The Enigwe sisters live by individuality. “[We are] trend setters, not followers,” the older sibling said.
So it’s ironic that the sisters and fashion design partners, Chidelu and Chigozi, both go by Chi Chi, a nickname derived from their Nigerian names.
“We are in different parts in the city, so it doesn’t matter as much [that we have the same name],” said Chidelu or “Chi Chi E,” a 2005 Temple graduate who teaches math and science to eighth graders while her sister, “Chi Chi,” attends Temple.
The sisters, despite having the same nickname, have maintained their individuality with the launching of their own design labels. Chidelu began the label Vintique in 2003, while her sister Chigozi, a current freshman, launched the label Odi last September.
The two combined forces in fall 2005 to form “Chi Chi and Chi Chi E,” the company co-owned and run by the sisters to house their respective lines.
Neither their differences nor similarities matter when it comes to pursuing their dreams, and it’s their “keep-it-in-the-family” mentality that has helped them find success.
“It’s like Vintique is my child, Odi is her child, and they got married,” Chidelu said.
It had been her dream since high school to own a boutique, Chidelu said, but she had never thought of fashion design until her sister, who was then still in high school, began to seriously consider the profession for herself.
“We were just talking and stuff and [Chigozi] was saying how her friends tell her she should be a designer, and I agree because she’s stylish, and that’s when we decided to go with it together. That’s when Vintique came about,” Chigozi said. “Then college came and I was able to do my own thing.”
Since the merger, Vintique has become the casual-wear line of Odi, the couture, red-carpet inspired line of elegant evening wear and gowns. Odi, which translates from Nigerian to “It is” offers one-of-a-kind pieces handmade by Chigozi.
“Vintique is that same girl [who wears Odi], but on an everyday basis,” Chidelu said. “It’s definitely the stylish fashionista doing her thing. If she’s out and about doing her regular day, running around whatever, she’s wearing Vintique.”
For the spring, Vintique will offer a collection of novelty T-shirts, hand embellished jean miniskirts and a swimwear collection for the summer.
The line will be available for purchase on a soon-to-be launched Web site and by 2007 the girls hope to be selling in their own boutique.
“I’m excited to see girls wearing these things on the streets,” Chigozi said. “It’s going to be really hot.”
The sisters have had their fair share of publicity, too. Chidelu used her family’s background as inspiration for Vintique’s fall women’s work wear collection, which was made from materials bought and designed in Nigeria. Her line’s originality caught the attention of Philadelphia Style this spring. A profile on Chidelu was published in the January/February edition of the magazine.
Last fall Chigozi saw Tyra Banks wear one of her couture gowns on UPN’s the Tyra Show. After writing a letter to Banks on her “passion for fashion,” the supermodel invited the younger Chi Chi onto the show for an interview.
“[Tyra] wore one of her pieces and surprised her with four other models wearing her pieces,” Chidelu said of her sister’s appearance on the show.
After Chidelu launched Vintique her junior year at Temple, she soon realized that balancing school and a full time job isn’t the easiest task, especially when in the business alone. It was her love for fashion, along with her sister’s support, which helped her to overcome the obstacles.
“It keeps you focused … having a dream, having a goal, staying motivated,” she said.
The girls’ office in the small business development center at 1510 Cecil B. Moore Ave. houses their vastly growing enterprise. The girls know that success comes from the inside, so rather than hire a public relations firm they have established their own Chi Chi and Chi Chi E promotional company to deal with the marketing, public relations, advertising and human resources areas of the industry.
“It’s a team … we wear many hats,” Chigozi said.
A physical therapy major, the younger Chi Chi has had to balance classes and late hours at the office too. The way she sees it, that degree in physical therapy is just a side project. For Chidelu, designing comes first.
“This business is just so stressful and so demanding, but doing what you want to do … it’s just worth it,” Chidelu said. “If fashion is your passion, everything just comes through. For an average person, the obstacles that we’ve had, they would have quit a long time ago. I’ve just had my eye on the prize … and having everyone know who we are and liking what we have is enough to keep me driven.”
Sammy Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.