Nigerians are dogged and resilient whenever they have an idea that is worth the value of gold.
Regardless of the societal limitations, medically trained graduates are moving onto platforms that conventionally were not for them; and they seem to be flourishing at it.
This is the story of a young and vibrant dentist, who decided to pursue his passion and love for looking good. Despite being a practicing dentist, he has successfully birthed a fashion brand that could be compared with any other brands.
MEET DR IFEANYI OKAFOR Jr.
Hello, nice to finally have this chat. Can we meet you?
1/. My name is Ifeanyi Okafor Jr. I am a dentist and Fashion entrepreneur. Asides fashion blogging and influencing, I also run an online vintage and thrift store named Vintage Muse and a bespoke tailoring brand for men named Regium.
How did a doctor end up being a fashion entrepreneur and a fashion creative director?
2/. Growing up, I realized that men were usually left out of the fashion story especially in Nigeria where I grew up. As a teenager, I loved clothes and always volunteered to style my family and friends. I knew Nigerian and by extension, African men were fashion-conscious and loved to look good but weren’t given the space to express it.
I started blogging and fashion entrepreneurship as a means to connect to other African men who loved fashion and looking good.
Give us a brief background on your education path.
3/. I attended the University of Lagos women society nursery school, Our lady of Fatima private school for primary school, King’s College, Lagos for secondary school and the University Of Lagos for medical school.
Could you throw more light on the specifics of being a creative director?
4/. A creative director is responsible for developing the creative visions of a (fashion) brand as well as leading a group of creatives towards set goals. It also involves working with internal and external clients and understanding clients’ needs.
How and when did you get the idea for your brand? Also, why did you go into fashion?
5/. I started my first business which was a vintage and thrift online store called Vintage Muse in the summer of 2015. Then I progressed to start my made to measure menswear brand Regium in 2017 because I have been mainly concerned with men’s fashion in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Do you still practice as a medical doctor?
6/. Yes, I do. I’m about to start my housemanship.
How do you balance being a clinician and a creative director for a fashion brand
7/. To be honest, I don’t even know. But what I’m sure of is, when there’s a will, there’s a way. I believe we all make time for whatever we feel is important and that has been my story so far.
In your words, ‘What is the difference between Fashion and Style?
8/. In simple words, fashion says everyone but style says just me. Style is what stands you out from the crowd and like I always say, it should be unique just like a fingerprint.
How does Style affect the health of a person – Is there really any link at all?
9/. I’m not sure there’s any research done that has linked both but I think if you look good, you feel good about yourself and when you feel good, you do good. In other words, looking good boosts self-confidence and esteem which in turn affects your output.
Therefore I think there should be some connection between fashion and mental health. Mental health is one aspect of medicine I’m so concerned about.
Practically speaking, do you think technology in the health sector in Nigeria is matured enough for people to patronize?
10/. Even though a lot has been done in the past few years, I feel a lot has to be done and there’s room for improvement. This might take a while but we are getting there.
What particular challenges stare at you as you offer your services, Personally and Business-wise.
11/. Basically, Time management and customer satisfaction. The most important thing in every business is a paying customer without which there’s no business. So I try as much as possible to satisfy my customers. It’s also a means of non paid or indirect advertisement and because it’s personal, it’s more reliable.
How do people take it when they hear that you as a doctor are also a fashion entrepreneur?
12/. It’s mostly shock, surprise, and disbelief which then changes to awe, then it sometimes becomes an impromptu interview trying to find out how I do it.
What is your advice to young people who are yet to finish med school, but are ready to explore areas outside medicine?
13/. I would advise them to go on and explore!
To be honest, we spend a lot of time in medical school and don’t realize it until we get out to see the world has moved on and left us behind. To be a well-rounded individual you need to have various aspects to yourself. So look for other things that interest you asides medicine -it could be tech, writing, fashion, music, blogging, sports, etc and do it. It helps to create balance in your life.
What common mistakes do entrepreneurial medics commit that stop them from being as successful as other non-medics in other ecosystems
14/. I think a common mistake would be not understanding fully what it takes to be an entrepreneur, especially in Nigeria. It’s generally difficult to start a business anywhere in the world but it’s particularly tough here because there’s a lack of a lot of structure that would have made it easier for businesses to thrive. So it’s best to be adequately informed before you go into any business.
How much do your online activities influence your overall performance as an entrepreneur?
15/. I would say it does affect everything to a large extent. The world has gone digital; almost everything is done online. In fact, the internet is the future which has already started.
In what ways have been an entrepreneur changed you
16/. I think it has made me more tolerant and to an extent more understanding thereby improving my interpersonal relationship skills.
Where do you see your brand in the next five years?
17/. I see my brand in stores and worn by various people across the seven continents of the world.
Now be candid… If not medicine, what else would you thrive at?
18/. Fashion. I thought that was already obvious. Haha.