Erica Moore: Passion for Excellence
Words by- Josephine Agbonkhese
Nwanyibuife Eunice Okam, better known in fashion circles by her brand name Erica Moore, is a multi-talented creative.
A serial entrepreneur, she is CEO/Creative Director of Erica Moore, a brand whose interests cuts across couture, interiors and luxury essentials.
Although she caught the fashion bug while growing up with her mother, a successful fashion entrepreneur, and also ran her own fashion business while in the university, her formal journey into the world of creative designing began a decade ago. Since then, she has steadily clothed top Nigerian and international celebrities too numerous to mention.
The University of Abuja graduate of Economics has, in her kitty, numerous awards. Most recently in 2022, she was named Fashion Brand of the Year by the Africa Choice Awards.
Also a silent philanthropist, she shared with Allure her story, work, lifestyle, and insights on catering to her notable clients.
How did your label Erica Moore start and what were you doing prior to that?
I actually went straight into business as soon as I graduated from school. As a young graduate, I would travel to London, US and other parts of the world to buy clothes and resell. Eventually, I was able to open my own boutique after saving some money. After some years though, I reminded myself that humans like me actually created these clothes. Inspired also by the fact that people always liked whatever I designed, I decided to float my own line. That was how the label Erica Moore was born in 2013.
Erica Moore was coined from my late dad’s name, Eric Ambrose Okam. I lost him quite early and I felt bad he never enjoyed the fruit of his labour after investing in me.
Let us be clear; how were you funding your business trips as a young, unemployed graduate?
I grew up in fashion. My mum had a boutique and a fabric store. So, we have always done this all our lives. She used to take us to buy things and also to resell. Even as a student, I was reselling goods at school. In fact, I sold clothing throughout my university days. So, by the time I finished school, I was already doing well enough to continue the business since I had already learned the necessary secrets from my mum. I did not have that much capital but with time, and with my mum’s help, I was able to grow and set up my own store. So, everyone in my house grew up in fashion. I am, however, the only one who continued the business. Everything I know, I learned from my mum.
Did you feel any fear or hesitancy when you first started out and how long did it take you to hit fame?
I was not even thinking of success or failure; I had to do it to survive. I always did business to survive. I had to pay my bills, take care of myself, and more. Though, I was eyeing the big brands like Zara and all, and was getting inspired by them. So, I thought: “why not create your own designs and put your own name on it?”
So, I would cut a piece of cloth, embroider Erica Moore on it, and just place at the back of any outfit I take to any tailor to create for me after I must have designed. For me, I was just working to survive.
It is easier to market international brands; how long did it take your brand to hit fame and gain acceptance?
I got a bit more settled in this business about five years ago. I actually had to come up with ways to make my brand stand out. I thought and prayed about it, and then ideas and creativity started coming. First of all, I would say the social media space, Instagram especially, has really helped me a lot with visibility. Secondly, I came up with ideas. There was a year I intentionally focused on releasing hit designs back to back. That worked like magic. Obviously, when you start doing that, the celebrities will start coming to you because everyone wants to be associated with excellence.
Looking back, what would you describe as the turning point for your brand?
That should be five years ago; the year I focused on hit designs. That was the year Mercy Eke wore my outfit with Swanky Jerry styling her. I had so many celebrities wearing my designs back to back that year; that gave me visibility and I also started collaborating with more celebrities.
Your clientele list reads like a Who’s Who; what is it like catering to the tastes of notable personalities?
It feels so good. That has always been the goal. It is beautiful seeing celebrities wear your designs and also killing it.
With constant changes in the way we dress, how do you envision the future of fashion?
Eclectic. Fashion has gone crazy and if you do not keep up, you will probably lose touch. I see the alien kind of clothing in the future; where we have to find ways to recycle products to curb wastage. I see designers using plants and plastics to create pieces. So, I see a future where there will be no waste and one in which anything can be used to create pieces. It is already happening.
What are your thoughts on contemporary Nigerian designers? Is this an industry we can all be proud of?
Super proud. I think we are competing fiercely with the world and they know we are ready. I am so proud of us. Nigerian designers are really killing it.
Beyond the glamour the world sees, how challenging is it to run a fashion business?
Every business is challenging. Like I said though, I started from the nitty-gritty. So, it is a bit easier for me because I know the secrets and how to navigate the business. That, however, does not eliminate the challenges.
