OLA-EBITI: My Journey from Fashion Magazine to Styling Celebrities

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OLA EBITI

Stylish, sensational, skillful, soulful and surreal with his glistening, luxuriant facial hair, and the glint in his youthful eyes, he has been there, done that. In his few young years, he has filled his dossier with mouth-watering and extraordinary clients. Ola-Ebiti’s physique signposts an image of a supermodel and as a young man, he has dared to dream. The outcome is not far-fetched: exceeding successes. He is a celebrity men’s stylist based in London. He has styled Wizkid, Davido and also worked with Ibrahim Kamara on the new cover of ID Magazine featuring Solange Knowles. Funke Olaode writes about the exhilarating moments of triumphs of the Lagos-born first class graduate of Fashion Communication and his love for everything fashion, beauty and uniqueness

The passion and vision of the career path he wanted to toe was well-pronounced as a child but no one paid much attention to it as they saw his obsession flipping through celebrity magazines particularly Vanity Fair and Sun Vogue as a fleeting fad and every time his daddy travelled, he asked him to return home with fashion magazines, even ones on the airplanes.

Suave, sensational, skillful, soulful and surreal with his glistening, luxuriant facial hair, and the glint in his youthful eyes, he has been there, done that. In his few young years, he has filled his dossier with mouth-watering and extraordinary clients. Ola-Ebiti has dared to dream. The outcome is not far-fetched: mesmerizing successes.

To his immediate family members, it was a pastime that would come and fade away but for the young Ola-Ebiti, his career trajectory has been laid out thanks to his early self-discovery.

Today, he has not only discovered his career path, but he is equally making waves and his clients are in big leagues. He has styled celebrities including Wizid, Davido and Mr. Eazi, Stormzy, Martin Garriex, Rejjie Snow. He recently also worked with Ibrahim Kamara on the New cover of ID Magazine featuring Solange Knowles. His commercial Clients included Selfridges, Mr. Porter, Harrods, Cerrutti, Orange Culture, and Turnball & Assaer on Saville Row.

He has shot for international titles like the Sunday Times in London, The Telegraph weekend style magazine, ID, Nataal and Cactus, in Milan. Intelligent, brilliant and paying attention to details, it did not take so long for the Nigerian stylist to land his dream job. Ola-Ebiti is well-grounded academically. He began his early education at Greenwood School Ikoyi and later proceeded to Dowen College in Lekki. He did his A’ Level in Economics and Business in the United Kingdom before heading to Northumbria University, London where he graduated with a first class in Fashion Communication.

Ola-Ebiti has passion. He is a young man on a mission. He knows what he wants.
Explaining why, he said: “As a child, I used to consume a lot of fashion contents, by the time I went to the United Kingdom for further studies it was the rise of fashion on the internet as well. I would print out a lot of articles from fashion publications and read them in between my books, making me quite obsessed. At that time though, I was studying Economics and Business, doing fairly well in it but my passion wasn’t there.

“In school here in Nigeria as well, I did the same accounting and business really well also but without passion. It was just something that I did because I was expected to and then after a while, I realized I wanted to do fashion and so I got the courage, spoke to my mom about it and she was very supportive. I guess she spoke to my dad about it.”

And what was his father’s reaction?
“He wasn’t particularly against it but I think he was just shocked because he never knew that side of me at all and I was really good at my courses. So it wasn’t like I failed and wasn’t doing really well. He thought you know, ‘he’s doing okay’ and it just came out of the blues for him. My father didn’t really understand the whole idea of fashion and its lucrativeness. He wasn’t against it but he was wary though quite supportive.

“I remember when we went for interviews with universities to attend fashion courses, he was like ‘I still don’t understand this fashion thing but let’s go ahead and do it anyway’. So, my mom was more supportive. It eventually worked out in the end because when I got to Northumbria University, the United Kingdom, I did really well. I had a first class and my father was really happy. He even flew in 15 family members to the UK for my graduation,” he recounted.

With his rooted feet firmly on his career path, Ola-Ebiti is set to conquer the world. Humble and unassuming, he decided to learn under the tutelage of the establishment. He did an internship with FAB Magazine in the UK and later switched to other bigger magazines such Mary Claire for about two months; with this first internship, reference was made to other magazines and he went to The Times Newspaper, in London.

