It’s being said that “anything worth doing, is worth doing well”. A perfect depiction of that saying is hardly missed when you take a look at the personality of the young man who graciously accepted the honour of being the Dav-Oz Blog Person of the Month (DOBPM) for this month of August 2022. ACOI is undoubtedly one of the most acknowledged creative icons in South Eastern Nigeria with his arms stretched across various skills in the entrepreneurial world. Just call him a fixer and you’d barely do justice to summarizing who he really is. Last week, as is the custom with our DOBPsM, I had the opportunity & privilege to have an exclusive chat with him where I got to witness first-hand, the amazing personality that is Acoi. In this eye-opening exclusive interview, Acoi answers questions regarding almost every area of his life ranging from his background, his business & his advocacy for the boy-child. Trust me, this is one of the most enlightening chats you’d ever read. Read below for the full interview:
DOB: Good Evening, Sir.
ACOI: Good Evening.
DOB: So, I usually start with knowing my guest. Can you briefly tell us a little about you?
ACOI: Ok. My name is Acoi. I like to consider myself as a Serial Entrepreneur. I’m a Chef, a Designer, a Quality Assurance Analyst, an Event/Project Manager and a Boy Child Advocate
DOB: Ok, Serial Entrepreneur it is.
DOB: Let’s come to all these one after the other.
DOB: First of all, the name, Acoi, how did it come about?
ACOI: Acoi is actually my name. (Laughs) It’s a name I grew with and legally adopted later on in life. It’s what I’m known with practically everywhere. My birth name is Ikechukwu Achara.
DOB: The name has a nice ring to it, I must admit.
ACOI: Thanks a lot. People always say it twice.
DOB: (Laughs) So, how is your family structure like?
ACOI: I’m the last in a family of 4 kids. 3rd son. Lost my dad about 10 years ago. Since then, I was raised by my super woman mother who is still the bedrock of everything I am and I do.
DOB: I’m really sorry about your loss. If you don’t mind me asking, how did the loss affect you?
ACOI: Well, I was quite close to my dad so it played with me a lot emotionally, but more to that, it brought me to the awakening of becoming a man on my own real quick. I started making money quite early cause of the hustle and understanding that I needed to start catering for myself in some areas.
“…there’s the spirit of my dad that lives on in me…”
DOB: When you say emotional, can you give us an instance?
ACOI: (Smiles) Death hits everyone differently. But as a young boy who lost his dad, I had moments I questioned the essence of life and its purpose.
DOB: But not to the point of being suicidal, right?
DOB: Even at that, it’s still amazing how you were able to amass the courage and strength you’re know to have and do all these amazing things you do.
ACOI: I can’t say it’s me alone. There’s God factor which is ultimate, there’s the spirit of my dad that lives on in me, and then there is family. I won’t even be half or quarter of what I am today. When I count of my blessings every day, I count my family as 100 cause there won’t be an Acoi without them.
DOB: How would you describe your relationship with your siblings?
ACOI: Well, we are a closely knitted family. Everyone supports everyone, corrects with love when need be and constantly cheer each other on. My siblings are the best. We have our little fights once in a while but the love for each other and the constant admiration of one another keeps us together always. They are simply the best.
DOB: So, gun to your head, who would you say you’re much closer to than the others among them.
ACOI: I sincerely have different things that I bond over with each of my siblings. All of those different things, put together, make me a whole person.
DOB: Amazing. So let’s go back to what you do, which of them was your starting point?
ACOI: (Laughs) That’s tricky. I have always helped with planning and organizing events and programs right from my church days and all. Started cooking at a really early age too, this was everyone in my family though; dad and mum made sure of it. But I think what broke me out into entertainment fully was Fashion illustration, even before I started sewing.
DOB: Interesting. So when you said designer, did you mean fashion design?
ACOI: I sketch, create, develop and sew fashion outfits.
DOB: Speaking of which, you do have a fashion brand right?
ACOI: Yes, I do. ACHARA, formerly M’Acoi Fashion, is an upscale bespoke bridal fashion brand targeted at women of Great class. Showing that there’s sophistication in simplicity. The male line is MBONU by AI
DOB: Why the focus on bridal fashion?
ACOI: It’s always been what inspired me into fashion.
DOB: What would you say is a problem many fashion designers in the East have that affects the overall reputation of other fashion designers?
ACOI: I don’t understand this question please.
DOB: Like, any common challenge designers in the East face that is as a result of some misbehavior from other designers.