Getting excellent tailors and staff to birth your vision is the first challenge. A lot of Nigerian artisans are not used to excellence; so, when you are overly detailed, they see you as stressful. Of course, we also know about the electricity challenge.
Fashion is guided by trends; how do you differentiate your designs while still remaining ‘on-trend’?
I think I am more like a Hollywood glam kind of designer because I am all about statement pieces. You can easily identify an Erica Moore outfit when you see one. There is always a statement that stands it out. As for trends, I try to stay in trend because no matter how you try to create a niche for yourself, you will not deceive yourself by not staying in trend. So, I have my classic pieces which never go out of trend, and my trendy pieces inspired by global trends.
You are known more as a designer; how did the other lines of the Erica Moore brand evolve?
Everything I do is still under design; whether they are casual or wedding pieces. The vision for Erica Moore is not just about selling a particular thing; it is huge because I am talented when it comes to casuals, wedding dresses, events, and more.
There is no boundary when it comes to what you can create and present to the world. You walk into a Zara store and you will find different sections; TRS (the casual section), Zara luxury, Zara homes, etc. You walk into a Gucci store and you’ll see Gucci wristwatches, Gucci perfumes, Gucci suits, Gucci couture, etc. So, why do I have to limit myself to one thing? Why can’t I think like these brands and even way bigger than them? Why can’t I have Erica Moore Homes, Erica Moore Mansions, Erica Moore Bridals, Erica Moore Bags, Erica Moore Events, Erica Moore Luxury Lines, and Erica Moore Electronics? So, when you walk into an Erica Moore store, you find that our division is huge. The vision is to be a creative designer; not just a fashion designer.
What do you love most about being a designer?
I love the fact that I can play and create anything. The talent is a treasure. It is beautiful when people come to you and you are able to solve their problems and make them look the way they wish to look. The climax is when you see them wearing it out there and they are satisfied.
Tell us about a recent project or two you’re most proud of and why?
A recent project I am most proud of was my work with international gospel artiste, Jekalyn Carr. I have had to style her for one or two stellar awards in Hollywood. It is the biggest gospel award in the world. I dressed her up last year and then this year; we still have a new project coming up. I am also very excited about all of my AMVCA projects last year and this year. All the celebrities I designed for, killed it.
In what ways are you giving back?
I have a page called Wealth Overflowing where I teach about wealth creation. I also have a foundation, Practical Love of Christ Foundation, where I give to business start-ups every month. The foundation discovers business start-ups and then they are empowered with goods or tools where necessary. I have done this for over four years. I run the foundation with a percentage of my company’s profit and over a 100 persons have benefited so far. Although I am the Founder/Financier, I have a Supervisor in Owerri who coordinates the foundation’s activities in Owerri, Imo State; where I’m from.
Who are your favourite African and international designers?
Erica Moore is my favourite African designer and for international, I will say Philipp Plein. Beyond his designs, I like his personality and confidence. He is doing crazy things and building world-class fashion stores all over the world.
Describe your personal style?
Comfortable and ready-to-move; yet glamorous. I am always working and multitasking; so, I hate to think too much about what to wear. I have colourful jackets all over my wardrobe; that way, I can easily just throw on a jacket and move.
Who is your style icon?
Kim Kardashian. I like her effortless, classy chic look.
Describe your beauty routine?
I am not one of those with difficult beauty routines. I am always in a hurry to meet clients. So, everything I have to do has to be real quick. So, I just have my soap that I use to take my bath, use my body cream and then sunscreen. I’m blessed with good complexion right from my mummy’s tummy (Laughs). I do all the other extras whenever I am able to go for facials.
What is your most cherished fashion accessory?
Sunglasses, and then wristwatches.
Your preferred holiday destination…?
That used to be Dubai until they banned us from coming.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self about life and goals?
I will tell my 18-year-old self: “Do not rush. Stay in your lane and focus on your focus. Do not let society pressure you. Take your time. Blossom into who you are supposed to be. Love who you are and please, be confident. Just make sure you are not lazy. Pray always.”
Where do you see the Erica Moore brand in five years?
I am seeing the Erica Moore brand on skyscrapers in New York City, Singapore, Dubai, etc. I am seeing the brand taking over the world as a household name.