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06 Jan Written by  Venussbay

“I Can Spot Real Diamonds”

Our Guest Blogger Venussbay speaks with Ibok Archibong Offiong, the CEO of jewellery company Verche l’art Cessoire. A 2012 YouWin winner, the Cross Rivers native recently showcased her collection at the New York Fashion Week and appeared on Moments with Mo. Offiong has a degree in Geology and another in Oil and Gas Engineering.

How did you start your jewellery business?

I actually bumped into it during a family vacation three years ago in Paris when I walked into an accessories shop. I was wowed with what I saw. Since then I have worked very hard to set up an accessories business, working late at night sometimes and trying to balance family and work. My husband has also been encouraging me, giving me good business advise and I am still learning a lot from him.

How has your accessories business fared with the ever changing and demanding face of Nigeria’s fashion scene?

I try to be as versatile as possible in our collections; I am very much in tune with the fashion trends and also work a lot with runway shows. I try to keep an eye on the trends, see which way they are headed and work in that direction. I work with corals, gemstones and beads  to make our designs more versatile and  make available different styles for different types of women.

Do you produce here or overseas?

When I started, I used to buy the finished jewellery overseas and sell it here in Nigeria but it was cost-intensive so I had to learn how to make them myself. Right now we produce them and I have employed more hands to help me. Today we produce both locally and internationally.

What types of accessories do you offer?

Corals sets, pearls, gemstones, Swarovski elements, purses, watches, brooches, cuff-links, belts, rings, etc. We want to add shoes to the collection.

When did you first appear in a fashion show or fashion week?

Our first fashion show was the 2012 Ages of Fashion in Abuja, we also had a couple of exhibitions at Fusion, Wedexpo, Nigeria Fashion Week, Glamour magazine and the recent New York Fashion Week which was my first international fashion week.

What was the experience of New York Fashion Week like and how has it helped your business?

It’s been explosive. It has made more people become more confident In the brand.

What are the challenges in your area of fashion in Nigeria and how can it be improved?

Originality is a problem; people copy a lot and they have copied my work a lot. People should try to be more creative and original.

What do you think about wearing silver and gold together?

Back in the day it was taboo. The rules have been broken and these days you can mix most things to suit your personal style but gold to gold or silver to silver remains more classic.

What’s the best way to wear pearls?

I like to wear pearls alone and depending on the event you can choose to layer the necklaces with three or four strands. Pearls are timeless and give you a kind of class. That’s why I call my brand ‘timeless and trendy’. Pearls are so timeless; they never go out of fashion. They are one of the few rare gemstones from nature.

Where do you get your pearls from?

Most of my pearls are from Hong Kong; they actually grow them. I work with freshwater pearls, and cultured pearls a lot.

How can you spot fake pearls or corals?

Studying Geology has helped me identify real and fake gemstones; thus I can identify a real diamond when I see it. For pearls the best way to identify them is from the temperature. Most of them are cold to the touch. Pearls are irregular in shape, gritty, with holes. For the corals; they have tiny lines running through them.

Do we have pearls in Nigeria?

I don’t think we have pearls in Nigeria but we do have corals, and the more people buy them from the local sellers the more they empower them and the more the country benefits.

Who is your main customer?

Our brand is a luxury brand so it appeals to a lot of fashion designers and the upper class; politicians, governors’ wives and private individuals.

Describe your personal style.

I am very simple and very conservative with jeweller; I rarely do necklaces but I do watches and earrings.  My favourite jewellery brand include Chris Aire, Kardashians and Michael Kors.

How do you like to relax?

By going to the gym, travelling. I also enjoy watching movies, reading and swimming.

What's next for Verche l’art Cessoire?

We are working on our new store, we will participate in more international fashion weeks and looking forward to having our brand in shops abroad.

Dog