ACOI: I think the most common challenge is underpricing of designers works and creativity. Though this isn’t as a result of any misbehavior from other designers so to say but because of the value placed on it by the easterners. They aren’t exactly so fashion forward and enthusiastic and which in turn, affects how they see our creative process and the value they play on them
DOB: Yeah, so when someone who really knows the work charges the worthy price, it’s as though they’re greedy.
DOB: You also mentioned you’re a quality assurance analyst, what’s that?
ACOI: Well, in a nut shell, I identify and remedy defects in a production process to make sure that the end results a client or user gets is what he or she is supposed to get.
DOB: And this is businesses in any sector of the labour market?
DOB: Wow, that sounds like a hard job.
ACOI: It has its moments (Laughs)
DOB: So back to your fashion brand, ACHARA and MBONU by AI, can you guide us through your creative process? How do you create a design?
ACOI: I create designs to suit my clients. ACHARA being a bridal brand, I draw inspirations to help tell the client’s story. I always want to get to know my clients on a personal level. I always engage them even before we speak of designs because it gives me an idea of the kind of woman they are and how they like to express themselves. After this, I create a design. I sketch and then the design determines the fabric choice and all other things. But what leads my creative process generally are women who like originality and aren’t afraid of telling their stories; both the good and the bad and who dare look sophisticated in all of it.
DOB: Do you work with a team?
ACOI: Yes, I do.
DOB: Ok. Do you entertain their ideas when thinking up a design for your clients?
ACOI: Yes, I do. I believe creativity isn’t for one person. I seek advice always. My tailors know that.
DOB: So, in a situation where one of their ideas is not sitting well with you, how do you handle it?
ACOI: I seek ideas doesn’t always mean I have to follow what they say. If we look at it as creatives and it’s the best way to toll, we execute in that line. If it isn’t, we don’t. But the client has the ultimate say most of the times.
DOB: Does the same process again apply to MBONU by AI?
ACOI: Yes, it does. It’s even, because a lot of people think it’s boring and not much thought goes into it, but we think more because we have to make it not boring and we do all that together.
DOB: Yea, trying to defy the status quo.
ACOI: We are getting there. Mbonu by AI is way younger than ACHARA so… but we are building.
DOB: I want to ask, what are your views on the trending androgynous styles guys are putting on these days?
ACOI: I LOVE it. I mean, who said a particular outfit is for a particular person? Fashion, more like every other thing, is very fluid. It’s subjective. What works for me might not work for you. I think where I have an issue is when you overdo it and look really tacky. Whatever you decide to wear, look stunning and we are good.
DOB: Yeah, and it’s as though the whole world is being more accepting of it these days.
ACOI: They should be. We humans need to learn how to release ourselves from the authority that we tend to exercise over other people’s lives and let them just live as far as it doesn’t hurt you or the next person.
DOB: I mean. Makes it more interesting though. I mean we’re used to seeing ladies in male wears, switching it does no one harm, right?
ACOI: Just wear it right. That’s all I can say. That’s why I will always respect brands like Udiahgebi and its approach to out of the box androgynous wears.
DOB: So do you think androgyny is a road MBONU by AI is likely to head to via one of its collection?
ACOI: I haven’t thought of it ever but it’s fashion, it evolves and creativity runs wild most times. So, who knows. Never say never, right?
“…What you call classism is what I call cliques…”
DOB: Speaking of which, you’re reputedly one of the go to fashion icons, at least here in the Eastern part of the country, how would you rate the relationship among fellow members in the industry.
ACOI: (Laughs) Well, ehmmm…, I would say, in this industry, there are cliques. That’s how it is in entertainment generally. There are cliques. Find the one you fit in and grow from there
DOB: But some may argue that these cliques are counter-productive and counter-progressive to the development of the fashion industry here in the East.
ACOI: Well, you can never be in everybody’s good books, and at the same time, you can never be friends with everyone. Find those friends that resonate more with what you do and how you want to express yourself and move with them. That doesn’t mean you’re enemies with the others cause at the end of the day, it’s still business. You’re there to make money. What counters productivity and progress are people’s evil and bad hearts and characters and not cause I’m closer to a group of people than I am to the other group.
DOB: Now you hit the point there. So would you admit that classism does exist amongst fashion designers, particularly in the East?
