'I like for my work to be timeless, and also cater to my client’s personal interests and personality.'
Chi Ilochi x Evan Dale // Mar 31, 2020
Age is only a number, and for 20-year-old Nigerian-American fashion stylist, Chi Ilochi, other numbers mean much more. The number of opportunities she makes for herself to teach people self-expression through fashion; the number of individuals with disabilities that she has styled; the number of underrepresented communities that she aims to uplift. Chi Ilochi truly is the fusion of fashion and philanthropy. Having built a brand foundation rooted in thrift styling and aiding others in her hometown of Pittsburgh, the young mogul is turning her sights on next steps: how to continue growing as a stylist, a philanthropist, and an eventual designer equally focused on utilizing her eye for something larger than herself.
RNGLDR: Fashion is one of those rare things in the world that finds itself at the crossroads of nearly everything else. Be it sports, music, art, national and cultural identity, and myriad other lanes, fashion plays a role in it. For you as a stylist and a designer, which secondary passion do you appreciate fashion for? And how does fashion’s role in that other lane inspire you for your own design and stylistic approach?
Chi: The secondary passion I appreciate fashion for is definitely music. There have been so many times when I listened to music from different eras whether that be The Beatles, The Temptations, The Whispers, Coldplay, N.E.R.D, and style looks based off its sound, the feel it gives and the stories the lyrics tell. When I find myself struggling to style, music becomes that cheat code that allows me to come up with some of my best work.
RNGLDR: You have spoken before on being passionate about music, and our platform is obviously very dedicated to its exploration. So, when concerning music at large, which musical lane or genre do you find most inspiration in when it comes to its greater fashion sense? What about that genre of music do you think calls for the kind of stylistic self-expression that inspires you?
Chi: I must say most inspiration for myself can be found in R&B and Jazz music. The simplicity of it all is something that makes it easier for me to create simpler, chic, and casual outfits. I believe these genres are both quite expressive and colorful in so many ways whether that be the way the melodies are channeled, the way the records are mixed and mastered. I see these genres as amazing paintings with mixtures of paint in them. And that perception of these genres makes it that much easier for me to be so expressive and colorful with my choice of clothing and style.
RNGLDR: Which artist in music are you inspired by for their fashion sense?
Chi: SZA hands down. Her free spirit and creativity in how she dresses is amazing to me.
RNGLDR: And do you find that you have a greater appreciation for an artist’s music if you’re also impressed by their sense of style?
Chi: Haha not at all! In this case I have to choose to separate the artist’s fashion and style from their style of music. It is important for me to appreciate their gift for what it is and what it isn’t.
RNGLDR: If you could work as a stylist for anyone in music, who would it be?
Chi: It would definitely have to be Niko Khale and SZA. They are both immensely talented, and free spirited. On top of that they seem like such kind people so I know it would be a great opportunity!
RNGLDR: One of the great modern examples of creative self-expression coming together is the incredible scope of things happening in West Africa. Between music, art, photography, cinematography, and probably most notably, fashion, Ghana and Nigeria are living in somewhat of a cultural renaissance. As an American with Nigerian roots, what about Nigerian culture do you draw creative influence from?
Chi: Wow, great question! Thank you! I must say my creative influence is inspired by so much by Nigerian culture. The language I speak (Igbo), the food I eat (Fu-fu, Jollof Rice, Plantains, Moi Moi), the infrastructure, the movies, the accents, the people, the talent. I love it all. It is all very free spirited and authentic, and I love that and hope that I can maintain a free and authentic spirit in all I am and all I do.
RNGLDR: And in any lane – fashion, music, etc. – are there any Nigerian creatives of the moment that you find yourself particularly influenced by?
Chi: Philip Ihechu – An amazing Streetwear Enthusiast and Blogger. I think he’s amazing!
Daniela Lutina – She’s a fashion model and she is absolutely stunning and gifted.
And lastly Stanley Umerah aka StanoTheGr8 – He’s an amazing rapper, his music is very chill yet powerful and profound.
RNGLDR: You’re self-taught. What do you find when speaking to other stylists you’ve met that may have studied the profession that separates the way you look at fashion from them?
