Choose To Challenge with OKE's Gift Ajimokun
Desperately seeking sustainable accessories? Meet Gift Ajimokun, former member of Team HANX and founder of ethical jewellery brand, OKE London. OKE’s first drop: Oyivwi, meaning boldness, sees natural wood and brass collide, each piece handmade by local artisans in collaboration with a certified B-Corp manufacturer. With International Women’s Day on the horizon, we virtually caught up with Gift to talk inspiration, motivation and how this year’s theme: #ChooseToChallenge applies to her creative journey.
HEY GIFT, CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT MOTIVATES YOU IN FIVE WORDS?
Do it for my people.
LET’S TAKE IT BACK TO THE START: WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND OKE LONDON?
When people ask me which ethnic group I’m from in Nigeria I’m usually met with blank stares when I say: “I am Urhobo”. That is why I’m excited about OKE. I want to raise the profile of my people, create beautiful art to symbolise my journey of learning, and express the unique beauty of Urhobo people. I believe in a united Nigeria, but I don’t believe this means the unique culture and history of different groups has to be lost. The distinctiveness of each one adds to build a beautiful interconnected history of Nigeria. I am building a modern way to connect with our history.
FROM PODCASTS TO PLAYLISTS, WHAT MOTIVATES YOU WHILE YOU WORK?
As a neurodiverse baby girl, I really love listening to this youtube video called ‘5 hours of Super Mario Music’ when I am concentrating. I found out about it on TikTok that game music is created to help you concentrate but not distract you and I have tried it and it works perfectly, would highly recommend!
THIS YEAR’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY THEME IS “CHOOSE TO CHALLENGE”. FROM INITIAL IDEAS TO MAKING OKE LONDON A REALITY: WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING AND REWARDING ASPECTS OF STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS SO FAR?
The most challenging aspect was the crowdfunding I used to start OKE London. I went into this thinking that I wanted to do it all on my own through proper means, using a business loan etc but it just didn’t work out that way. I ended up crowdfunding and it was one of the scariest things I have ever done because I hate asking for help. I had to lean on my community and peer group for support in a way I had never asked before and it frightened me. I did it anyway and I was amazed by the love and support that people poured into my dream. It taught me a very important lesson not about ‘help’ or ‘charity’ but about support and recognition from peers and how reaching people with a clear message, makes a big impact.
THROUGH OKE, YOU’RE REDEFINING HERITAGE AND GENDER ROLES. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Living in the UK I am privileged in a lot of ways. Although as a Black Queer Neurodiverse woman I face a lot of systematic challenges, living where I live the conversations in some ways are way more progressive than what is happening back home and I’m super aware of that. A lot of it stems from white supremacist patriarchy and colonialism but the bottom line is the violence experienced by women in my home country due to the misogyny is unacceptable and quite disgusting. Further on from that, due to my ethnic group being considered an ethnic minority, there is barely any political representation and there are many other ethnic minorities within Nigeria who struggle with this. I say all that to say, the wonderful women I grew up watching in Nollywood movies made me the woman I am today. If me living my life and dreams as myself can help anyone out there, I consider it my duty to do so. The way society is structured, it is a rebellious act to love yourself and live freely and so I am doing my part by committing to my dreams and empowering people through it where ever possible.
GO BIG! WHO’S YOUR DREAM OKE AMBASSADOR?
This is really hard! Any Nollywood actress proudly wearing OKE would make my life! Think Genieve Nnaji, Ini Edo and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde.
WISHLISTS AT THE READY: WHAT’S NEXT FOR OKE?
I would love OKE to be featured in a print magazine so working behind the scenes to make that a reality and to release 2 more products this year would be a dream come true! But slow fashion and making sure there is demand is most important.
What To Do Next:
Champion female-founded business and invest in a future heirloom from OKE London now.
- Level up your IG Saved tab with a first look at Gift's next designs, drops and insights into Urhobo culture over at @oke_london.
We wanna know YOUR favourite female-founded businesses! Join the conversation as we share our faves over on the HANX Life forum here.