I had the opportunity to interview Chinyere Princess Christy Ibekwe. I gotta say Chinyere is one of the most humble business women I know. She is caring and is always encouraging, inspiring, and empowering women to strive for greatness.
Chinyere is a true role model, she has accomplished so much at such a young age. She is a former pro basketball player, CEO, and fashion designer. She founded a nonprofit organization House of Yere – A Chinyere Christy Foundation – Stand Tall. Chinyere also created a clothing line called Yere which has graced the Hollywood scene and has been seen worn by some fashion icons such as Lil Kim, Teyana Taylor, Draya Michele, Bernice Burgos and many more!
With such an impressive resume I wanted to get to know where it all started and what we should be expecting from Miss Chinyere Christy! I decided to ask her some questions so that we would get a closer look at this phenomenal woman.
Where did you grow up?
” I was proudly born in Los Angeles, CA being a product of my family’s first generation, my parents came to America from Nigeria at a young age to start a family here in the US. I have 3 siblings, 2 older brothers and 1 sister, all born in Los Angeles. When I was about 11 we moved to a city in Los County called “Carson”. Carson was the ideal city for a family. Carson is very diverse and filled with successful entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, lawyers, you name it. Carson was a big part of my development as a young teen being around other young children who were creative and ambitious just like myself. Nigeria is almost a big part of me. I have always been transparent about how Nigeria has shaped and molded me into the woman I am today. I am very proud to be Nigerian.”
What is your educational background?
“I graduated from UCLA with a bachelors degree in Sociology and a minor in Political Science. I once thought I would be a lawyer one day, however things took it’s own turn. In this day and age, most people never use their degree in regards to their career occupation. Once you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”
Do you feel like you’re the designer that you are because you inherited something? Or is it because you grew up in a certain environment with creative parents?
“I never labeled or referred to myself as a “designer”. Labels can paralyze you and keep you in a box. I would like to call myself a artist and or influencer. I say this because there are far more elements to me and my brand to just be considered a “designer” . I definitely feel that the types of things that I have done and or experienced has been developed through the talents of my mother. My mother was an athlete, writer, designer, who happens to be very nurturing and giving. Those 4 elements have been without a doubt instilled in me. I played professional basketball, I love to write and create through my visions, I obviously enjoy designing, and the nurturing element plays it’s part with my philanthropy work with my foundation “Stand Tall” a House of Yere edition.”
How do you inspire for the betterment of the next generation?
” People tell me all the time how I inspire and motivate them to follow their dreams. I never had a specific tactic or line of schedule to inspire the upcoming generation. I think what makes my journey unique is that I am simply relatable to so many young girls and boys. I was just a young girl who decided to go after her dreams. My advice to anyone is to stay TRUE to yourself. That’s the only way you can feel free and allow the universe to presents things to you that you envision. “PATIENCE” is another key. Success never happened overnight for me. I’ve been designing and producing before this whole social media madness. I have been blessed with so many different opportunities, however Patience has allowed me to be persistent and hungry. Patience is not how well we can wait, however it’s about how we behave and the actions we take while waiting. That’s key was very essential for me.”
What inspired you to create your nonprofit?
” I was in Bamako, Mali in 2011 for the Continental Championship. I was the starting forward representing Nigeria on the Women’s basketball team. I was competing for a medal and honestly that experience probably has been one of my most humbling experience. As I explored the city between practices and games, it was very evident that there happened to be no in between social class. You were either very poor or very rich. There was no between. I felt how awful. Young girls would come to watch me play, however would not be granted the same opportunities that have been granted to me solely because their financial status. These young girls were talented, however, lack the resources to be even exposed to get a chance to play on an elite level. When I returned back to Nigeria, I told myself that I have to do something. With the support of my basketball managers, I was able to develop a foundation in Nigeria and Ghana to promote women empowerment for young girls and creating a platform for them to showcase their basketball skills to different people. I recently had a workshop in Lagos, Nigeria where I donated Adidas shoes, basketballs, and sporting attire for the young girls. I plan to own day build my own arena for the young children in Surulere (Lagos, Nigeria) were they can play freely and have a normal child like environment with elements of fitness. God has really been blessing me in regards to being able to give back to people.”
What was your relationship with fashion like when you were younger? How has that changed for you?
” Fashion has always been apart of me. My mother used to make me thread needles for her when she was sewing. I was as young as 4 years old. I always knew I wanted to do something pertaining fashion. Overall, I knew I wanted to be a business woman.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
” I always dread questions like these, because I have absolutely no idea where I see myself in 5 minutes, let alone to talk about in 5 years. That’s the beauty of life we never know what comes at us, we just have to be prepared to endure whatever it is. Even if I can’t envision where I see myself in 5 years, I just pray God grants me peace. I hope that I will be HAPPY AND HEALTHY.”
Who inspires you the most in fashion? Anyone who stands out?
” I’m not sure if I had anyone in particular that stood out to me. Things I can see more so influenced and or insipired me. Shapes, colors, and angles have played a vital role into my development as an artist. However, someone who stood out to me was Grace Jones. She’s always been bold, strong, tall, and very powerful. She is the ideal representation of a Strong Black Woman.”
Was there anyone in your family who made you feel like designing?
” My mother.”
Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
” It’s more of a vibe as opposed to normal standard research. I align a lot of my work with African prints, which essentially to me can never go out of style.”
What tips would you give to a budding fashion designer?
“Use all of your resources. Initially, it may seem as if you don’t have the finances and or outlet, however, if you make a list and write down people you know and what they do everything will come together full circle. Sometimes, it isn’t about what you, but who you know. Who you know can essentially lead you to what you may “need to know”.
What is your ultimate aspiration?
“I just want to have a voice and platform so big to influence people to do the right thing. I plan to be able to continue to have global influence which will ultimately lead to great change. I love designing and producing amongst other things, however my ultimate goal is to influence change.”
What are some upcoming events and projects that we should be expecting?
“I have been honored with a great opportunity to be featured in #PARISFASHIONWEEK this upcoming October in France. I am very excited about that! A designers dream! I will present a more elegant evening wear collection for my segment as it will correlate far better with the theme as opposed to my regular ready to go wear threads. The producer is excited to add an African element and I feel more than honored to be apart of it. I also produce my annual fashion show the #YEREFASHIONSHOW in Los Angeles, CA at the Belasco Theatre on November 11, 2017. My first Winter Season fashion show! I am on my 5th year and I feel so fortunate and blessed to have made it this far! Be on the lookout! This year will be the best one by far!”
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