Junior’s passion for clothes design


courtesy of Joy Olikabor

Junior Joy Olikabor poses with her customized jacket.


Bettina Almonte (A): When did you start making clothes?  courtesy of Joy


Joy Olikabor (O): When I was eight I started to cut up some of my mom’s old clothes that she gave to me. I started to tie them together, and I made skirts first. After that it just flowed. The scraps of clothes that she would give me I was able to cut it up and make it my own.

A: Why did you start doing this?

O: My family likes to say I get it from my mom because she’s the exact same way. She loves cutting up material and making it into something that’s a representation of her, so I think I get it from my mom. Seeing her doing that. She started off customizing her jeans because she is a bigger lady. She added little attachments, patches, to her shirts. She started dying her clothes.

A: How did you get into it?

O: I was a very destructive young girl. I liked to see things get messed up and come to life in a different way. It’s so refreshing. It was like ‘I like that. I like the way it turned out. I’m going to do it again,’ so I would end up taking shirts and ripping it. Then I would take one half of another shirt.

A: Were you taught by someone?

O: I was self-taught. I started crocheting stuff. My grandmother taught me how to crochet, and that helped with me trying to thread by hand so that became easier.

A: Your mom didn’t teach you how to sew?

O: No. She just gave me a needle. She would just pass it down to me. She wanted to me to watch her do it. My grandmother was the one who kind of explained it to me. My mom was one of those people that believed that you “learn with your eyes.” I had to be very hands on when it came to her. She wanted me to learn by myself.

A: What problems did you face when learning how to sew and everything?

O: Sticking myself. That was my number one thing because I was a crybaby. Having to go through that pain just to see the product. That was a lot. The first time I used a sewing machine I hurt myself bad. My pinky was just out of it. I didn’t want to do it anymore, and my mom said “You better suck it up if you want these clothes. You better suck it up. Just go ahead and do it yourself.” So I started doing it myself.

A: There are different type of cuts for clothing. Did you try to mimic them by searching it online or did you experiment?

O: I experimented because I didn’t have a phone for a while like I didn’t get an actual phone till I was in the 6thor 7thgrade, and I was putting pieces together before I was in middle school. I experimented a lot and just decided ‘oh that’s cute’ or ‘oh that’s not cute,’ trying to see what worked and what didn’t work.  I feel like that is something that formed the mindset I have now when it comes to my eye.

A: How did you do your measurements?

O: I eyeball everything that I do, and it comes out the way I like it. I like different things, but I did have to learn how to use a measuring tape. My grandma had to teach me, and I still don’t like using it. I feel like it blocks my create flow. It sounds wacky, but it’s true. I don’t like to use it, but when I do use it, it’s for form fitting dresses. I tried to make a form fitting dress for my cousin and for things like that I use it, but for my clothing because my clothing is pretty loose I don’t really need it.

A: What is your process behind every piece of clothing you make?

O: It really is how I am feeling at the moment.

A: Where do you get your materials?

O: I go to a lot of African markets to get my material because I’m Nigerian. My mom has material in the closet in our hallway, so that’s where I get a lot of my material too. My aunt gets material imported from Nigeria monthly, and she lets me come over and pick what I want.

A: Do you make clothes for your personal clothes or are you planning to sell them?

O: Personal use. I feel like everything that I do is a piece of me, and if I were to make something, I don’t think I would sell it. I think I would give it to someone close to me because it is a representation of myself, and I don’t want to just take that part of me and sell it away.

A: How do you balance this hobby with school?

O: It isn’t anything I have to balance. Making clothes it is a stress reliever. I get stressed out very easily, and I try to ease my stress in different ways whether it’s by me painting or writing poetry, whatever I can do that takes my mind off of school.