Ruky Ogbetuo: From Fashion Writing To Prolific Designer
Ruky Ogbetuo is a seasoned fashion journalist who pursued her passion in fashion designing and has successfully managed her brand Zhena Clothing for five years.
The Mass Communication Graduate who looks forward to becoming one of the biggest brands in Nigeria and Africa shares with Allure Vanguard her inspirations, challenges and lots more…
You were or are a Journalist, what inspired the switch from journalism to fashion designing?
I am a journalist, actually studied Mass Communications and majored in Journalism; I also went ahead to get a certification as a fashion journalist from the London College of fashion, so yes I am a journalist. LOL
I haven’t switched, but just gave priority to Fashion designing. I have always loved fashion and was a fashion retailer for the longest time before I finally ventured into designing my own pieces 5 years ago. I think working as a lifestyle journalist also motivated me, because we usually pulled pieces from Nigerian designers to Style whoever we were interviewing at the time and I also got to work with very good Nigerian designers often, the pieces/outfits were always amazing and I kind of got interested in creating my own pieces someday.
How long has the brand been in existence? And what’s the experience like for you?
Zhena Clothing Brand was 5 years on the 17th October 2022, and its been a wonderful journey. We have had so many challenges and so many wins too. It is interesting to see how fashion in Nigeria has evolved even in the last 5 years. I have learnt a lot on this journey, interacted and designed for some amazing and interesting Women and looking forward to designing for more.
Was starting your own brand a tough decision?
I wouldn’t say it was a tough decision because I have always been in the fashion industry/business somehow. At the time I made the decision to go into fashion designing full time, I was working in an insurance company, I had to resign and focus on this. No one in my circle was surprised because one day this was going to happen anyway.
What makes your fashion feministic?
I feel like women should be able to dress in whatever way they choose and not how other people want them to. I create pieces for every woman, we are not restrictive in any way. No matter your age or the occasion we will design for you as long as it makes you Happy and keeps us fulfilled.
What do you think has influenced you as a person the most?
Without batting an eyelid I would say my maternal grandmother (Bless her soul). Anyone close to me knows this.
Her life, Morals and Beliefs motivated and is still motivating me. There are certain things I want to do and I think of her and make a decision to do or not to do. LOL
I mean I have a few influencers in my life; My Mum plays a very vital role in my process.
Let’s talk about Nigeria’s fashion industry, how would you describe it and what are some of the changes that you will like to see in the sector ?
Certainly the fashion industry in Nigeria has evolved over the years and that’s because Nigerians are naturally fashionable people. I would say its world standard. I mean Nigerian fashion designers are at par with our counterparts worldwide. I cannot say we are not creative enough. Have you seen what these designers are creating these days? AMAZING. Fashion is serious business and we are not joking about it. However production is not cheap, getting very good Tailors to work with is also very expensive which naturally makes the end product expensive and sometimes looking overpriced. I don’t know how this can be resolved.
I would also like to see collaborations between designers, (already thinking of one) it doesn’t hurt trust me. I am personally looking forward to this.
What are some of the principles that guide what you do?
Attitude is everything, they say. I have stood by this for a very long time.
My attitude towards my work determines my output. My attitude towards clients determines if they will trust me or even come back or refer someone. My attitude towards my staff will determine if they will be loyal or not. (well these days its difficult to find loyal staff no matter what you do). Apart from having the right attitude, I also believe in consistency. We have gotten to the verge of shutting down several times, but for consistency we have to keep at it and on the long run it pays.
Which do you love most or which gives you the most joy, being a fashion writer or being a fashion designer and why?
This question, LOL. They are both different and interesting to be honest. Fashion designing has taken the lead for a while now because Zhena needed my full attention. But recently I started writing again. They are both tasking I must tell you. I love to write, not just about fashion you know, I love to write about life generally if you follow my column “from her point of view” you will understand, that has nothing to do with fashion.
So to answer your question, I love both jobs and they run simultaneously depending on which one needs my attention more at the time.
What’s fashion like for you and how has being in the industry influenced your dress sense?
Fashion keeps evolving, it’s a way of life. I personally do not keep up with fashion. I have my style and I have stuck with it for so many years despite being a fashion designer. I am extremely conservative, If I had my way I would wear black all year round I mean black Pyjamas, but you know that’s not possible. So I try because sometimes you are expected to look a certain way because of what you do.
What wouldn’t you wear in the name of fashion?
Ha, Soooooooo many but wedge sneakers and shutter shades take the lead. For me the list is long and that’s simply because I am very conservative, I also do not take fashion risks or jump on trends.
What would you describe as the turning point in your career and life?
As a fashion designer and a business owner we strive to be recognised so the first time we styled a celebrity and we were all over social media, that felt good. When we were approached to dress up the housemates of Big brother Nigeria in 2019 or so that too felt fulfilling. We have had a few turning points in the course of the journey I must tell you. But for me personally the major turning point in my life will have to be when I had my first daughter, I held her in my arms and my life changed forever. I mean so many things have happened in my lifetime but I’ll stick with this.
What is your future projection for your brand?
I look forward to becoming one of the biggest brands in Nigeria and Africa, then being recognised in the international scene and actually making an impact. I can’t wait for the time when every woman owns a piece of Zhena in her wardrobe, that time will come. We will design for international Stars, walk grand runways and ultimately build an institution to train young women and men in the fashion industry, let them know there’s so much to fashion asides fashion designing. We will get there we are on the journey already. Recently we showcased our designs on the runway at the African Fashion week London, It is a big deal for me because it is our first time on a major runway, I also recently had the opportunity to speak to young people who want to go into fashion in Benin City, Edo State at the Acage Academy fashion master class and It made my desire to set up a learning institute stronger. Zhena will be a Global brand that constantly gives back anyhow we deem fit.