Influencer, founder, and magazine editor, Igee Okafor is New York’s latest fashion extraordinaire. His vision to create menswear and a lifestyle brand has taken him all over the world, and he’s just 26. After launching IgeeOkafor.com, he decided to expand his creative endeavors and thus, BOND OFFICIAL magazine was born, focusing on modern men and their stories. “Manhood and masculinity means being vulnerable enough to embrace every part of yourself. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of color as it pertains to the personalities that I was seeing as man, there was one definition and it doesn’t help when you have publications like the “GQ’s” and the “Details”, doing a great job, but still emphasizing this one type of man. I really just wanted to create a space that advocates for a variety of men.”
While Igee’s exposure to colorful male personalities was lackluster, it certainly showed up in every other aspect of his life being born and raised in Nigeria. As most people do, he lauded his motherland’s people, music, food, and culture. It’s a place that reveres family and community and have razor focus on their dreams. Going to boarding school there until he was 15, instilled a sort of militaristic drive in him. “It was very academic. It was very competitive. It was definitely very strict military, ‘this is how things are done. This is what tradition is. this is what you should aspire to become.’ And everything was very much in that line, not too different from how I see things in New York.” Igee’s parents were very open-minded and stoked his dreams, allowing him to build his own creative intelligence. After moving to the United States, his town of Hampton, Virginia was introduced to a new kind of personality. “People there really didn’t have the concept of culture. They didn’t understand how I would speak or they had these pre-conceived notions of what it was like to be from Africa and live there.” However, after a few short weeks, Igee invested himself in the school culture, joining the step team, dance team, marketing club, and drama club — focusing on honing his creative spirit.
During that time, media sites Tumblr and Lookbook.nu were popular. With street-fashion photography and youth culture plastered all over the sites, Igee was hooked, developing his aesthetic eye that would inform how he works with photographers and creates his images today. While attending St. John’s University in Queens, New York, he worked in digital marketing at one of the most popular influencer marketing agencies, Socialite, as well as The 88 and Plus One, where his passion for account directing and producing and creating content with brands was amplified. Realizing he wanted to run his own agency on his own terms, he created his website, with the help of his mom. “I thought I was going to be a dancer and be in musical theater for some reason as a profession. But after I graduated, she said, you need to put this on hold for a second and really think about what you want to do. So I told her, ‘Oh, I like what these people are doing with their blogs on Tumblr and Lookbook,’ and she’s like, ‘well, then you should start yours. I’ll fund it.’ She gave me two weeks to get it done. She was very supportive. My dad didn’t get it, but now he does.”
Now taking over the art direction, mood boarding, location scouting, and even how the image is taken, Igee is extremely hands on with all of his projects. “Even though I would like more of a collaboration, I just find that with the way that I like to do things, it’s just better. We don’t waste a lot of time trying to figure it out versus knowing what will work from my experience.” And with that, his campaigns were underway, securing 5 campaigns every week. However, burn out is real. It happens when you’re not resting or given the right tools or resources to be able to create something that’s authentic. Igee knows he’s hard on himself, so he structured his life with more balance. “Say this week, we have a full production week, I take the entire next week off and I make it a point to look on Youtube to follow other content creators and see what they’re doing, watch a documentary or movie, because inspiration comes out of everywhere. Even meeting up with people to just catch up and see what they’re interested in, learn new things. It’s how I get over those creative blocks.”
While work slowed down a bit when the pandemic began, he is thankful to still have steady work coming in. “My end goal is to have my own men’s clothing brand/lifestyle. I really adore what people like Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford have been able to do with their brands, not only in the clothing department, but they have fragrances, home accessories, even films. I would like to see someone who looks like me who has been able to accomplish all of these things as well. I think there’s this thing in the Black community where it’s been this way for so long where we just never felt like we could really make a sustainable career out of being a creative photographer, art director, whatever it is. I think it would be really telling to have someone or a variety of people in our community accomplish what the likes of Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford have been able to do.” As so many others before Igee have said, if you look good, you feel good. His mission to get men to embrace fashion is what drives him. “You don’t have to be into fashion to embrace it. If you put on a shirt and you don’t think it’s the most fashionable, it’s still fashion. It’s a shirt that was designed and put up for sale, but if you feel great and it feels like you’re being represented accurately — you’re supposed to feel good and feel like your personality is is being authenticated.”
Igee’s mantra is “anything is possible.” Focus and no distractions. A strong mentality and work ethic, can propel you further every day. Celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small. “I feel like I have a lot more of the United States to experience, but so far what I’ve seen is they embrace and move forward, whether that’s with gay rights, or women’s rights — everything. With a place like New York City, the culture is based on embracing diversity in every way. I think that’s what I love most about New York City is the amount of options we have to do whatever we want. If something is not for you, you can always find something that is.”