Many fashion lovers have come to learn of Ivy Ekong as a fashion blogger turned top luxury designer. She has crafted a dream career to gag any fashionista, but that’s not where the Nigerian-born couturier’s story begins. “While I was in Nigeria, I was modeling and did some beauty pageants and stuff,” Ekong recalled. “Then I won one!” she added. The rest has been a true fairy tale where her daughters are the stars.
Today, at 38-years-old, Ivy Ekong is the Founder and Creative Director of Ivy Ekong Fashion. After six years of style consulting and fashion blogging, and decades in philanthropy, she’s developed a brand based on making women feel good in their various bodies. “For me, I think diversity is embracing everyone and embracing one another and the color of our skin and our different shapes and all our flaws and everything,” she said in an exclusive interview with HelloBeautiful.
As a young woman back in Nigeria, she was also afforded new access to designers and accepted the new responsibility she had to serve people along with her new title of ‘beauty queen.’ She committed herself to a health crisis cause that was directly impacting African countries. “I wanted to create awareness for people with HIV/AIDS because there was a lot of stigmatization about HIV,” she said.
She found the next phase of her humanitarianism through a big change that came along with her marriage. Her love uprooted her from her native Nigeria to a new life in the UK, where she and her family live today.
She spent time in her first two years in Britain volunteering with young carers. These are children who take care of a terminally ill loved one in the home despite needing care themselves. Ekong worked with an organization that provided that much-needed care that children require like cooking for them, styling their hair, and washing their clothes. At the same time, she began studying to be an image consultant to help even more people learn to feel better about themselves through fashion.
Her satisfied clients, who wanted more, encouraged her to begin a website that they could refer back to after their one-on-one consultations. Thus her blog was born. “I [would] do [articles] like ‘What to Wear to a Wedding?’, ‘Bridesmaid Dresses,’ and things like that,” Ekong said. Next, she explained how her styling business grew. “Then I’d go to their houses,” she continued. “I’d do their wardrobe organization. If they are traveling… I’ll go to help them pack.”
The blog’s tips and look books proved to be so useful that her readership grew rapidly and within two years major brands were approaching to send free products for her to review. Eventually, she began to get paid for her opinion with styling and speaking gigs with brands and even a featured column with Huffington Post UK.
While she has certainly faced obstacles in fashion as a young black woman due to her race or age, “Sometimes they can’t just hide it,” she said. “I go to meetings and people get surprised when they see me and I’m the founder of this brand. However, Ekong feels embraced by the UK overall and strives to extend that inclusion through her brand’s image and marketing. She aims to be “relatable” to anyone at all. “If you’re black, you’re there. If you’re white, you’re there. If you’re Indian, you’re there,” she declared.
“We are very diverse in that way. I wouldn’t want to leave anyone behind.”
As a mother of two, the compassion she shows the world comes back to her through her 6 and 10-year-old. Since the pandemic, she’s had less help at home and the girls have made some pretty astute observations. She recalled one saying “‘Mommy takes her computer everywhere’,” she said. “That’s just the truth. Sometimes the computer is with me in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s with me in the bathroom. When I’m in the house, I work everywhere just so that I can be with them and I can cater to them as well,” she said.
While juggling motherhood and boss wife life, Ekong is working to leave a legacy her girls will be proud of. “As a mother, you want your children to see you and aspire to be like you and even better than you,” she said. “I don’t even want them to be like me. I want them to be better. Whatever I do, I do it for them. I let them know, ‘Whatever I’m doing, I do it for you guys.’ They follow me to the studio, especially during holiday period. We go in there and they pack orders with me. I’m just sort of teaching them that work ethic so they’ll have that as well.”