Chi: I’ve learned so much from other stylists, and it is all humbling every time. I will say one thing that separates the way I look at fashion from them is their focus on trends. I’m not a “in the trends” type of gal especially when I style. I like for my work to be timeless, and also cater to my client’s personal interests and personality.
RNGLDR: And do you find that being self-taught helps you relate to your clients?
Chi: It definitely helps me relate to clients and it a lot takes a lot of pressure away on their end because they stop seeing me as someone who is here to critique their personal style, but someone who is truly trying to enhance it based off where they are, who they are, and where they’ll be.
RNGLDR: What do you look for in someone’s personality to try and reflect or accentuate in their style? And what are some of your favorite moments as a stylist that relate back to helping someone become comfortable with their own sense of style?
Chi: I definitely look for the introvert/extrovert classification. If I know my client is introverted, their styling will be vocal to them and those they’re comfortable around. If my client is extroverted, it gives me the opportunity to have full creative control because they are fearless in a sense in what they wear. My favorite moment as a stylist I must say was helping a plus sized woman feel confident, and wear a look she wouldn’t normally find herself wearing. Seeing her confidence sprout up is exactly why I do what I do!
RNGLDR: How did you become partnered with Goodwill to help people who couldn’t normally afford big brands or a stylist, become connected with broth through thrifting with you?
Chi: Goodwill saw my work at a fashion show and took a liking to some styles I thrifted for myself. We scheduled a meeting and they wanted me to be a part of the team and the rest is history! Thrifting for me personally is the equivalent of football practice for a football player. Thrifting gives me the opportunity to try out all my wildest looks, ideas, and bring them to life for a pretty great bargain.
RNGLDR: As a stylist who dedicates so much of her time helping those less fortunate than the general lane of people who utilize stylists in their life, what have been some of your favorite moments introducing people to the reality that fashion need not be expensive or difficult to attain, and that it can be, at the end of the day, for everyone?
Chi: One of my favorite moments in particular was styling the elderly and providing them with free thrifted clothing and seeing their reactions. When I tell you they felt like some of the best dressed elders out! It was amazing to see them love the clothing for its quality, material, color, and pattern and not even worry about the prices. Getting them to understand that they can be stylish no matter what age, or cost helped me to fully realize how powerful thrifting really was.
RNGLDR: With such a firm foundation in styling, do you have any long-term goals connected to designing and crafting your own clothes? Or are those two worlds completely separate for you?
Chi: The two worlds are definitely separate for me but I know one day I can make the two collide. A long term goal would be to style and design my own clothing for a fashion show in New York. Hopefully I can make that happen in the foreseeable future haha.
RNGLDR: Speaking on fashion design, who are some designers – high fashion, streetwear, or otherwise – whose design you’re particularly drawn to?
Chi: Jeremy Scott. Saint Laurent, For The Leaux Clothing, Off—White, Pharrell Williams
I absolutely love them all!
RNGLDR: And if you could collaborate with one designer to create a line for one person other than yourself, whose help would you enlist, who would you style, and why?
Chi: I would collaborate with Jeremy Scott, get help from Pharrell Williams, and style either Issa Re or SZA. I absolutely love Issa Rae and SZA because they are two highly creative and inspirational black women who seem to be so fun to work with. I chose Jeremy and Pharrell as designers because I love their respective works, and I believe the combination of it all would be iconic.
RNGLDR: Music’s crossroads with visual art is perhaps the most connected relationship in the creative world. As far as art is concerned, how do you find yourself inspired by what’s around you in Pittsburgh, what you’ve been exposed to with your Nigerian roots, or what you encounter online?
Chi: I am not heavily inspired by what’s around me in Pittsburgh. I must say I’m inspired by the creatives in Pittsburgh and their determination to be great and create great things. I am heavily inspired by what I’m exposed to in New York (Brooklyn NY) in particular for the boldness, unique styles, brownstones, murals, and people. It’s Amazing.
RNGLDR: Being only 20 years old, with so much knowledge of the fashion world, a deep stylistic portfolio, and philanthropic experience in your wake, what are the loftiest lifetime goals you can think of at the moment?
Chi: Hmmm I must say I would love to style children in Nigeria. Being able to do so would be, wow I can’t even find the words. It would be everything I’ve ever worked towards.
RNGLDR: And what is next for Chi Ilochi?
Chi: Hopefully more growth, knowledge, creativity and blessings!