With a collection brimming with wild colors and ferocious blooms, Eboka Design welcomes spring. Poppy Ntshongwana, the model chosen for the brand’s online debut, is at the heart of the stately manor that houses the design emporium’s collection. Fred Eboka, the brand’s stern creative director and creator, stands at the foot of the infinite curve that dominates the House of Eboka.
Eboka Design, he says, is “luxury meets contemporary African design.” It has been creating “bespoke, one-of-a-kind” clothes for almost 25 years, including gowns and other women‘s couture designs, bridal wear, and menswear.
The designer was born into a family of women in Lagos, Nigeria. His passion for fashion began when he advised his sisters on fashion choices, grew via his art paintings, and flowered into a vocation that has seen him dress icons like Miriam Makeba, Graca Machel, Adelaide Tambo, and the current first lady, Tshepo Ramaposa.
Before becoming a must-watch designer, Eboka faced numerous obstacles in realizing his design ambitions. He left Nigeria for the United States, where he studied fashion and textiles at Philadelphia University and subsequently completed his second degree in visual communication at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. He worked as a cab driver to help pay for his studies.
As a black man on school in the United States, he was frequently rejected, including once by a fellow student he picked up in his cab.
“She was a backseat driver who was disrespectful, and when I confronted her about it, she rejected me and told me to shut up since I was ‘only a cab driver.’ I informed her that I was pursuing a second degree on the same campus. She literally spat in my face, believe it or not! “I was stunned!”
But for an African student of graphic design in the 1980s, this was nothing new. Eboka competed in a design competition on campus, where shows were judged anonymously. When he was named the winner, the judges were taken aback. His victory was tainted by the fact that he did not receive the promised employment.
Tinuke Eboka, Eboka’s daughter, now runs the business alongside him. Tinuke Eboka is in charge of the brand’s online presence and marketing. “The fashion industry now rests largely on the digital world, I don’t know that side of things but she does,” he chuckles, admitting to being unable to navigate his own social media accounts.
Eboka adds that having recently launched a new website and revamped social media platforms, it was critical to ensure that his business was available to potential clients online, avoiding a common mistake made by new brands trying to break into the fashion sector.
“Fashion changes all the time, but style never does.” And the end goal is having women look and feel their best is enormously fulfilling.”
Connect with Fred Eboka brand on their website at www.ebokadesign.co.za or follow them on Facebook at House of Eboka and @houseofeboka on Instagram.