Ezie is one of the newest and most interesting labels recently to emerge from New York City. Designer Esther Ihezie is an immigrant from Nigeria. She not only bares the title of designer, but she is also practicing medicine, juggling both careers simultaneously. We had the chance to sit down with Esther and talk to her about her two worlds.
1) When/Why did you decide to choose fashion design as a career? We read that you are a doctor, at the same time as you are a designer, is this true?
As much as I love helping people with the skills I have acquired training in medicine, I have to say fashion was always my first love. It all started when I was a pre-teen wanting to look different from the other kids at church and wanting our seamstress to create looks I had designed to achieve that goal. I focused on the sciences for a bit until my years in residency, then designing clothes became a reprieve and it grew from there.
I love helping people so yes I am still practicing emergency medicine in New York City. 2) If you are doing two jobs how did this come to be, how do you juggle both careers?
While practicing medicine, fashion became my personal escape. The more time I spent in fashion, the more content I felt, and the desire to do more grew. This went on for years until I decided to start Ezie in 2017 with the support and encouragement of the people around me. I could not possibly tell you how I juggle two careers simultaneously, but I am grateful to God for the opportunity to do it. It consists of countless sleepless nights, achey feet and loads of coffee, but I would not have it any other way.
3) How has your background influenced you as a designer?
Being an immigrant and Nigerian has taught me confidence, strength and most importantly to embrace the beauty in being different; which can be evident in my designs. My African background is likely behind my tendency for using bold graphic shapes and colors. 4) Your name is Esther, is Ezie a nickname? How did you come to name your company Ezie, does it have a special meaning?
Ezie is actually the last four letters of my last name, Ihezie. It was a no brainer as it was unique to me and means “good” in my Nigerian dialect. I want an “Ezie woman” to look and feel good in our garments.
5) To who and which things do you accredit inspiration to when you design your collections and in particular the Spring 2019 collection?
The inspiration for my collections vary from my life experiences, concepts, and sometimes my mood. For this particular collection, I was briefly obsessed with the glamour and opulence of the 30’s and the works of Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet while taking some time to renew and reflect on why I wanted to design. 6) If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
One thing I would tell myself before starting my career in fashion would be to take the time to study and learn the business of fashion as it is much more than wearing gorgeous clothes and strutting a runway.
7) Where do you think the future of selling fashion lies? Online? Flagships? Other methods?
The future of fashion retail has been a heavy and frequent topic in the industry recently. It may appear to be shifting online, but I still think brick and mortar is here to stay. As a consumer, I buy clothes online but I still often have issues with fit. Therefore I find myself going to the brick and mortar location to return pieces and exchange it for the right size. It’s all a bit cumbersome and time consuming to deal with the refund process and locating the proper size; so I end up going to the store anyway. I think the future of fashion retail lies in both digital and brick and mortar as we live in times where accessibility, variety, and immediacy are some qualities customers look for when shopping.
8) What has been the best selling outlet for your work and how does this differ from past traditional outlets? Do you have private clients that you do custom work for? Our best selling outlet thus far is brick and mortar which is not different from the traditional retail outlet; I think this is because we are still an emerging brand and people are still getting to know us. It also affords us the opportunity to interact with the women and get feedback on what they like to wear and how to be better for them. We don’t have our own flagship store yet, God willing we will, but in the interim our clothes can be found at Dreems on Wooster St. in Soho NY. Mostly RTW for now, no private clients just yet.
9) What role do you think social media plays in fashion today? As much as I would like for it to be otherwise, social media is paramount these days in the development, growth and retail business of fashion these days. I admire brands that have mastered this ever changing tool; it is certainly something that Ezie is working to get better at. 10) Do you believe sustainability and being eco-conscious? What steps have you taken towards sustainability? As an individual, I absolutely believe in sustainability and being eco-conscious by recycling, using energy efficient appliances in my home, and following a few lifestyle changes. However, in terms of fashion, it can be quite tricky as I have noticed it can limit my creativity. However, we do reuse our leftover fabric as muslin when we make patterns. I also have a few style ideas to create with them as well, guess you will have to wait to see.
11) Who is the Ezie woman? Who would you like to dress celebrity or non celeb? An Ezie woman is bold and fearless in life and in the pursuit of change. She does not follow the rules or trends when it comes to fashion but very often she creates them. An Ezie woman is chic and timeless with her fashion statements; she definitely stands out.
It would be a dream come true to dress Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Charlize Theron, Chimamanda Adichie and a few more amazing women. 12) How would you describe your personal style?
When I am not dressed in scrubs, my staples are tees, denim under a statement jacket or coat for some drama, sneakers for shoes and over sized sunglasses; I opt for comfort as I am frequently on the go. When I want to amp the ante I go for an ensemble that is soft and sexy with an edge.
13) What do you see women doing style wise that bothers you? Like a big fashion NO NO! Haha, not a fan of the trend of women baring their private parts under revealing clothes; one can make a fashion statement without having to show our girl parts. Stacking loud obnoxious colors or too many accessories when putting together a look. Last but not least, is poorly fitted clothes, that is a no brainer. 14) Who are your favorite designers dead or alive?
I absolutely admire and am inspired by the works of Elsa Schiaparelli, Carolina Herrera, Christian Siriano, Hellessy, and Tom Ford. 15) How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
I want women to feel confident, provocative and ultimately beautiful when they wear an Ezie garment. 16) Define Fashion
Fashion is far beyond beautiful clothes, it’s a powerful tool that allows individuality, authenticity and expressivity when words just don’t suffice. Fashion is art.
17) What advice do you have for women of color starting out as a designer?
Fashion is a tough industry to break into, but it is not impossible. Never be too proud to learn because you will find out that you don't know a lot of things in the industry. Surround yourself with a tribe that will nurture and nourish you and finally always stay true to yourself as that will set you apart from the others.
18) As an African woman when did you first realize when someone was being racist against you?
I grew up in a black neighborhood in Maryland and completed my education in NY. Growing up in these diverse areas, my only exposure to racism was through the news. It was not until my first job as a physician in a small town in Illinois that I had experienced racism first hand. I had evaluated a patient and developed a treatment plan for him, but he wasn't happy with it. He proceeded to become aggressive and began to yell at me. I was heading for the door as he tried to get out of his stretcher and I was afraid he was going to lunge at me. Halfway to the door, he added, "Yea get the f*** out of my room, you n*****". That statement stopped me dead in my tracks and my eyes started to tear up. I ran to the bathroom to compose myself and by the time I got back to the department, he had been escorted out by security. It was hard to finish my shift after that.
19) How do you think the rhetoric from our president affects racism? 45's term has been quite the spectacle. In terms of racism, his presidency has certainly emboldened it. It is disheartening to see how divided we are today. History has shown that when we work against each other we accomplish nothing, yet for some reason it's what we choose to do.
To learn more about Ezie, visit the below:
Photographer - Van Truong (@vanphotonyc)
Models - Tricia Akello (@akellopatricia) and Anastasia Vershinina (@vershinina.anastasia)
Hair - Mideyah Parker (@mideyahparkerhair)
MakeUp - Alyne Halvajian (@mismanufactured)