Ruth Osime (RO) is one of the most influential women in Nigeria fashion today. She is the Editor of one of the country’s famous Newspaper pull out magazines.
Editor, is what myself and a small band of beautiful and fashionable girls who have worked or still work under her have come to know and refer to her as. I can remember vividly the first day I started work, while I was still working under her, when the new Style magazine had just been revamped and re-launched, we were at a brief team meeting, myself, Nafisah Mohammed and Nike Olakunrin, Ruth Osime started by saying, “I want you girls to refer to me as Editor, don’t want anyone calling me aunty or by my name either as I am not your mates”. That definitely spelt it out for all of us and left a strong impression about the kind of woman we will be working with- one that knows exactly what she wants and bluntly spells it out for you, she does not miss her words.
Under Ruth Osime’s direction, Style has been hugely successful. The weekly pull out hits the streets on Sunday and both women and men eagerly read through the glossy pages to see who made the Cover, the ‘IT’ fashionable lists or who was seen at the most fashionable parties of the week. Like the Style magazine girls will arguably say, “If you are not in Style then you are not in style”.
For 11 years, this confident single woman and first born of four children (two sisters and a late brother) has worked at Thisday Newspaper. She started with writing a weekly column called ‘Truth By Ruth”, a column that was very successful as everyone looked forward to her blunt and brutal honesty with the issues confronting our daily lives and the society in general, according to her “it was a huge hit as I touched a few raw nerves and spoke the truth as I saw it, no holds barred! Till today, people still miss it and urge me to resurrect it but Style consumes all my time”.
A lot of people do not know the real Ruth Osime, they only know of her from what they see in fashion magazines or gossip columns. The real Ruth Osime however studied Clothing and Textiles at Waltham Forest College and Kilburn Polytechnic both in England, after which she returned to Nigeria in 1990 and opened a fashion store called “Just Ruth”, this she successfully ran for 10 years and decided to seek something more adventurous within her calling as she’s always been a natural writer, according to her “ I've always been a prolific writer and used to even compose letters for my friends when we were younger”. She joined Thisday in 2000 and the rest as you know, is history!
Ruth Osime oversees the pages of the weekly pull out Style magazine and under her leadership the magazine comes to life. She graciously takes time to speak to Onobello.com, and holds no bounds.
OB: Would you consider yourself the most powerful woman in fashion in Nigeria?
RO: I wouldn't use the word 'most powerful'. Maybe 'one of the most influential' because fashion is a very wide spectrum and there are other people in the industry who are just as influential.
OB: Most people also see you as ambitious, driven, and a perfectionist, what do you have to say to this? And might that be the reason for you remaining single?
RO: Show me a successful person in their chosen careers who is not ambitious or a perfectionist? It goes with the territory. To succeed in life, you cannot embrace mediocrity in your chosen vocation. And you drive your team with the same vigour to get the desired results. Ambition and drive, and hardwork are three key ingredients required to make your mark. There are no half-measures. The climb to success is tough. Always has, always will, but its a small price to pay if you enjoy what you do.
OB: Tell us who the real Ruth Osime is?
RO: You have worked with me and seen the other side of me. At work I'm driven and expect nothing less from my team. Little tolerance for laziness and inability to execute instructions. But at the same time, compassionate if need be. I also give praise when due to encourage them and advice as and when required to the best of my capability. To my friends and family, I am a good laugh, loyal friend and always there when needed. I might not spend enough time with all of them but they know I love and respect them and value their presence in my life. They separate the Ruth they know from the Ruth the public sometimes wrongfully or rightfully perceive. Hazards of the job! (Laughter).
OB: Do you think your position as the Editor of Style has made you a gossip column magnet?
RO: Of course! Thankfully over the years, I've been given a break. Fingers crossed that it remains so. I believe they have much more interesting people to talk about now. Overflogging the same person continuously is a tad boring don't you think?
OB: Do you think Style is the best of everything that fashion can offer in Nigeria?
RO: I won't be immodest and say 'the best' but it ranks quite high up there in the fashion scene in Nigeria. I've even been told the Sunday paper is referred to as 'his and hers' so I guess that speaks for itself in terms of its success.
OB: Are you involved in every detail of the magazine: the clothes, editing the pictures and articles?
RO: Very much so! Right down to the last letter.
OB: How would you say you run the magazine, is it a democracy or what you say is what goes in?