“I was working at the fashion desk and again, doing a lot of writing. Then, I used to support the fashion editor with her shoots and from there, they took me to The Guardian where I also worked at the fashion desk. It was a really small team as well; I would do the fashion and still write copies for the website while allowing me to do Twitter sometime

“From there, I got a seven-month placement at a design fashion magazine called Wallpaper and that was really when styling took the full stage because asides styling, I was working under the men’s wear fashion editor, Jason Huce. It was like a really good fashion magazine. It’s a very European fashion design magazine and he also loves tailoring. From there, I learnt how a suit should sit on a person and how your body should move in clothes, just how to make an image really good,” he recalled.

Speaking further, the talented stylist said: “After that, I just freelanced and assisted for a long time. I assisted another resident stylist called Jack Bruckett; he now works at British Vogue. I assisted another stylist; she did women’s wears more but she used to style David Beckham, her name was Karby Kastrine. From assisting all of them, there were opportunities and from then, I started styling on my own.

Having acquired much-needed experience, he set out to become his own boss in styling.
“After what I would call a learning process for eight years, I finally got that confidence to work by myself. Also in the UK, they have a lot of e-commerce – where you can buy clothes online and from there, I used to work with a lot of Selfridges in the UK because I used to style a lot of their looks for online shopping; that was also very good for me because Selfridges have the biggest brands in the world, so that really taught me to merchandise clothes to brands.

“It gave me sort of a taste level which was really important. So after that, I started reaching out to my contacts and friends. From there, I would get opportunities to work with some people may be as a photographer in a relationship with a musician. So, that was how it started. For someone like Wizkid, I was working for a magazine called ‘Something About’ and I knew the editor really well. That was at the time Afrobeats were becoming very popular in the UK and they were looking for someone who wasn’t really mainstream but was very interesting to use on their cover and Wizkid had just signed with his label in the UK, Sony Music.”

Talking about his experience co-styling Solange Knowles, Beyoncé’s sister, Ola-Ebiti said: “We styled that shoot under the head stylist Ibrahim Kamara and it was recently for the cover of Ideal magazine. It was back in September because she had just released her new album.

“So we went to Texas for a few days, met her, prepared all the looks together started from the cover idea and she was happy with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet Beyoncé but Solange was there and she was really lovely. She remembered everyone’s name and even sent Ibrahim an e-mail to say ‘thank you’ that she really liked what we did.”

So how does it feel to be clothing or working with the stars? “I used to be very nervous about it but now, I think the more you do it, the more it is just like another day. And I don’t think about them as celebrities. I just take them as persons that we are working with; today, it happens that they’re big musicians or something like that,” the youngster simply said.

For someone who has styled the rich and the famous, Ola-Ebiti’s view about style is different. To him, style is something that you either have or you don’t. Style is innate and it comes from the way an individual sees the world, colours, and everything other things.
What is his own style?
“My style is comfortable but tailored. I don’t really wear a lot of jeans except when I am on set. I like to wear button-up shirts and tailored trousers made by Nigerian tailors. My style is also formal. My creative works also reflect on my Yoruba heritage; my mum is the source of information on that for me,” he said.

Then how would he rate Nigerian fashion designers compared to their foreign counterparts?
“Nigerian stylists are doing really well considering that there are a lot of struggles here for creatives in Nigeria more than in the UK. There are funds, free fashion schools in the UK but in Nigeria, we don’t have those; even if you want to shoot in Nigeria, there is the stress of being harassed on the streets. So I feel if you are taking all of that and are still able to contend with people in the international fashion market, then I really think we are doing a good job.

“For instance, Kenneth Eze was just nominated for the MFMH prize in Paris, which is like the biggest young designer prize in the world at the moment and he is a Nigerian. He makes his clothes in Nigeria using aso-oke but he is still perceived to be as good as the other designers in Paris and New York. One thing about Nigerian people is that we would always make things happen regardless. We are doing pretty good work,” Ola-Ebiti explained.