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From Engineering To The World Of Fashion: Meet Elfonnie And The Style Rave Story – Part 1

From Engineering To The World Of Fashion: Meet Elfonnie And The Style Rave Story – Part 1

who-is-elfonnie-the-style-rave-story

As the plane started descending into New York’s JFK airport that February evening in 2002, I could see my dreams coming to life and taking form just like the beautiful skyline of the city I had dreamed of building them in. But, I should have known that dreams don’t come so easy the moment the freezing cold air attacked me, as I stepped out of the airport building. Elfonnie who owns style rave

Touch down, New York!

Within seconds, I couldn’t feel my face, and not even the thick coat my mom gave to me could immediately stop me from shivering uncontrollably. This wasn’t the New York I had imagined strutting into! Elfonnie who owns style rave

It was my first time in America, actually my first time leaving Nigeria. I was 18, full of hope and full of dreams and I had been told that America was the place where any dream could come true. What I didn’t know was how much hard work it takes to build any dream. Elfonnie who owns style rave

The Quintessential Dreamer

You see, growing up in Uyo [that’s in South-South Nigeria for my non-Nigerians] I had always been a really big dreamer. I could paint the future so well in my mind, create it, and share it with anyone who cared to listen in detail to exactly how I was going to make that dream happen. I was, and I still am, the quintessential dreamer. Elfonnie who owns style rave

Uyo, Nigeria, 1992: Queening on my throne. #donthateonmyshoes

As the last in a family of six, I was used to getting the special treatment that last borns are privileged with. For me, this meant that my parents aided my indulgence in the arts even when they frowned upon my older siblings doing the ‘exact’ same thing. Throughout my time in primary and secondary school, I enjoyed dance, drama, debates, and fashion shows––and I thrived at them. But my childhood was no fairytale, especially when it came to my wardrobe. I had a few nice clothes and very few party clothes. In fact, the iconic white dress I’m slaying in above was sort of a birthday party uniform for me––I wore it so many times that my classmates would use it to make fun of me during a quarrel. But I loved this dress so much that you couldn’t tell me nothing! LOL. And while my closet was thin, I dare to say that I always had a lot of style. Elfonnie who owns style rave

As I got older and would go to hair salons, I fell in love and became so enthralled by the beautiful images that made up the pages of foreign beauty and fashion magazines which I read at the salons. The hair. The skin. The clothes! They were all so chic and I couldn’t wait to live such a life––remember, I’m the quintessential dreamer. Elfonnie who owns style rave

My family was like most average Nigerian middle class families. My parents had just enough to cover the necessities and a fashion magazine was definitely not one of them. This meant that my only access to “my escape” was when I had to get my hair done, so I began to live for those days. Elfonnie who owns style rave

who-is-elfonnie-the-style-rave-story
Dress: Matériel Tbilisi; Hat: Monrowe NYC; Earrings: Topshop

Model dreams dead on arrival

A month before my arrival, my immediate elder sister, Uni, had also made her New York debut. She joined my parents and two other siblings who had lived here for a few years at the time. You see, Uni and I have always been very close being that we’re only three years apart and have spent much of our lives together. So just like me, she was drawn to all things fashion. The moment I arrived, we started scheming on our New York takeover. We were going to make a name for ourselves as African model sisters. This city was going to love us! I had my eyes on runway modeling and it didn’t matter that I am only 5’7––so is Kate Moss!

I’ll save you some time by informing you that we ended up getting duped by a fake modeling agency which ran its business from a prominent high rise building in Manhattan––on the same floor as the popular Maury Show. After doing all the paperwork and photoshoots, which we had to pay for, we were still waiting for our call back when we saw the agency on ABC Channel 7 news. They had been busted by investigators for scamming aspiring young models like Uni and I. That was the end of our modeling career which never really started.

who-is-elfonnie-the-style-rave-story
Dress: Matériel Tbilisi; Hat: Monrowe NYC; Earrings: Topshop; Shoes: Bottega Veneta

Now, how about fashion writing?

During the decade that followed, I dove into other areas of fashion, starting with a fashion blog in 2006, the now-defunct elfonnie.blogspot.com, modeled for several US-based African designers, and would later write for other fashion platforms. I did all these while in college and during my graduate studies in Civil Engineering.

When I landed my first job in 2009 as a Civil / Environmental Engineer, I couldn’t think of a better way of celebrating the fact that “I had made it” than to get a one-year subscription of Vogue. This was it! I could finally afford a magazine subscription without wondering how that affected my budget or my entire life. And when I got an offer to get a second subscription of the magazine at half the price, I couldn’t think of a better person to gift it to than my sister, Uni. We were now officially “big girls!” Haha!

Dress: Matériel Tbilisi; Hat: Monrowe NYC; Earring: Topshop
Dress: Matériel Tbilisi; Hat: Monrowe NYC; Earrings: Topshop; Bag: Cult Gaia

Over the years, I stacked up several ceiling-high columns of Vogue magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour. Stepping into my room, you could swear you were in a magazine museum. I was seriously living my best life. At least, that’s what I thought.

Hello working moms, I bet you can relate

Fast forward to September 2015. It was my first day back to work after going on maternity leave following the birth of my first child. Every working mom can relate with this moment: as I made my way out of the house, I took one final look at my son and his deep questioning stare broke my heart. I felt like he wanted me to stay back with him. But I couldn’t…I had already taken extra unpaid time off. At that moment I felt so powerless and I decided that I never want to feel that way again.


Style Rave is born

As I drove to work that morning, I began to question my life. Do I really want to be a Civil Engineer forever? Do I really want to live and work without having the choice to determine how much time I can spend with my children? The answers were all negatory. On my way home that day, I called Uni for our usual drive home chat and the only question I had was: “when are we launching our brand?”

It was September 21, 2015 and by the 23rd, Style Rave was born.

Tomorrow, at 7 pm WAT (2 pm EST) I’ll share with you how the name Style Rave came to be, our vision for the brand, our journey so far and so much more. Let’s make it a date again!

Can you relate with any part of my story? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below.

Click here to read Part 2 of my story.

Photography: © SIMIVIJAY


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