Faith Iloka ’21: A Reflection on Style and its Transformation
In this interview, Faith Iloka, Class of 2021, reflects on her journey through style. She defines the very intimate meaning that style holds for her. Through clothing, Faith has found a way of expressing herself, of differentiating herself from a sea of brand names and homogeneous fashion and clothing. For Faith, her pilgrimage of style started very early on, when she was around 3-4 years old, where her creativity with clothing and accessories showed a certain maturity for her young age. Faith reflects that it was when she began to thrift that she really developed the style that sticks with her today.
Name: Faith Ezinwanne Iloka ‘21
Hometown: Trenton, NJ (Born in Nigeria)
Intended Major: Psychology or African American Studies
Earliest Recollection of a “Style”
“When I was little I would always dress myself to be very extravagant. I remember my aunt would yell at my cousin for forgetting to wear some form of jewelry with her outfits saying, ‘Look at Ezii! You see how she compliments herself with accessories. Why can’t you be more like her?’ Imagine how awkward it was standing there and hearing that!”
I just loved to style myself. I didn’t really understand fashion though because I was usually made fun of for my clothing choices until high school. That’s when I really found myself within my thrifting. It became less of a forced thing--because that was my only option--and more of a me thing because I wanted to thrift; that is where I find the clothing items that I vibe with the most! Since then, I began thrifting on my own!
I think I also looked up to my sister. I don’t like to admit it to her but sometimes when she would wear something, I would be like, ‘I want that. I want that outfit.’ Whenever she would rock a certain style, I would judge her for it, but a year later, would find myself rocking that same style… it’s weird, I know! I remember she would look at me and say, ‘that’s what I used to wear!’ By the time we got to High school, our trends were very similar so it wasn’t like I was trying to copy her anymore (haha!). She would ask to borrow my clothes this time. That’s when I really started to make my fashion sense my own!”
“Elementary school Faith thought it was cute to wear very tight clothes and pants that were flowy at the bottom. I did not know how to match. So I would wear things that I thought looked cute, but didn’t really go with one another. It was simple: ‘This shirt is nice. This pant is nice. Let’s put it together!’ My shoes were not the best, either… probably because they were thrifted from the low-end stores.
One thing that always stuck with me was jewelry, to blend everything together.”
“Middle school Faith…she was much better. Much, much better! I remember when I was in 7th grade. I checked the weather, and it was supposed to rain. Immediately, I thought to wear a pair of rain boots that my mom bought me a few weeks ago; these rain-boots were very thick! They were actually snow-boots, but back then, I thought they were rain-boots, and I paired them with a shimmery blue mini-skirt that was a drastically different shade of blue. As soon as I walked into the school, my peers were looking at me like, ‘What are you wearing?!’ Basically, that day I was the laughing stock of 7th grade. I can even remember a group of girls who approached me and mockingly asked, ‘Are you dressed for summer or winter?’ I tried to defend myself by explaining why I made such a bold fashion choice (the “rain boots”) but it ended up not even raining that day! Not even the weather was looking out for me! Ever since, I told myself, ‘This is not happening to me again.’ So, matching my outfits and making sure that everything flowed became a priority. Not only that, but I made sure I was dressed for the weather.
8th grade was when I really began to receive compliments for my clothing because I started making my own pants and shorts. If I was not a huge fan of something I thrifted, but saw potential in it, I would sew it up or bleach it. Those little alterations I would make to my clothes symbolize the rebirth of fashion, my fashion!”
“9th grade I moved to a whole new school and my style was revamped and upgraded. I grew a love for oversized, vintage clothing! It was easy because the thrift stores that I would go to had just that, and I am fortunate to have a really good eye for what I want. Along with this, I started making money from programs at the Boy & Girls Club, so I used that money to shop at the mall, once in a while, and higher-end thrift-shops. From then on, things just got much better!”
How Faith Defines “Style”
“Style is self-expression. Style is a voice. An individual’s style is their way of expressing their mood, their paradigm... and even their values. Style is your personal belief and your outlet to really show the world who you are. Not only this, but style is much different from what is trending. Your style makes you unique; it makes you stand out. If you are blended with what is trending, that is a statement on its own!
For me, I choose to thrift because that is where I find pieces that people can’t get anywhere else. Ever since I started thrifting, people ask, ‘Where’d you get that from?’ I must admit, I used to be embarrassed to say “thrifted it” because back then, thrifting had a negative connotation. But as I grew to embrace my reality, I grew out of that embarrassment; if anyone asks me where I like to shop, best believe thrifting will be the first thing I say! (I’m a high-key advocate!)"
To sum it all up, style is just you being you, and not giving a fuck what anyone else has to say about it."
“Like I mentioned earlier, I’m very big on oversized clothing. I love oversized shirts that I can rock as sweater dresses and that I can fold into crop-tops. Versatility is key! The one thing that remains consistent with my choices, however, is comfort--”comfy cute or comfy chic”--meaning, no matter how dressy I am, I must maintain a level of comfort that allows me to move freely!
I am also more drawn to melanated colors that really compliment my complexion: blues, yellows, oranges, browns, nudes, and earthy tones.
Simple but loud.”
Faith’s style against the backdrop of Princeton’s style
“I do dress differently from people here, but it’s a good different. I have my own style. One thing about high school was that if people like your style, they were likely to try to copy it. In Princeton, there are so many people with so many different styles. No one is really trying to copy your look because they are all living their lives. I find myself admiring what people wear here, mostly Asians. I’ll just put it out there, Asians have a really nice sense of style, one of the best that I’ve seen across college campuses! It’s nice to converse with people about their clothing preferences; I’m always so intrigued about how others create their own looks, and from what stores they buy their apparel.”
“Something I can’t go without on a daily basis is... every single piece of jewelry that I have on right now! Rings, earrings, necklace, bracelets, and my waist beads sometimes. They are just things I have been wearing since I was little. An outfit can be plane, but jewelry makes it…just…amazing! If I’m not wearing my ring, I feel empty. If I’m not wearing my necklace, I feel empty. Even without knowing what it is that I forgot to put on, I can sense that there is something missing, it’s weird! I don’t change my jewelry a lot, either, because I really value them; most of them are gifts that I’ve received from loved ones, or ones that I stole from my mom (lol). When someone gives me a piece of jewelry, I wear it to show my appreciation, and it’s the best thing to see them so happy that you actually wear it! If you were to catch me any day and ask about the accessories I’m wearing, I bet I can tell you a story of each of them! There’s so much history to them, it’s ridiculous!
Fashion makes me happy.”
Follow Faith’s Blog: https://uniquellyfaith.wordpress.com
Follow Faith on Instagram: @naijaqueen_faith
This interview has been edited for clarity.