The young PH bred designer came up against formidable names like Waneami, Diana aLa Vid (DLV), Ayo Van Elmar, Reni Smith, Ladunni Lambo, Sho by Adesola Obebe, Tumilla by Tumi Ladega, Kenneth Ize and Siaiano who were also shortlisted as finalists for the MTN Young Designer of the Year. However, his hard work and resilience paid off and he was crowned the winner. Continue to see some of his designs....
Interview granted Awala of Exhilarate, below...
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What's your educational background?
My name is Rodney Emeka Igwedinma and the winner of MTN Young Designer of the Year award 2013. I am currently a student of University of Lagos, studying Accounting. I am from Anambra East Local government in Anambra state. I come from a family of seven, of which I happen to be the last born of the house. My parents are Ebenezer and Monica Igwedinma. My dad is a retired civil servant while my mom is a tailor and we are a happy lot. Growing up, I schooled in Rivers state, Port Harcourt. I attended the township primary school, Oyibo for my primary education while I went to Government Secondary, Oyibo for my secondary education. As for my tertiary education, I started out at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso where I was studying Biochemistry. But when I developed my talent as a fashion designer, I had to leave LAUTECH for University of Lagos, UNILAG where I started seeing things happen for me in my career. Although I spent many years at LAUTECH, I think it was a wise choice moving to UNILAG because it exposed me to a lot of things. I started my career in 2011 after leaving LAUTECH while studying a science based course and was forced to begin my university education afresh in Lagos having gained admission to study Accounting. Interestingly as a kid, I had enjoyed art based classes but due to family pressure I went through school as a science student. My decision to transit to Accountancy was based on my belief that the course would provide the best platform to fulfil my vision as a fashion designer. And it wasn’t hard to switch because I already had a combination of science and arts courses in my O’Level.
How was it competing against other designers who had trained abroad?
I really don’t believe that someone’s background should be a limiting factor in how far one can go. It’s all about what’s inside of you – so I think that was what paved the way for me. During the auditions, I saw a lot of guys come in with swag, and I was challenged, amazed at some of the designs but I wasn’t intimidated. Yea, they came armed with fashion degrees from Paris, UK, Vienna but they didn’t move me. When I showed my brother what I was up against, we were just laughing. It was like a David and Goliath situation. Most of my friends just wished me all the best. When I made the top ten shortlist, my close friends told me that they won’t shout or celebrate with me and that they only time they would rejoice is when I am crowned winner. This is the extent of belief and confidence which my close pals had in me. This kept me going. I had no fashion qualifications, whether local or international but I believed in my work.
Since you are still in school, what’s your take on the ASUU strike?
The ASUU strike has been a blessing for me. God has a way of doing things. As a student of UNILAG, if school was in session, it would have been very difficult to find the time to participate in the competition. I was apprehensive when the call time came in because I submitted my application two days before the closing date. Once I got the invite to audition, I began to pray and ask God for his help – make a way for me to win this competition. And so when the strike was announced, I was very happy as it would afford me the chance to compete. While my friends were groaning and complaining, I was thankful. Even when there were rumours of the ending the strike, I prayed that it would happen only after the show was over and I was glad it happened for me. Making the collection was stressful and it would have been more demanding having to combine preparing for the show with exams looming. God bless ASUU. (General laughter)
What would have happened if you didn’t win?
It would have been a whole lot of shame for me because I so much believed in myself and prayed very hard for this show. I had the firm conviction that if I was going to do the show, then it would pave the way for me and as God would have it, my fasting and prayer wasn’t in vain.
Did you get funding to start this business?
I started this business with ten thousand naira and I wasn’t funded by anybody. The first order to design a dress cost me ten thousand naira which was the first capital for my business. I sent the dress over to a dude in Abuja who placed the order and till tomorrow, I still haven’t been paid. It was a painful experience and so I had to start all over again. I made and still make a lot of sacrifices coupled with hard work.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My dad used to tell me that the ants usually gather their food during summer and then in winter, all they do is sit down, enjoy and eat. While staying with my uncle, he would say to me every morning that you must follow the early morning moon wherever it goes, follow it. When the time comes for you to enjoy, you will. My victory has inspired a lot of my friends.
What would you do with the 4million naira from MTN?
Well the money is not for Rodney Emeka. It belongs to McMeka. It would be devoted to pushing the brand.
What is the story behind your brand name, McMeka?
Well my name is Rodney Emeka, so it was derived from my native name. Mc gives it the British feel.
Are you married?
No. I am twenty six years old and happily single.
Has your boyfriend or girlfriend played any role in all of this?
Laughs. Girlfriend please. Well, she always encourages me to keep my dream alive and she is very understanding with my busy schedules. She is very patient and inspires me a lot. We are two different people who understand ourselves. We have been through so many things together and she knows what I’m capable of.
Is she into fashion and design?
She likes fashion but she doesn’t design. She is among my closest allies who are my backbone of support and pillar of strength. When I was growing up, my mom would usually call me to come and examine her looks. I would check her out and say mom I don’t like this. She is that kind of person who I can call on.
What would you say about the MTN Young Designer of the Year Award?
I think the initiative is a good one. I so much appreciate the fact that the organisers of the LFDW are working so hard to bring out young talents in Nigeria’s fashion space. They are giving young talents a voice. Josh, who won last year is doing well. McMeka will also do well.
If we walk into your wardrobe, what are we likely to find more?
Something that has the highest number in my wardrobe will be… Shirts! Shirts! Shirts!
Are you a jewelry person, like blings, chain or even wristwatches?
No. I love the minimalistic approach to my dress sense.
What fashion item do you love so much that you will love to have no matter how expensive?
That will be shoes and more shoes.
What are your favourite colours?
I love colours like burgundy, orange and grey
Which car is your dream car?
Mercedes Benz G wagon.
What is your favourite food?
I love pounded yam and nsala soup of 10 lives.