Jane Michael Ekanem is a fashion stylist and one that grew from selling clothes to being a designer. Her rags-to-riches story shows that opportunity beckons when one is focused on his dreams. From styling in Clarence Peters’ productions, branding celebrities and styling Project Fame contestants, the lady has become a household name, thanks to featuring in CNN African Voices. In this chat with SAMUEL ABULUDE, the biker chic speaks on her passion and dreams for the future.
Can you tell me about yourself and what you do?
My name is Jane Michael-Ekanem, a fashion stylist that helps in branding the wardrobe of female celebrities and clients. I’m also involved in styling some videos under Clarence Peters. I was the head stylists of Yemi Alade collections and I brand people.
Are you Yemi Alade’s personal stylists?
I’m not her personal stylists. I’m a freelance stylist. I don’t like being someone’s personal stylist. I don’t want to be narrowed down to someone’s business. I work with them for a while and build their brand and style after which I must have educated someone within the team to do the work and I move on. I can work with celebs for a period of time and style them, positioning them to be how they want to be seen. I’m not wired for working for somebody like that. If I’m their personal stylists, I won’t be able to do other jobs.
What If the pay is good?
You can’t say if the pay is good. First of all the business is not yours. And then the owner of the business can one day make decisions that are not favourable to you. What do you do? And most times, you don’t get to grow. If I’m working with Clarence, I cannot work with Sesan. I’ll only work with you on a personal basis which is to make and craft designs. So for me, if Clarence works with Tiwa Savage and then Tiwa likes my job and tell me to work with her under another director, it makes it easy for me to plan and work with her on my terms. You understand me? I don’t want to be tied down. I have other things I want to do. If not, I go and do a nine-to-five job that pays well. But I’m a creative person, I’m not wired for that.
For how long have you worked with Clarence Peters?
I’m still working with Clarence. I’ve been working with Clarence Peters video productions for eight years now, but full time for four years. I started working with him in 2008/2009. It was a priviledge working with him. I used to tell people that working with him opened other doors. He was the first director that I worked with. Through his job came the one with MTN Project Fame which I have been working as fashion stylists for the female contestants and the co-host, Bolanle Olukanni. I have been working with the reality show since Chidinma won the contest. My partner, Jekwu styles the male contestants.
How has the experience been working with Project Fame?
It has been a rewarding experience, thought it is tough dealing with deadlines and all that, but it’s sure fun styling the contestants and eventual finalists at the MTN Project fame. Relating with the people has been memorable. I clear all my schedules when it’s time for Project Fame competition. Funny enough, I always breakdown and become fatigued as a result of the rigours but it is all part of the fun and nature of our work. My partner and I do well to make the contest memorable and the No.1 music reality show in Nigeria.
How did you start this fashion business?
I started off by selling clothes. I started with cufflinks then I moved to lady wears. I’m very fashionable myself so I wear some of the lovely things I sell. Somebody will see me wear the lovely jacket and ask me how to get one. So it went on like that from selling clothes to designing clothes.
Did you dream of designing clothes in the first place?
No I didn’t dream of being a designer, but I’ve always dreamt of being wealthy. For every venture I do, I learn the business side of it. I see the business of everything. I’ve learnt that life is business, everything is about commerce. I learnt trading at a young age, from age nine to age 17. At a time my family experience had times and we had to live in different places in Lagos including in Ajegunle. I learnt to work hard and believe in God’s blessings. Working with Clarence Peters for eight years opened other doors for me and now I want to help others. My website, janemichael.com which will be rebuilt soon will educate people on new trends on fashion and how to revamp your style.
How did you get CNN African Voices to showcase you?
I didn’t get them to do that, they sought me out. I did a project for a client and the crew got to know about it and they sought me out. It was an honour to have the crew to air my story. Any girl who has dreams and remain focused can achieve what I achieved. I’m just an ordinary person full of dreams and aware of my humble beginnings and the need to empower lives. That was what made me visit my alma mater, Girls Academy in Lagos Island to celebrate my birthday, few months ago. There was an indigent student who needed help to finish her school so I decided to sponsor the rest of her secondary education.
What other things are you into?
I am into interior décor and styling. I’m writing my book. Mary Jane Collections. An arm of my company is into easy wear collections. Remember that I styled Tiwa Savage FT Don Jazzy in the Eminado video. I styled Yemi Alade in her first album cover, title King of Queens.
Beyond what you do, who is Jane Michael?
Jane Michael is a fashion entrepreneur. I’m a biker Chic. I developed that as a hobby years ago. It gives me a lot of fulfillment. Since I’ve been using a motor bike, there are presently 80 female bikers. I have inspired people to be a biker. I love to ride.
Are you in a relationship?
Yeah, Jane Michael is in a relationship which will materialize into marriage by God’s grace. Life is all about loving.
3 things people don’t know about me
I’m a very shy person, I’m a meticulous person and I happen to be a dance instructor.