I had great pleasure in having the opportunity to interview fashion sister duo Joy and Amber from ÚCHÉ by Amber during the UAE lockdown. The ÚCHÉ brand has been sported by many members of the creative circles in the UAE – I most notably remember seeing it during Sole DXB and also noted special custom pieces that were designed for DJ Sonya during the Bruno Mars performance in New Year in Abu Dhabi. Their main purpose is to demonstrate that it is alright to stand out and be unique and enjoy the quirky and artistic aspects behind Ready-To-Wear fashion.
Ladies, thanks so much for giving me some of your time. As we know “ÚCHÉ” means Idea in the Igbo language. What really created the need for this brand? Is the Igbo culture a strong influence behind the brand?
You are most welcome. We decided to make ÚCHÈ a reality because my sister and I (who are the co-founders) came to the realization that the type of creativity and style we are hoping to put forward has never come out of Nigeria or the UAE. Now that we are older, we now understand that being born and mostly raised in Nigeria and Africa as a whole has shaped a lot of our fashion sense and it is great because with every brainstorm on a collection release we get a touch of inspiration from our country or culture or even our current place of residence (Middle East). So to answer your question, the Igbo culture is definitely woven in the identity of our brand and will be present in some form that has already begun with the choice of brand name ÚCHÈ.
Do you have a target audience for your fashion brand? I noticed that on the website both Men and Woman are crossed out and you mention Human, suggesting that this is an androgynous brand – what is your thinking behind this?
To be honest we didn’t want to narrow our audience reach by bracketing to a particular demographic; as our brand tends to be a chameleon, switching styles and design that appeal to a vast variety of people. For example, our capsule release appeals to a demographic ranging from teenagers to people in their early 30s and that’s something we take pride in, as we believe that fashion should be a diverse, open forum and an inclusive form of art that caters across a vast age range, race, culture, sexual preference, physical preference as well as identity preference. We are definitely open to and honored by the idea/fact that a lot of people identify our brand as androgynous. It is exactly that.
How would you both describe your style?
Amber: My style is pretty all over the place to be honest haha. It fluctuates depending on my mood, environment, hair……a lot of factors (tbh) give me inspiration and ideas on what my style will be. But I will say though that the one thing that is most consistent is “edge” I tend to always put an edgy touch to whatever style I go for.
Joy: My style has always been a bit rebellious as I have always liked to give my personal interpretations of fashion which is evolving as I am. Fun fact; I was much of a tomboy when I was younger, and didn’t understand why boys could wear certain styles of clothing and girls couldn’t or why curvy girls like me always had to hide under oversized clothes and not be proud of our curves and flaunt them when we wanted. So I definitely made it a point to change that stereotype for myself (along the way inspiring my friends), so yeah…my style is always outside the norm *wide smile*
I have found your bumbag and wrap skirt to be innovative. What inspires your design and what is your design process?
The bumbag top was our idea of looking at a classic/staple piece with a different eye. The idea came about from experimenting with my favorite fanny pack one night and along the way got developed to the extent it is now (which is stylish, as well as efficient). I (Amber) am a nightlife and concert type of girl too, so it also made sense when my sister (and a cool dude who we met behind the scenes shooting our campaign video) suggested that it was the exact piece needed for raves and concerts. So that definitely changed the game especially since we are the first people in the fashion world to release this concept. Also, the wrap skirt was inspired by another design I had seen and thought was great, but of course, we put our twist to it making it the perfect form of accessory to amp up a look in a minimally cool way.
In terms of the design process, it’s usually a whole lot of inspiration from dated styles going back to the 50s and 60s from all parts of the world, mixed with whatever I come across that inspires me…..this could range from something as abstract as global situations to an animal or some cables even lol
You are both multi-talented are there any other experiences aside from fashion that influences the development of your brand?
Joy: In my 8 years here, I have spent 7 years building and managing operations of a number of companies ranging from the forex trading market to start-up companies; making them profitable while gaining immense knowledge on creating the foundation and blueprint of a business which has helped me in contributing to starting and growing ours.
Amber: I have a background in photography and events, making it a great learning environment where I was able to network with and soak up the unlimited amount of inspiration and diversity that comes with that field and community, I also have some hospitality background which I must say helped me work on my social ethics as well as give me an open mind to diversity and understanding of people and their uniquenesses from around the world.
As we know you are both sisters – what are your roles within the brand and what is your work relationship like? Do you ever come across tensions whilst running the business and how do you overcome them?
The great thing about working together is that, although we do have our roles and strong suits(Joy is the business mind and overall running of the brand with Amber creating and visual representation of the brand). We definitely do not let that boundary limit our involvement in any parts we find we can contribute…that being said, we have learned to respect each other at what we both bring to the table, and most times let each other take the wheel in our specific areas. We do not always agree on everything of course, but to be honest, we do not actually have a history of not knowing how to resolve a situation between us in all our adult years. It usually ends with each of us putting our thought process forward as to why we should go ‘a, b or c’ direction and trying to see eye to eye, or in some cases mutually agree to disagree and meet in the middle ground.
What would you recommend to budding Fashion Designers looking to open a store/business in Dubai?
Dubai isn’t the easiest place to set up a business especially as an expatriate. How have you overcome these barriers and what have been your main challenges?
How did you find this interesting period of lockdown – what impact has it had if any?
The lockdown was a great pause and a mild reset button on the creative aspect, almost forcing the mind to think more outside of the box and come up with innovative and conceptual ways to strive whilst staying relevant. We’ve had time to wander freely with aspects that in regular circumstances will not be explored due to the constant need to meet expectations and demand. We have learned to go with some certain ease and fluidity; understanding and factoring in the uncertainty of everything. In terms of design, there’s a whole lot of inspiration coming from this situation and we are looking to channel that into our upcoming release whilst also restrategizing and tailoring (pun intended) our approach and delivery to the new market and fashion scene that will emerge due to the pandemic.
What would you regard as your key moments of achievement with the brand so far?
Honestly, every moment is a key moment for us, and we are grateful for every aspect of the journey…starting from our release in September to a member of the fashion panel of the Dubai Fashion Forward committee commending our capsule collection and giving us great feedback (and some critics), to a fashion icon like ‘Steve Aoki’ approving of our style verbally, to being featured in L’OFFICIEL Belgium, to ÚCHÈ now being stocked in the hottest street and urban wear store BHYPE in the high-end section of the fashion avenue in DUBAI MALL, next to amazing brands like HERMÈS, LV among others. Honestly, we feel so blessed and are thankful to our audience and the creative community for seeing the potential in our brand, and we can’t wait to NOT disappoint you guys!
What is next? Where do you see ÚCHÉ by Amber in the next 5 years?
With the current uncertainty happening in the world, we prefer not to limit our growth to a specific path…..but our aim is to be known as the innovative brand taking the art of ready to wear fashion to a new height and at the same time inspire people to think creatively outside the box and apply and celebrate their uniqueness more.
What are the best ways for readers to connect and purchase the brand?
We have an IG platform @uchebyamber_official where everyone is welcome to follow our journey, and keep up with what we are up to. Check out our website – www.uchebyamber.com. Peeps can also send all inquiries and direct email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Our current release is EXCLUSIVELY stocked and available at the BHYPE STORE in The Dubai Mall and as well as on their online platforms as well.