Steven Onoja is more than just his clothes. Don’t get me wrong, the man has style in spades, and there’s no doubt that a significant portion of his identity, and indeed his livelihood, comes from dressing up and looking sharp. But, learning of his talents apart from fashion and hearing the story of his journey from Nigeria to his current home in New York, it becomes abundantly clear that the artist, consultant, and storyteller is so much more than the images and captions that the world know him for.
As I could never do justice to uncovering exactly who Steven is, I gave him the opportunity to tell his own story in our latest In Conversation series. So, without further introduction, enjoy the life, times, and future of Steven Onoja as told by the man himself.
So, hello! My names Steven!
Five years ago I started this little venture and have watched it take me to some vastly unexpected places. And it’s been an honour to see so many people impacted by the work I’m trying to do. It’s really such a blessing to read the emails, letters and DM’s regarding how we’ve influenced lives.
Now, I come from a far from the perfect place, and I’m far from a perfect person, but it’s been such a whirlwind to go from point A to point B. My favourite part about all of this is my ability to connect with others, I am learning new stories, difficulties, advice and inspiration on a daily basis from YOU! So! If you want! Tell me about yourself a bit down below! Your job, where you’re from, ’bout your ambitions, fears, etc.
At the end of the day, these are tools meant to build togetherness!
And as simple as Instagram might seem, it’s one hell of a tool for these very things. LET’S GET STARTED! My name’s Steven Onoja, I’m a visual artist professionally, I collect more stories than scars and more scars than coin. My goal in life is to die a decent man after having lived like one too.
I realize convenience has a huge play in why we do or feel things, even when it comes to friendships or love. We often mistake constant communication for friendship. The truest tests come from differing ideas, being friends at the end of a difficult situation and taking risks together. We spend a lot of our lives now developing half-hearted everything. Careers, love, even adventures. Note to self: Even though you are confident, it doesn’t mean you have to be confident in every aspect of your life. You don’t always look your best, do or feel your best. It doesn’t deter you as a whole. If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t – don’t stress it. I’m happy to be in my proper place.
At 18 I was fearful something like a madman that I wouldn’t know how to get where I wanted to be. But now that I’m doing what I love, I realize it’s much more about liking who you are when you get to where you wanna be. Don’t settle for anything less. Life is far too short to just be ok, though some days it’s all you can be. I’m in my mid 20’s and its all I can do to keep my youth in check – work harder, take better care of myself, prepare to be a good husband and father (if life sees fit to grant it) and keep myself grounded.
I never wanted to move to New York, only school made the move possible. I love Nigeria so much, I wish I was still there at the moment. So how does one live in this kind of world and be an artist? I grew up thinking the art world and literature, was a haven for those not otherwise accepted anywhere else. I grew up admiring paintings of contorted faces and abstract women. Nonetheless, I was able to escape from a world that didn’t accept me for who I was and I got older and discovered works by people who shared my tawny hue and read about people and history. I knew I wanted to be a part of this. But it’s a whole different world when you go from reader to writer when you go from appreciator to photographer or painter. Behind the scenes is a world that is not different from the world I grew up in. I’ve realized there isn’t much room for black creatives. We are so invisible within the art world that it’s just isn’t heard of.
As a writer, I take inspiration from everything around me. As a creative person, I look to my surroundings and build from there. A talented artist will tell you the same, but I live in a world where everything around me is touched by the phenomenon that is white supremacy, where within white supremacy body-shaming and fatphobia caress where whiteness has touched.
Everyone’s been so kind here, the menswear world is a fun one, can’t wait to attend the shows within the next couple months.
I want to help small business, brands and individuals make/have the most beautiful representations of themselves possible. Something I am always seeking to improve in myself. It’s not because I am rich that I’m in New York, it’s because I want to show mainstream media how much can be achieved with little. All these damn bells and whistles and for what? Function outlasts fame. Convenience has cost us our ability to connect, it’s improved technologies and speed. But slowed our pace of genuine communications. I am here to try and change that. Call it prideful arrogance, bullshit, or whatever, but that’s why I’m here.
I am working to build a life representative of the early 20th century: a dedication to things well-made, to camaraderie, to feel proud of the work put into the world. We all learn our way.