entire look.
Who are some of your go-to designers for styling now?
Way too many designers are doing it for me right now but, I am definitely starting with myself. Then also, I love Donamatoshi, Valdrin, Alexander McQueen, Lanre da Silva, etc. The list is endless.
Do you favour leaving a personal style signature on the people you style?
You already know “NoSwankyNoStyling”. If you see someone on red the carpet, newspaper or magazine covers, music videos, pre-wedding photos, campaign ads, etc., you just know that Swanky styled this person. So, my signature touch is always evident in the people I style.
How do you like to use colours?
It depends on how I’m feeling. I like a mix of everything sometimes. I like a blend of colours and I like single colour sometimes. It really depends on the look I’m going for; and the event too.
What’s the one thing you’d never put a client in?
Anything that doesn’t make them comfortable. So long as my client is comfortable, we are good to go.
Are you a closet editor or builder?
I’m a mix of both world.
Favourite look that you have styled till date?
I’m extremely passionate about my job. So, every look is a hit and a favourite for me. But do I have the option of listing like 20 favourite looks? I’m sure the answer is no. So, I’ll just go ahead and drop one; the look I pulled for South African actress Pearl Thusi for the first ever African original Netflix series, Queen Sono. I styled her in a high slit dazzling dress with the finest precious stones, set of diamond jewelry, big hair to represent Africa, and subtle makeup.
What’s the most fun part of your job?
When you enjoy what you do, every part is fun and doesn’t feel like work. But the most fun part would be that it allows me to travel the world, meet people from all walks of life, wear the most stylish outfits, and also put a smile on clients’ faces.
...And the Most challenging?
I like to say every job is extremely challenging, as every job comes with a different task. But the most challenging will be styling Dangote’s daughter’s wedding. That was a tasking job; everything had to be perfect and I had to style about 25 people on same day. Hectic though, but it was really worth it.
As a renowned stylist, what will you advise anyone to steer clear of?
Steer clear of imitating people. You can draw inspiration but don’t copy.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is a wide range of styles. I like to think my personal style is Swanky. Yes, very sophisticated, sometimes vintage, sexy, exotic, alternative and vibrant. My style is broad and expressive. I’m a mix of all the sweetness of life.
Which style icon do you adore the most locally or internationally?
Kanye West and Lanre da Silva.
If you could wear one designer for the rest of your life who would it be?
That’s hard. I’ll like to wear every good designer all my life (Laughs). On a serious note though, I’ll choose me. I’ll wear my own design for the rest of my life.
You were recently listed in the Forbes 30 under 30. You also won at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, AMVCA, this year; how has it all been for you and what do you look forward to now?
Making it to Forbes 30 Under 30 as the Most Sought After Fashion Stylist in the continent is definitely a huge one for me. Being among the revolutionary thinkers of 2020 is an epic feeling. I felt very accomplished making the list because, it showed me nothing is impossible. I dreamt it and it came to pass. It’s every young person’s dream to be on Forbes’ “Rich and Famous”. Remember I started my business with absolutely no support financially. I wasn’t mentored, trained or empowered by anyone. I used my in-built talent to chase my dream, then went to finishing school to master my craft.
The most important thing about being on Forbes, for me, is to inspire young people never to give up on their dreams; to remind them that their dreams are valid. It will not be easy—people will disappoint you, drag you down, tell you ‘no’, but you owe yourself the responsibility to make sure your dream comes true.
On winning at the just concluded AMVCA, for me, it was another huge fashion moment. Being the first stylist to ever win this category as that was the first time in AMVCA’s history that an award was given out for Best Dressed At The Show.
It’s really huge because the show had every industry creative working for months, preparing and putting in so much work. It’s probably the biggest red carpet event in the Nigerian entertainment industry. My client, Mercy Eke, also won Best Dressed. It was great and I loved the fact that my work spoke for me in the middle of a fashion crowd. That’s an unforgettable crown.
Now, I look forward to a brighter future. Like Forbes said, as you have made it to this list, you must work hundred times harder. So, I’m not slowing down at all.
What have been some of your favourite career moment thus far?
This list is endless but I’ll drop a few. Styling the biggest African Pepsi campaign during the World Cup, where I worked with celebrities in different professions. I styled DJ Spinall, DJ Cuppy, DJ Exclusive, DJ Obi, Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Davido, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Jayjay Okocha, Shehu, and many more. Those were huge moments.
Styling one of the biggest artists from the Middle East, Mohamed Ramadanws, for one of the biggest concerts in Marrakech; over 15 looks with 40 seconds to change each outfit with a client who doesn’t speak English—like I literally had to speak Arabic half the time.
Another is my collaboration with telecom giant, MTN, to help give tips to young people across the continent and insight on fashion and lifestyle. Being honored in Ghana as “Africa’s Style Influencer and Stylist 2019” for my impact in the fashion industry was another. Winning the Continental Influencer Award in Uganda was also a great moment.