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Yvonne Ben brought her passion for fashion from Nigeria — and slayed

It can sometimes take time and distance to appreciate what you have – or maybe just to reignite the passion you had for something you’ve grown accustomed to. It took Yvonne Ben more than 10,000 kilometers and a year away from her home city of Eket in southern Nigeria to remember her love of African fashion.
Yvonne Ben recalls the time she wore her own dress design — to her first Aso ebi wedding (Video footage courtesy: Nelson Nwogu / Studio Kaoxx) 1:26

It can sometimes take time and distance to appreciate what you have – or maybe just to reignite the passion you had for something you've grown accustomed to.

It took Yvonne Ben more than 10,000 kilometers and a year away from her home city of Eket in southern Nigeria to remember her love of African fashion.

(Nelson Nwogu / Studio Kaoxx)

Growing up, Yvonne's favourite day was Saturday, when her mother would ask the local seamstress to come by the house. Yvonne would wait impatiently, peeking out the window so she could be the first to meet the seamstress and get her hands on the catalogues before her sisters had a chance.

A birthday, a graduation, a wedding – it didn't matter. They were all occasions that called for something new and fabulous.

And Yvonne was always fabulous.

(Nelson Nwogu / Studio Kaoxx)

When Yvonne left for Canada, by herself, to attend university, she brought two things: her ambition to be a doctor and a box full of her most vibrant African print dresses.

She spent her early days in Waterloo, Ontario trying to figure out her new life and keep her grades up. As the months passed, Nigeria – and her passion for fashion and design – began to fade and her box of dresses was left unopened and forgotten.

(Nelson Nwogu / Studio Kaoxx)

But a subsequent move brought the box back into view. Yvonne flung it open and felt instantly transported back to Nigeria.

She knew right then that she had a new direction in life: "I think when I look back at the moment I dusted that box I'm thinking, thank God because if I had just pushed it to the side and thought, 'Oh, I'll open this later,' I wouldn't have reconnected with my love for African fashion. If I hadn't opened that box, I wouldn't have found this passion."
 

About the producer

Naheed Mustafa
Naheed Mustafa is an award-winning producer, writer, and broadcaster. She began her career as a freelance reporter when she left Canada and moved to Pakistan where she worked for both local English language media as well as newspapers back home. After coming back to Canada, Naheed added broadcasting to her list of media platforms and became a regular documentary contributor at CBC Radio. Alongside documentary, Naheed has also worked as a producer for a variety of news and current affairs programs at CBC Radio including Dispatches, As It Happens, The Current, and Ideas. She will spend the upcoming year as a William Southam Journalism Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto as the CBC/Radio-Canada fellow.

Special thanks

The video at the top of this page features fashions from designers ÖFUURË, Zeena Kay, Miss Beida, and Kyle Gervacy. Thanks also to Nelson Nwogu of Studio Kaoxx for the use of photos and video from the Yvonne Ben for KAOXX Visuals shoot.