Nneka Gigi's Streetwear Collection
This week we got to chop it up with the talented Nneka Gigi, originally from Buffalo, New York, but currently residing in Los Angeles. We got to talk about herself and her new street collection along with a digital zine and a short film.
Links are added below to see her amazing work.
Tell us about yourself?
I am a visual artist and doctoral student residing in Los Angeles, California. I find a lot of pride in being Nigerian and use my culture to draw inspiration from when it concerns my creations or initiatives for education. My favorite foods of all time are red rice and stew and moi moi, two Nigerian dishes that I ate a lot as a child and adult.
One thing that a lot of people do not know about me is that I have two names.
Nneka Uzoma Gigi (my legal name)
Ibhareta Amaka Gigi
My grandmother is from Onitsha and my grandfather is from the Ishan tribe. They gave me names that reflected their tribe and Nneka was chosen because it meant “mother is supreme”.
What made you want to move across country?
Growing up in a neighborhood that constantly tested my ability to make good decisions and see myself beyond what I thought was my future provoked me to pursue a new path, one with no ceilings.
While staying in New Jersey, visiting New York City, my boyfriend, Zach, asked if I would move with him and I thought about it for all of 5 seconds before I made it up in my head that this was my ticket out.
How did you become a visual artist?
As a child, my parents took me to the theatre a lot and I was always fascinated by the characters, what they wore and most importantly, the ability art had to allow you to transform your environment without substantial amounts of money. Whether it was writing short stories and poems, I always held an affinity for expressing myself and I think that was my way of communicating with the world.
How did you know that being a visual artist was for you?
If I go a day or sometimes a few hours without creating, I get anxiety. I live in a world of make believe all of the time because to achieve what keeps me up at night, I have to do what I was told was impossible on several occasions.
You are also a doctoral student as well as a visual artist, how do you balance both?
Family, friends and designing. If I did not have my loved ones and close friends, I do not know how I would survive. I owe my doctorate to a handful of people.
You created a streetwear collection, and it looks DOPE!!, Tell us about your collection?
“Amaka” aims to speak to the quirky and the eccentric, specifically those who take pride in not succumbing to popularized social and cultural standards, beliefs and behaviors. The Ready to Wear collection features custom painted jackets, vinyl dolls, skateboards, a short film, a digital magazine and more! This project was me getting realigned with what creation truly means. I studied specific cultures and dug into what caused me pain, pleasure and joy to see what I would come up with and “Amaka” was born.
What inspired you to create your collection?
I love and appreciate the lessons that the eastside of Buffalo, New York had to teach me but it was not until I landed in Los Angeles that I felt comfortable debuting a collection much different from things that I have created in the past.
I wanted to have an authentic conversation with people and this collection was me saying “hi”.
It was the start of a long conversation that I have been meaning to have with myself and with you.
Not only did you create your own collection, but you also created a digital zine, that is going to be sold in a local bookstore, that’s exciting. What should the readers look out for, and when is going to be released?
Currently, I am awaiting to hear back what the process would be to officially have the zine placed. Zach Patton, the Creative Director for Nneka Gigi, will add additional pages to the zine with BTS (behind the scenes) imagery that we have collected since moving to Los Angeles.
Details of the new page additions will be kept private until the zine is launched in store. Once we have a date, it will be announced on the site (www.nnekagigi.com) and our Instagram accounts.
Nneka’s IG: nnekagigi
Zach’s IG: zacharybxllion
And not only that, there is also a short film, where can we find it and what can we expect to see from this film?
Uninvited: A Street Couture Film can be viewed here:
What is comprehended is up to the viewer.
However, you can expect to see a Barbie in cereal, select pieces from the collection and a little piece of home back East.
What was the most challenging aspect of your work?
To be brutally honest, I find it hardest to just let an idea be complete. I have no problem completing garments but I always look for ways to better myself as a creative, which means looking critically at what you did and learning how to improve.
What have you learnt from your experiences and the experiences within the collection?
Timing is everything.
The Kimono Jacket in the collection has been in creation for two years. I have come to appreciate the process and stay in my own lane.
What advice would you give other young people like yourself who want to become visual artists and not only that but in any profession?
I would tell anyone aspiring to be visual artist three things:
1) Know who you are as a creative.
2) Create, define or immerse yourself within a culture. Then build your brand.
3) Sell a lifestyle, not a product
What does the future hold for you and the collection?
I plan to travel and visit somewhere outside the United States before I sew a single stitch in the new collection, which will concentrate on 5 jackets.
If all goes according to plan, I will graduate with my PH.D. May 2018 and then, I am looking to go on some sort of spiritual journey somewhere that I have never been. I imagine myself painting and sewing somewhere thousands of miles away..