From Mechanical Engineering to Fashion Design: 5 Questions with Katelem of Ofonti World

Meet Katelem Ogbuluijah, the Mechanical Engineer turned fashion designer.

He is the founder of Ofonti, a fashion brand that fuses African and Western styles.

According to Katelem, he is building a brand that Millennials and Generation Zs can relate with.

In this interview, he takes us into his world and his journey to building a fashion empire.

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Owajikatelem Ogbuluijah (a bit of a tongue-twister), but you can just call me Katelem. I am a 25-year-old proud Nigerian. I tend to see myself like rain because I’m one thing, but I fall in different places.

You see, I grew up wanting to be a footballer; I hold Mechanical engineering and Aerospace engineering degrees, but here I am as a fashion designer. It’s a strange one; but in my life, God leads…I follow.

Tell us about your brand and the solutions you offer

Ofonti is an afro-centric brand that fuses the African and Western styles of fashion. The major value we stand for is empowering the African.

Our focus is on the millennials and Generation Z. This sounds like such a deep description, but this value is very important to us.

Ultimately, we want to be a brand these sets of people can relate to and be a safe space where they can say, “I belong here”.

What inspired the idea for it?

One day I was through clothes in my friend’s box when I came across a t-shirt designed with African fabrics (Ankara) and I fell in love.

I wondered why I related with it so much. I eventually realised that it was the fusion of the aforementioned cultures (Ankara – African, T-shirt – Western) that created that spark. People from my generation, and below, grew up with a lot of western influence (school, music, lingo, sports, role models, etc.), but we are also deeply rooted in the African culture.

This synergy was like art to me, so creating a brand out of it was a no-brainer. Giving people the confidence to be proud of their roots/self was also an inspiration for me; because the pre-cursor to doing great things is belief.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt in your entrepreneurship journey?

How much time do you have? Lol. For me, the greatest lesson is that you will fail…and fail…and fail again.

You have to try to stop judging yourself when you do because it will happen.

The good thing is that failure is on the path to success, so anytime you fail, you’re actually closer to success than you were before. These are just my 2 cents.

What has been your most exciting moment since you started out?

I would say it’s the day we attended a trade fair in our home city, Abuja.

That day was magical because it wasn’t even a big trade fair, but just seeing the awe and excitement on people’s faces when they approached our stand and how interested they seemed to be in the journey so far was a movie.

They instantly felt like family. Scratch that, they became family. That was a really special moment.

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