MOD Chic Chief Designer and Creative Director Ebele Iloanya (middle) poses with fellow panelist during an event around women empowerment.
Walker’s Legacy Profiles recognize unique women of color in business who embody the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire. In this installment, meet Ebele Iloanya.
Who is she? Ebele Iloanya is the founder and chief designer at MOD Chic Couture, a Houston-based fashion line and boutique. She founded MOD Chic in 2009 with a vision of creating a line that embodies classic, contemporary and cutting edge design. Her goal is to make women feel amazing through quality, stylish clothing.
My first job? Outside the fashion world, my first job was at an oil company in the public affairs department. My first fashion job was creating MOD Chic. I guess you could say I created my own job.
The biggest inspiration behind my career: Growing up, everyone around me was in fashion, so that had an impact on me. My grandmother was a fabric weaver, and my mom was into fashion and could sew as well. I used to go to my grandma’s house on holiday and see her weaving. Watching all this is what was inspired me to really pursue this as a career and make it my own. I’m from Nigeria, and I’ve lived in the UK. When I moved to Houston, I studied under are custom clothier. He saw my designs and courage me to go out on my own. I got a very positive response from people when they would see my work. That was very motivating.
One professional thing I would change about my career in my twenties? There isn’t anything I would change because everything I did in my past has brought me to the point of where I am today. Although my college degree is in communications and not fashion or business, having that degree has given me the background to know what I needed to know in order to promote my business. There really is nothing I would change.
Tell us more about your business. MOD Chic was born out of the desire to help women feel confident and sexy without being too outrageous. I believe you can be classy and still be sexy. I want women to make their own personal style statement. Fashion is about so much more than clothing. It’s your personal signature, your mission statement, your exclamation to the world that you have something to say worth listening to. Our creations are crafted from the finest fabrics with vibrant colors that can be word through the seasons and mixed and matched all year round. With a wide array of designs ranging from accessories to outerwear, we are certain that we have something that suits virtually every woman’s unique taste and sense of style.
What are my thoughts about women of color in businesses: I think having more women of color in business is awesome! In fact, I believe more women of color should be represented in fashion. We are so different and diverse. It’s not just black and white – there is such a broad spectrum of ethnicities and many shapes and sizes. If you look at the designers out there, the industry is changing a little. Having women of color who are designers means they make clothes for people like them and clothes with our proportions in mind.
What woman serves as my greatest source of inspiration and why? My mom is my greatest inspiration. She taught me so many things. She believed a woman should always keep her hands busy and keep herself beautiful. To her, it was very important to look good and present yourself properly. She faced so much adversity and had many struggles, but she kept going until the day she died. Whenever I’m tired, I think about how she never gave up, and that keeps me going.
What are two staple items I must have for a power meeting or networking event? I have to have a really good pair of shoes and a nice, tailored dress. I walk around a lot, so my shoes have to be comfortable. And I like clean lines, so I have to have a dress tailored to fit me – nothing too revealing, just something classic.
What are my thoughts on balancing work and life? Whew! It’s a constant struggle. You have to tell yourself that there is time for everything, but you have to plan. You can do everything you want to do, but you have to plan it ahead of time, including work and rest. You have to know when you need to take a break so you don’t burn out.