RO: Naturally. That's the job of an Editor. At the same time, I brainstorm with my team regularly and accept their ideas if I know it will work. They have also learnt to think out of the box, which is good for them. You are a living example! (Laughter).
OB: I started work in fashion journalism working under you at Style and did so for over 5 years before leaving to start Onobello.com, I must confess that you are intimidating, at first impression you seem like a person who shows no emotions but in the period I worked with you I came to know that you are actually a very soft and emotional person, why do you put up that intimidating and emotionless front? (Laughs…)
RO: The truth is, for you to run any business especially with all women, you have to be stern when it comes to work otherwise no defined line would be drawn. So sometimes you are draconian in your approach to tighten the reins and other times, you have a good laugh to show you are human. Bosses are never tops in popularity stakes because they are the ones that have to call any erring staff to order. That in it sometimes might require a firm hand, which might be seen as intimidating or harsh. But like I said before, mediocrity on my team is not acceptable and you can see the results weekly. At the same time I believe I am somewhat approachable because we do share jokes and laughter so its not all 'stone faced' all the time!
OB: You have made yourself the personification of style. There’s hardly a hair out of place when you are out at public gatherings. You always look perfect. Does your position/status call for you to be to appear perfect or its just who you are?
RO: Well a bit of both actually. I love clothes. Always have. So its not difficult for me to try and look good at all times. I love to dress up. But at work and at home, I'm much more casual.
OB: You obviously have a natural eye for fashion which is key, so what will you say bores you in fashion?
RO: Repetition of the same concept from various designers. I also find simple very simple cuts boring. Not my style. Luckily, most designers here have come into their own and there's a distinctive difference in their designs now. We have contributed in upping the ante, which is good.
OB: I know a lot of people would love to raid your closet; endless piles of designer clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, what is the most expensive piece in your closet and what designers do you favour?
RO: I can't tell you that! I love most of the designers especially the top five. No names please! (Laughter).
OB: What fashion items do you collect most?
RO: All of them…shoes, clothes, watches, jewellery…anything that tickles my fancy. Though maybe shoes rank on top of the list.
OB: Would you consider yourself a shopaholic?
RO: Very much so but I believe I have toned it down considerably.
OB: Give us an insight into your personal style?
RO: I love glamour. Elegance is key. I am not into simple cut clothes though I admire the look. I love quirky aesthetic designs. The more complicated the cut, the better. I also love billowy outfits in the softest texture with some sheen. Grecian designs are another favourite.
OB: Are you thinking that it may soon be time to pack it all in, retire from the madness and pressure of journalism?
RO: I've been thinking of that lately but the truth is, journalism is an ageless job so depending on the joy you derive from it, you can go on forever. Look at Anna Wintor! Ask me again next year! (Laughter).
OB: What do you do when you are not working?
RO: Hanging out with family and friends or staying in bed all day watching television or movies. Bliss!
OB: What advise will you give to younger people aspiring to build a career in fashion?
RO: First of all, be prepared for the inhumane hours, learn the grind and pace and never ever just see it as a 'glamorous' job because a lot of sweat and tears go with the job behind the scenes to create the beauty you see from the end result. Behind every successful debut, be it a magazine, a shop or a collection, many man-hours with little or no sleep has been spent to achieve it. So if you do not have the drive and determination, it’s not a terrain to enter. Fashion is certainly not just about glamour!
OB: Please pick your top 10 pieces from African designers collections that showed at the recently concluded Arise Magazine Fashion Week, Lagos 2011.
I loved Odion Mimonet's blue dress, which I wore. Lanre Da Silva's gold lace dress with the pink layers. Tiffany Amber's grey beaded long dress. Ituen Bassey's orange/black mini dress that graced our cover. Kluk CDGT’s white long lace dress. Bunmi Koko's orange dress with the frills. Kortu Momolu's grey jersey long dress. Lisa Folawiyo's dress with the beaded flaps. Zuly Bet's long beaded black dress with the hood. Samantha Cole's tops with the ballooned sleeves. Lola Faturoti's oranage silk top and black loose pants. Maki Oh's purple tassled dress. Maatano's brown jersey short dress. Ere Dapper's beaded evening gown and Deola Sagoe's pink/black jacket worn over a blue lace dress with pink underlay!
Wow…I believe that's like 15 outfits in total? Now you can see how much I love clothes! (Laughter).