UB senior emphasizes the importance of confidence in her clothing line
Keji Omoboni Jones believes everyone is royalty.
Omoboni Jones, a senior sociology and business major, takes from hairstyles, prints and her Nigerian culture and transforms them into elegant, wearable pieces.
Despite her adoration for fashion, her parents thought she’d be better suited to study medicine or pharmacy in college.
“I would always tell my mom, ‘No, I’m not doing that,’ and then last year it came to the point when I started my brand,” Omoboni Jones said. “I hadn’t started any of this prior to last year. I would never make clothes. I always had a sewing machine but I would never really make clothes because I didn’t know if I was good or not.”
But she trusts the process.
She invests her time into making each piece. Purses take about two hours to make and more complicated dresses take about three days to prepare. After all the pinning, cutting and sewing, she still finds time to take pictures of models sporting her clothing.
Her clothing line, KOJ Designs, began in June 2016. Since establishing her brand, she’s been featured in the African Student Association’s (ASA) annual fashion show and won SUNY Oswego’s Battle of the Designers on April 7.
Omoboni Jones’ KOJ Designs is the product of effort and how seriously she takes her craft.
“I’m starting from the bottom, from nothing. I didn’t have anything when I started my line. I just did it and I’m doing it by myself,” Omoboni Jones said.
KOJ Designs’ collections include an array of chokers, off-the-shoulder tops, purses and pants. The designer finds fabrics that compliment not just black skin but people of any color.
On her website, pieces like her “Silk me down” tops and pants exhibit elegance through light tones and precise form. Maxi dresses like her “Titi” piece have African cut fabric center-stage in a palette of purples, yellows and browns.
Pieces on the website are priced anywhere from $32.99 off-the-shoulder tops to $89.99 African-inspired “Iro & Bubba” wear.
Omoboni Jones is inspired by an array of designers, including Chanel. She finds that European brands such as Prada attract customers solely off their quality, which she hopes to emulate.
“I want to have luxury clothing that people could actually afford. The quality of Chanel but it’s going to be the price of Macy’s,” Omoboni Jones said.
The designer has style in her blood – her mother was once a model and her father buys and sells luxury fashion brands.
Omoboni Jones was born in the U.S., but she lived in Nigeria from eight years old until she was 17.
“In Nigeria, they’re very vibrant with the way they are and dress, they just like to stand out,” Omoboni Jones said.
After creating KOJ Designs, she took part in ASA’s fashion show last fall and received positive feedback on her newly created line.
“My mom started telling me I should go to fashion school, [and] she finally agreed that I would do it,” Omoboni Jones said.
In 2013, Omoboni Jones helped found UB’s Fashion Student Association (FSA) along with former student Moriel Wimes.
Today, the club still runs strong because of the foundations set by early members.
Emily Li, a senior pharmaceutical science major, was the club’s first photographer. During the club’s first years, Li and Kassandra Hazlehurst, a senior architecture major, would go around campus taking pictures of students’ most stylish outfits.
“We’d put the pictures on our social [media] as a way to promote that, on-campus, there were still people that dress up really nicely,” Li said.
Gisselle Taylor, a senior environmental studies major, is the vice president of FSA.
Taylor saw the perseverance both Omoboni Jones and Wimes had in their initiative to create the club.
“There were many people in the past that attempted to make a fashion club here on campus, but ultimately never followed through,” Taylor said. “To be so closely related to the people that had the drive and commitment to follow through, where so many others did not, is a huge source of inspiration for me.”
Taylor first met Omoboni Jones her sophomore year through her friends on FSA’s e-board. Currently, she’s interested in the designer’s work and its true reflection of whom she has come to know.
“In my opinion, the authenticity, gracefulness, Afrocentrism and regal aura of the clothing Keji makes is what sets her line apart,” Taylor said.
Ali Ruiz, a freshman DMS and psychology major, is the publicity coordinator for FSA. Ruiz met Omoboni Jones in her basic video class this semester and since then has modeled for KOJ Designs.
“Meeting Keji was very important for me and we agree on a lot of things – visually and art wise,” Ruiz said. “Her clothing is very affordable and she makes custom pieces, which is something that not a lot of designers do. She puts her all into every piece she makes, she will envision something and whenever somebody really wants it, she will bring it to life.”
Ruiz realized she wants to pursue a modeling career after modeling for KOJ.
“I was always insecure about modeling because of my height. People would say I should model because I had the look but I was [too] insecure,” Ruiz said. “Keji helped me understand that I can do it.”
Emphasizing confidence is at the core of her line. The designer can see it in the models who wear her clothing: a glamorous feeling which clothing has provided them.
“We’re all royalty – if you want to be royalty, you will be royalty,” Omoboni Jones said. “It doesn’t have to be by blood, it comes from you. You don’t have to wear diamonds, gold and all that stuff – it’s just you. That motivation should try to create an effort because, at the end of the day, anything you want in this world you can get it – you just have to look good.”
Benjamin Blanchet is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com