Nnamdi Ikechukwu, founder of ikésenti. Image by Robyn Smith.
Nnamdi Ikechukwu is the founder of footwear and handbag brand ikésenti which he first launched in 2014 and relaunched this year with a refreshed look. Growing up in Western Africa and Cheshire, UK, Nnamdi was surrounded by confident women whose outfits were a means of expression. Their combination of cultural and contemporary in a way that felt so natural and elegant it inspired him to choose shoes and handbags as a design path. Creating products from premium leather was an obvious one. Cheshire was a region well known for its tanneries due to its vast oak forests, the bark of which is rich in the tannins used to make leather. Then there is the long history of legendary leatherwork in West Africa, where footwear in particular commanded respect, majesty and authority in society.
The result is ikésenti – born of two words from the West African language that mean ‘power’ and ‘saint’ and a range of simple yet strong, luxurious yet humble designs in runway-fresh colours that seem to be as much about their creator as the woman he designed them for.
We caught up with Nnamdi to find out more about his brand, what inspires him and what you would never catch him wearing!
Tell us about your latest collection.
This winter we focused on designing some really great boots and launching our handbag brand LeSainte by ikésenti. I love bold or vibrant colours and couldn’t resist injecting some zesty shades and white ranges for variety. Stand-out pieces include the knee-high boots (Ellis) and ankle boots in amber crocodile leather (Esther). The handbags complement the shoe range with practical yet edgy designs that I hope will become everyday essentials.
What made you become a designer?
For ages I had struggled to find clothes and shoes that fit my personal style and were within my budget. After another day in 2011 unsuccessfully searching for what I wanted in Bristol (UK), it occurred to me that fashion designers create what they wear. I have loved fashion since childhood and surprised myself by thinking ‘Why don’t I become a designer?’ So I did!
Handbags from LeSainte by ikésenti and boots from ikésenti.
What inspires you?
Authenticity, boldness, freedom and the vibrant colours in fashion around me growing up in Nigeria. I like the freedom to express myself fully and let that flow to others around me.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
I like luxury, authenticity and practicality – and I think those translate well into my designs. I hope that there is also a bit of excitement; deciding what to wear with them, completing a look.
What is your all-time favourite purchase?
I have a soft spot for fast cars, so in 2011, I bought myself a Maserati GT Coupe.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
A pair of shoes and matching handbag that embodies their personality and purchased out of desire, not necessity.
Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Never be afraid to wear what allows you to express yourself the most!
Boots from ikésenti.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
One evening in Auckland I met a stranger wearing one of my shoes not realising I had designed them. I complimented her effusively.
What can’t you live without?
Morning meditation followed by coffee.
Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
My PJ’s in a supermarket.
Images by Robyn Smith and supplied.