ACOI: What you call classism is what I call cliques. No, the east doesn’t even have cliques as much as the west (Lagos) does. Get into Aba and Owerri and you would see designers in good rapport, no matter who you are. You barely see this outside. Let’s not find faults where they aren’t any. I’m not saying we’re living as we should here but progress isn’t ever made in a day
DOB: Spoken like a God-Father.
ACOI: (Laughs) I’m not though.
DOB: So, how would you rate the progress of the Fashion Industry in the East so far, let’s say between 2012-2022?
ACOI: (Smiles) Oohhh, it has grown tremendously. I think not just the east. The Nigerian fashion market has been soaring. There’s been a major shift. Even global recognitions and all. We are doing well for ourselves. So much more to do but we’ve come far too.
DOB: It’s amazing, really. So let’s get to other parts of your life. You mentioned you’re a Boy Child Activist. Now, that’s a term you don’t hear every day. Why the need to focus on the boy child?
ACOI: Well, the boy child has been neglected tremendously over the years due to what masculinity and society puts on them. There’s a disservice to the issues concerning the boy child and how it’s been handled. This isn’t a ploy to downplay or water down issues of the girl child but why put the issues of one more tha the other which is why in every 10 suicide attempts, 6 are tried by males. There is so pressure put on them by society and sometimes, even by their female counterparts and they seem to forget that they are humans as well. These societal pressures and ways to handle them better while enlightening the public of the issues said pressure causes is what I do.
“…Kindness, justice, personal beliefs and advocacies don’t need a reason…”
DOB: Wow, when you put it like that, it really sounds like a serious issue.
ACOI: Did you just say “LIKE a serious issue”? It’s so damn serious. It is. It’s sentiments like this that we want to eradicate. If I had put a girl child story like this, then it’s a serious issue but for a boy, it sounds like a serious issue. No! No! No!
DOB: If you don’t mind me asking, why is this an important topic for you? Like I get everything you’re saying, but is there any personal experience as to why you’re doing this?
ACOI: I don’t have to be a girl to speak on importance of proper menstrual hygiene. I don’t have to be a mad man or have someone close to me gone through the experience before I can speak for psychiatric rehabilitation. Kindness, justice, personal beliefs and advocacies don’t need a reason. If it must, what about because we are humans and deserve better? I get experiences might spur it but not all the time.
DOB: Really interesting. And we really wish you the best on this journey because it’s really a necessity.
ACOI: Thank you so much.
DOB: So we know that you’re a graduate of Computer Science from the prestigious Federal University of Technology, Owerri, how much would you say this degree is instrumental to your other careers/skills?
ACOI: (Laughs) I’m a certified programmer. A skill I rarely use…. I know, I know. Everyone is running to tech and I’m leaving it, but it isn’t something I enjoy doing. The few times I do it, it’s cause of the money involved and that’s it. But then again, the truth is that the education system of this country is so bad that I didn’t learn anything I know in programming today from the four walls of a classroom. We barely even had resources, let alone, enough to be taught the essentials while in school.
DOB: That’s not good.
ACOI: Which part? (Laughs)
DOB: So would you say the education was necessary in a way for you or not?
ACOI: The university experience was gravely necessary.
DOB: So the experience before the education?
ACOI: Any day, any time.
DOB: So, I’m sure a lot of us would want to know; is Acoi taken or up for grabs?
ACOI: If you have money, come o. (Laughs) Let’s just say I’m taken for some and up for grabs for others. Shoot your shot.
DOB: And that’s some mixed message right there.
ACOI: Make of the information what you wish.
DOB: (Laughs) So, as we round up, there might be someone out there who’s feeling too down and depressed about how to fulfill their dream, or someone who’s probably feeling that it’s late to begin now maybe because of age, what’s your advice for such persons?
ACOI: It’s never too late to find and do what makes you happy. Happiness doesn’t have a timeline. Start somewhere, work consistently and honestly and see the universe work in your favor. If you believe in God, pray as hard as you work too. Everyone is still chasing something.
DOB: Very true. Anyway, what’s next for Acoi? What should we be expecting in the near future?
ACOI: More big moves. I have a couple of things in the bag still brewing. Y’all will know in due time.
DOB: Fingers crossed. We know it will be amazing.
ACOI: I pray y’all enjoy and support it when it does.
DOB: We sure will. Thank you so much chatting with us Mr. Acoi. It was really fun and eye opening. We hope to have you again in future.
ACOI: Thank you for reaching out.
To get to know more about Mr. Acoi, below are his social media handles:
Instagram: @m_acoi // @Shades_of_aikay
Facebook: Achara Agozie