Vintage classics
An interview with fashion stylist Jeff Ihenando

He shops exclusively for supermodels Kate Moss, Liberty Ross and Naomi Campbell, styles Mel B and advised actress Sadie Frost on her Oscar gown. Welcome to the world of Jeff Ihenando, the owner of one of a kind vintage boutique in London.

Arriving from his native country Nigeria over 11 years ago Jeff had his sights set on his dream career in vintage fashion. He explains, "I have always being into vintage clothes and I always knew how to co-ordinate things. Like some people have a talent for music, I have a talent for fashion (styling) and 14 years ago I decided to make a living out of it"

As well as building up a base of loyal clients his success in the fashion industry and creative eye recently caught the eye of the producers of Channel 4's big breakfast. They were interested in a regular appearance that would have seen the stylist dressing models for the show's fashion slot.

However Jeff turned down the role because they were interested in the usage of high street names rather than vintage clothes. "I didn't think it was something I would have enjoyed because vintage clothes is about giving inspiration rather than following fashion"

In finding a location for his store Jeff was instantly attracted to the hustle and bustle of Portobello Road in Notting Hill, an area famous for its fashionable shops and cafes.

"Notting Hill has always being known for fashion and vintage things, that was what appealed to me mostly but I also like the vibe and the cosmopolitan feel. It's a trendy area".

However since the release of the movie "Notting Hill" staring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts the popularity of the area has soared which has resulted in more aspiring shop owners migrating to the area. However this recent development hasn't deterred him.
"Since the movie came out everything has changed, the big boys have moved in and house prices have gone up but I still like it here"

Despite his high profile clients and fashion industry recognition, life as a shop owner is not all glitz and glam and the road to success has been a long one.
His days can be very hectic because he is constantly on the look out for vintage clothes for his clients and store. This means a lot of moving around and travelling to source clothes and as the stylist explains it can be very tiring.

"I put a lot of work into what I do and all my time goes into making the business work.
It's a dog eat dog industry and you have to be on the ball because if you are not you can be exploited and I don't want to be exploited. I work hard to collect exclusive clothes and as a result some of the big names like Gucci and Louis Vuitton come to me for inspiration"

In order to maintain a good working relationship with clients Jeff has certain rules his clients have to abide by. He only lends clothes to celebrity clients, magazines and movie stylists if it means he can generate some good publicity for his work.

Personal usage is out because some clients have been known to take advantage of his generosity. He says, "I used to lend clothes to clients who would wear them to parties and they would come back torn and dirty with holes in them so I had to draw the line".

Jeff names self-made businessmen as some of his role models. He looks up to entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson and aspires to move into other venues like his idols. He currently has his sights on the property ladder and has started acquiring some including a flat in nearby Holland Park.

In fashion he looks up to Alexander Mcqueen and considers Vivienne Westwood as his favourite designer. He says of the veteran designer, "She is original and never copies other people. She is an Aries like me, she has guts"

On his success Jeff is more surprised than anybody else however he felt it was deserved.
"I like to think my store is not called one of a kind for no reason. I am attracted to real vintage stuff, the kind you don't find everywhere. It's the best quality and I think that makes me stand out. I knew I had good stuff and luckily the right clients came my way.

I enjoy my job and I get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life and I make good money".

On working with celebrity clients he describes his styling technique as wild. Firstly he decides what the individual can carry off then works around that to create a look which is maintained through continuous consultation advice.

For those who want to follow in his footsteps Jeff advises never to give up.
"When I first came to England I didn't have much but I knew what I wanted. Dreams do happen but you need to work hard and do what it takes especially if you want to make it on a grand scale"

By Esohe Ebohon

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