We had the good fortune of connecting with Iguehi James and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Iguehi, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Starting Love Iguehi was certainly a leap of faith. I am not a classically trained designer and I don’t have a background in fashion. In fact, my education and prior career in the healthcare industry was completely unrelated. I started making clothes as a hobby and realized I had a gift for sewing. With the encouragement of my husband and close friends, I decided to turn that hobby into a business. Frankly, I wasn’t sure about taking the leap but after experiencing the success of my first vending event, I knew I made quality pieces that people  wanted.

Starting a business, especially one in fashion retail, was not something that I had imagined for myself. However, as I take account of my upbringing in Oakland as the daughter of a Nigerian-American artist, it makes sense. I am creating contemporary apparel that infuses my Nigerian heritage and Oakland roots and that feels more natural than anything I have ever done.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

Love Iguehi (EE-Gway-HEE) is a brand focused on living boldly, living out loud and living in color! We create versatile, high quality clothing and apparel that foster love and community while celebrating the cultural richness that connects us to each other.

Soon after starting the business, I realized that the Love Iguehi brand was about much more than clothes. Yes, people want to look good in what they wear, but what we provide is connection. Our brand facilitates feelings of empowerment and allows consumers to express themselves authentically and unapologetically. Clothing can be transformative, and I know that I’ve created something special when someone tries on one of our pieces for the first time and their face lights up; they stand a little taller and make whatever space they’re in their runway. We endeavor to address and find beauty in our complicated history and create clothing for all people that celebrates who we are. This is what I am most proud of.

We literally sew love into every piece we create and we are grateful to the amazing community supporting our brand.

In short, Love Iguehi is a brand focused on making sure you love the way you feel and love the way you look.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

Let me just start by saying, “I love Oakland!” Oakland is such a cool city. Most people are pleasantly surprised once they visit. It’s a little hard for me to come up with an itinerary but I’ll name a few places that I feel are “must sees”

Lake Merritt- It’s a man-made lake in the middle of our city that offers a little oasis. You can find people running/ jogging/ skating around the lake any time of the day or you can set out blanket and relax with a book or have a beautiful picnic with friends.

Lakeshore Cafe- It’s one of my favorite go-to breakfast/ brunch spots in Oakland. It’s a convenient walk from Lake Merritt and it offers delicious, hearty breakfast options at a reasonable price. If you’re from Oakland, you’re bound to run into someone that you know while eating there.

Brown Sugar Kitchen- Also a really delicious spot to dine at in Oakland. Owner, Tanya Holland serves up the most delicious soul food and yummy treats at her flagship restaurant in Oakland.

Jack London Square (Oakland Waterfront/Marina)- As a young adult, I spent many Friday & Saturday nights hanging out with friends in Jack London square. The area has a number of restaurants, bars and entertainment spaces that make it a perfect evening destination. On the weekends (pre-covid and hopefully they’re coming back soon) a number of outdoor markets, festivals and small concerts are hosted in the area.

Oakland Museum- It’s a great way for people to see the arts and learn a bit more about Oakland and the city’s history. On Friday nights during the summer months, they host a free block party event called Friday Nights at OMCA. There’s live music, artists and an array of food trucks. It’s definitely a fun, family friendly event.

Trails at Joaquin Miller Park- The beautiful trails in the Oakland Hills are some of our best kept secrets. Just a few short miles from Downtown Oakland, Joaquin Miller Park will make you forget that you’re in a city. Walking/ hiking the peaceful and serene trails are a great way to spend your Saturday or Sunday morning.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

There are so many people I would love to list here because truly, it has taken a village to keep this ship sailing! But, in an effort to keep things short and sweet, I’ll list a few key individuals/groups.

*(My husband) Parren James for being beyond amazing! I’d like to thank him for encouraging me to follow my dreams and creating an environment where I feel safe and inspired to do so.

*(My Parents) James and Victoria Esoimeme for getting it! As a 1st generation Nigerian-American, I’d say the career path that I’ve chosen in fashion is a little unconventional. They’ve supported me from the beginning, and I will forever grateful to them.

*My amazing tribe of friends- Everyone thinks their friends are the best but truly, mine are! lol. From the “You got this, girl!” to the ‘I’ll help you package orders” text messages, my friends have continued to hold me down, remind me that I am loved and keep me encouraged.

*My community of local women designers, creators, small business owners- The Bay Area has amazing artists and creatives that keep me inspired. Witnessing their success and learning from them has really helped me along the way in my entrepreneurial journey. They’re dope and more people should really know about them.

*The Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce (OAACC)- As a small business owner in Oakland, the OAACC has supported me in ways I never expected; especially throughout the global pandemic of 2020. The information they shared, the funding opportunities they provided; the exposure that I received by being connected to their organization has been invaluable.

Website: https://loveiguehi.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loveiguehi/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loveiguehi

Image Credits
Matthew Evearitt- First photo where I have a measuring tape around my neck. Leyla Ismen- All other photos

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