Meet Okhai Akhigbe, Fashion Illustrator Extraordinaire
Growing up in a city where artists weren’t appreciated, and people looked at you weird for paying more attention to sketching than schoolwork. Constantly being punished for drawing in his notes, school desks and everything he could put his hands on, Okhai Akhigbe faced so many challenges in his field of work, but thanks to his family and neighbours he was able to follow his dream, and make a living from his talent. ‘‘I was encouraged by one of my neighbours who worked in a fashion house at that time to try illustrating fashion, I fell in love with it from then on’’
His journey in the creative world was not quite rosy, from doing unpaid jobs to broken contacts there were times he wanted to quit. ‘‘there were times I would do jobs for people, and after they got their drawings they stopped picking my calls and refused to pay, many times I felt like giving up’’ the shy fashion illustrator said with a large smile on his face, ‘‘I wasn’t raised to be a quitter, this single mantra helped me look past the adversities’’ notwithstanding he continued doing projects for people hoping one day to get his big break.
Born into a family of five children, and being the last was a humbling experience for the artist, ‘‘my siblings were my biggest supporters as well as critics, they literally pushed me to become better in my illustrations, and when I began drawing digitally, they gave me any material they could find just to give me inspiration’’ this helped Okhai tremendously, in 2012 He illustrated a summer collection for celebrated fashion designer, Toju Foyeh.
From then on his resume was filled with projects he had done for top Nigerian Designers like Toju Foyeh, Joel Lania, and Yemi Shoyemi, who applauded his good use of proportion and ability to bring illustrations to life. This is to be expected from a self-taught illustrator, who spends his free time going through fashion shows videos, spreads, and editorials, and every other day perfecting his pattern drawing. The pride of this feat is evident on his face as he lights up when he says ‘‘I never studied art or illustrations specifically, I taught myself and practiced like hell’’
On his favourite designers and illustrators, he mentions Nigerian Designers like Deola Sagoe, and Maki O, internationally Elie Saab, and Zuhair Murad. ‘‘ I admire Shamekhbluwi a lot as an Illustrator, because he is an outstanding artist that has always followed a path filled with art and passion, which is evident in his work, he is just absolutely amazing’’ surprisingly for someone he admires so much, there isn’t much similarity in their drawings, in fact, the difference is quite clear.
Showing his humorous side, the artist toyed with the idea of being a sniper or building technology if his art career didn’t work out, and hopes to do more editorials, billboards and possibly his own exhibitions. When asked if collaboration were in his future, ‘‘definitely, I look forward to collaborating other artists, but right now my focus is on teaching and coaching’’. Fashion illustration is blossoming, and many good fashion illustrators like Okhai are putting the industry on the map, with accolades and awards in his resume, we are all excited for the future of his brand Leankid and look forward to more designs and pieces from him.