One glance at Erykah Ijeoma Achebe’s Instagram, and it’s easy to think you’ve gained access to a far-flung world—somewhere full of color, exuberance, and a certain knack and appreciation for mixing improbable prints with perfect results. Curated with selfies, #OOTD posts, and dispatches from recent travels, the 29-year-old’s page is awash in transportive references. But the Barneys New York stylist, who is of Nigerian descent, but grew up in Texas and now calls New York home, enjoys using expressive fashion to help whip up far-fetched tales. “The clothing I wear tells my story. It expresses my mood and attitude in ways that words can never describe,” she tells Vogue.com.
Achebe’s interest in African designers like Maki Oh and Orange Culture connects her to her Nigerian roots, while a love of Grace Jones might explain her own high-top fade and high-octane approach to dress. And although she travels plenty, having just returned from a whirlwind excursion to Cuba, Achebe says she actually looks to local, New York street style for continual inspiration.
Here, Achebe explains Nigerian women’s innate fashion sense and why trends never influence her style.
Fashion Is an African Woman’s Tool of Self-Expression
An African women’s style is her vehicle of expression. I think my earliest memory of being conscious of fashion started during my primary years of schooling. My mother really inspired my unique interpretation of style. I remember watching her getting dressed for a Nigerian party and observing all of the elaborate headwear and bold use of colors and mixing of textures. It was from that point on that my secret love affair with fashion began.
A Bold Look for Day-to-Day
I enjoy infusing my Nigerian roots into a Western fashion sensibility. Bold prints, colors, and my obsession with ’80s vintage finds collectively drive my day-to-day style. I dress the way I feel regardless of dictated trends. I’ve always had a strong appreciation for colors and textures. I love pushing the envelope when it comes to mixing unconventional colors together.
Street Culture Is Where Style Lies
I must admit that I’m most inspired by the street style scene. I think a good designer develops from the streets. As I look at some of the emerging designers I feel that everyone is beginning to look like a carbon copy of each other. I’m currently obsessing over Rejina Pyo, though.
The Appeal of Fashion Design
I’m so happy to see that there has recently been a strong demand for authentic African designs. I’ve been a huge fan of Maki Oh and Orange Culture since they first launched their label. I love I Am Isigo and Omondi for their minimal design aesthetic. Loza Maléombho blew my mind when I first came across her collection a few years ago. I also love the Ghanaian handbag line, Aaks.
Taking Fashion References From Yesteryear
Grace Jones is an icon! She paved the way for black girls everywhere. I’m truly inspired by how much she has influenced fashion and how ahead of her time she was. When I think of style I think of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu, the many wives of Fela Kuti, Prince, and countless others that have heavily influenced the way I approach fashion.
Traveling to Cuba recently was such an amazing and humbling experience. Traveling really allows me to view the world through a different lens. Believe it or not I don’t really shop much while I’m traveling. I spend most of my time trying to get acclimated with the city and interacting with the locals. I usually only shop with street vendors or at local flea markets. While I was in London last year I picked up a really cool Middle Eastern brass clutch from Portobello Market. I only buy things I can’t find anywhere else.