In 2018, I left a promising career in healthcare to pursue my own clothing line, Love Iguehi (EE-Gway-HEE), full time. If you understand what growing up in Oakland in the 1980s as the eldest child to immigrant parents was like — you know that becoming a doctor or engineer was a much more accepted career path. However, as I build my brand as the daughter of an Nigerian artist (James Esoimeme), the switch from a career in healthcare to clothing design now all makes sense.
I am fully American by any standard and I am also fully African; Nigerian, to be more specific. My parents made sure that their culture was passed down to my siblings and I and they reminded us that although we were born in the U.S., Nigeria was our home. I have vivid memories of my parents dressing in their traditional attire with beautiful lace and vibrant ankara prints (ankara is typically 100% cotton fabric with vibrant patterns, often with tribal type patterns made through a wax-resist dyeing technique called batik) as they headed off to weddings, parties and other celebrations in the ’80s and ’90s. The celebrations were always colorful and lively. People ate, laughed and danced the night away as popular Nigerian musicians like Fela, Sunny Adé, and Shinna Peters were played across loudspeakers as the beats vibrated the walls. My parents wore the traditional Nigerian clothing with such pride, but as much as I enjoyed being at the parties, admittedly, I didn’t always feel comfortable in traditional clothing.
I graduated from Oakland Technical High School in the late ’90s and while hip hop culture had provided more acceptance around Afrocentricity, overall I grew up in a time when African American beauty wasn’t broadly celebrated and simply being African or Black came with some negative perceptions.
I made a point to stand boldly in who I was. I was a young Nigerian-American woman who loved and appreciated the duality of being raised in both cultures.
My love for self, my love for culture and beauty, my interest in connecting people to their home, all helped birth Love Iguehi in the fall of 2016.
Love Iguehi (EE-Gway-HEE) is a brand focused on using ankara prints to create clothing that helps infuse people with a rich sense of self-love. I aspire to create versatile, high quality products that foster love and community while celebrating the cultural richness that connects us to each other. By fully embracing my heritage and sharing it with the world, I hope to sew joy, positive energy and the love I felt as a child at those parties into every piece.
I started out making clothing that was all custom made-to-order products and I have expanded the line to include off the rack and ready to wear items for all sizes. My most popular items are our convertible wrap skirts, long duster coats, custom skirts, head wraps and clutch purses. As I continue to expand the line I will offer men’s apparel as well.
Love Iguehi is an Oakland-based clothing brand founded by Iguehi James. Iguehi is a wife and mother of three and a member of New Life Community Church in Oakland. Iguehi is a member of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (OAACC) and the recipient of the OAACC Startup Business of the year award. Love Iguehi clothing and apparel can be found online at LoveIguehi.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @LoveIguehi.