The story of Le Look, a luxury lifestyle brand defined by colourful African handbags and prints with chic sensibility and modern fair, sparks of sacrifice, patience, perseverance and determination. Birthed 10 years ago as a dream driven by the sense to create a job, a source of livelihood for a brother who was handicapped, Le Look a social conscious fashion brand that offers both women and men’s wear and accessories, began as a hairdressing salon. 30 years after, it has grown into a manufacturing and entrepreneurial firm. The seed, the hairdressing salon, is still retained today where the needs of so many people are attended to.
The brain behind the initiative, Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa, explained at the 10th anniversary celebration of firm held in Lagos recently, that his brother in whose interest she sought to plant Le Look was dump with other challenges but he could see. It was for this that she gave it the name, Le Look, believing that even if you cannot hear, you could touch and see. The name has since embodied everything that is done in the company and has remained its guide while propelling it to seek continuously for the best in the field.
“I felt I should do something to empower a brother of mine who was and is still physically challenged – he is a deaf and dump. There was nobody who wanted to employ him and so I decided to send him to a school of hairdressing to learn how to make hair. When he finished with learning, I had to get him a place to experiment his acquired skills and I named the place Le Look because he couldn’t talk nor hear, so it simply implies that it is when he sees you that he would know how to make your hair and would know the style that will look good on you”, Ezenwa said.
Adding, “So it is that small company of 30 years ago that has blossomed into what you see today because 10 years after we started Le Look, we noticed that a lot of people were more into braiding and he couldn’t do that. Then I had another person in my family, in fact my younger sister who is also challenged. She had autism. And the only way we could help her was for her to use her hands and so we decided to go into bag making to help her do something with her hands. So while my siblings, Anene Ofodu and Lulu Ofodu were doing the stuff, I was at the background, helping them and through that way, we have been able to create employment for other people.”
Thirty years after, Ezenwa, the initiator of this great idea can proudly say, “I have made my mark because I can boldly say that I have put food on many people’s tables through my idea and my effort to develop skills in people and I am still doing that. I have not let the society down and then, I am promoting Nigeria too. This is the only place you find quality bags made in Nigeria and I will proudly write, ‘Made in Nigeria’ on my products”, she noted.
Established October 1, 1995 as a lifestyle concept, Le Look offers multiple product categories, including ready-to-wear, handbags, Apple-support products and other carry-on accessories. The lifestyle firm desires seek to convey its African heritage by employing local artisans in Nigeria and Ghana to source fabrics and local artisanship to create these affordable fashionable products, which enables the company to give back to the community.
“My most important achievement is that I can create jobs and thereby keep youths busy and away from perpetuating evil. I have also been able to reduce poverty. I have continued to empower people ever since because every year, I take three of my staff to China to go there and learn new technology so that we can be ahead of others. Right now, I have another physically changed that I took who has been with me for the last 25 years and I intend to reach out to more of others.
It takes so much to put people who are physically challenged through anything; they need special education and if the person is deaf and dump, you have to go and learn sign language to be able to communicate with him/her. So, it is not easy at all but I am not relenting in my efforts to do more and I have been a role model to others who have the desire to do such”, she said further. Ezenwa, who described herself as multi-tasking person, is a Maritime Consultant by profession and her vision for Le Look is for it to be transformed into a very big training institution. “I want to establish like a finishing school for artisans – people who are into crafts and desire to put perfect their craftsmanship so as to be able to have global acceptance. If you don’t know how to put perfect finishing touches to your products, come to me and I will show you how your products can be accepted at the international market. There are many artisans out there know how to make crafts but lack the knowledge for finishing, so I desire to establish a finishing school where I will teach them how to do that”, said.