Meet Ilkyu Habeeb, who had to take up labour work to fund his fashion brand
I have followed Habeeb for a while now and what struck me with him, is his creativity and uniqueness to create a brand out of nothing. The fashion industry in Nigeria is not structured and making any headway in the industry is dependent on luck, exposure and uniqueness. Habeeb is the Founder and Creative Director of the fashion brand ILYKU WEARS.
What was growing up like?
Growing up was quite interesting, I grew up in Surulere, Lagos (Shitta). The same Shitta Wizkid grew up from, there was always something happening, something to entertain you. My primary school was in Surulere, “Sesame Nursery and primary school”. Then, I attended a boarding secondary school, Command secondary school, Ipaja, Lagos.
What were your aspirations and who did you look up to?
My mum was a banker, so, initially, I wanted to be a banker. Along the line from secondary school, I wanted to be a military man, a man in a uniform, It had this authority I was in love with.
I fully started my fashion brand in 2013, it has always been a part of me since the beginning. My mum has always been a fashionable woman –she had different suits, in different styles to wear to work. Also, back in secondary school, I design the bottom of my uniform with different colours of marker writing my name and any other stuff I could work on.
How did you start ILYKU WEARS?
I didn’t gain admission to university immediately after secondary school. I was home looking for admission from 2011 to 2013 and during that period my mum wanted me to go for some coaching. But I really wasn’t interested in that. Sometime in mid-2013, I told my mum I wanted to learn screen printing and cloth customizing. I had to convince her that I was passionate about it. She did try to help but I had to take the matter into my own hand.
I searched for any work I could do. I got to do some labour work at my uncle’s construction company. He promised to pay me 2,000 a day. The first day of work was hectic, I came back tired and told myself I can’t do this work anymore. But a colleague showed me the way to get through the hectic work with “agbo” (herbal drink).
I felt energized to work the next day and every other day there. The money I earn from the labour work was what I used to produce my first set of wears, and that is how ILYKU WEARS started. I learnt printing and cloth customizing from Zaimak Studio.
So starting the brand, what did you have to do to build the brand to what it is today?
Before I started the brand if you ask me what would I like to be in d future, my answer would have been “I don’t know”. After I started ILYKU WEARS, I knew who I was, what I wanted and who I wanted to be. I believe I was born with the creativity, I just had to work and study how best to make use of it. My collections are a proof of that.
So what makes the brand unique?
I would say my uniqueness comes from the fact that I don’t copy other peoples work. The key to keeping customers interested is consistency, and the determination works hand in hand with my goal. My goal is to own the largest and most influential fashion brand in Africa and also impact lives through to process.
The plan is to start with building myself and getting people to notice the brand because the honest truth about life is that, no one wants to associate with a loser. And when you are doing good for yourself people will want to be a part of that growth.
What are your plans for the future?
Something massive, one of the ways I stay consistent is not being predictable. No idea they say is new, we all reinvent or renovate the already existing ideas. My target is to come up with new designs every time.
What would you like to say to young Nigerians?
Believe in yourself, don’t rush into career decisions, not everyone is chanced to know what they want at an early stage. So if you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t get frustrated. Most importantly try to focus on what you like, I have a saying “remember to always have fun with whatever it is you do, especially if it pays”.