Grass to Grace Series (26): Veekee James’ rise from a dropout to celebrity fashion designer

 Grass to Grace Series (26): Veekee James’ rise from a dropout to celebrity fashion designer

Image Source: Bella Naija Image Credit: Veekee James

Ruth Erikan James, popularly called Veekee James, clearly fulfills the Proverbs 22:29 scripture: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings.”

Her grass-to-grace story shows that it is possible to live out your dreams regardless of your background. It’s a story of how talent, passion, determination, diligence, excellence, and consistency can set you above your peers.

Born and raised in Ajegunle

Image Credit: James Precious (Instagram)

The multi-talented owner of the Veekee James and Erikan fashion brands was born without a silver spoon. She was born and raised in Ajegunle. Veekee lost her father at the age of 5, and her mother, who was a tailor, was left to cater to the family, which included Veekee and her two younger brothers. She recalls being sent out of school for owing fees but received support from her uncles.

Ajegunle, akin to a slum, saw Veekee James and her family hustle to get a good place to bathe at the very least. According to Veekee, Ajegunle definitely isn’t a good place to raise a child. Veekee witnessed families who, through generations, remained stagnant, replicating the poverty of their fathers, and girls getting pregnant out of wedlock. Good role models were hard to come by, but her mother did all she could to raise her and her brothers right.

Fulfilling her family’s desires

Veekee’s AMVCA designs worn by Osas and Toke Makinwa
Image Credit: Veekee James

Veekee’s family wanted her to become a doctor. She was “Jambed by JAMB” three times before finally settling to study Biochemistry, a course she didn’t like, at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom.

Although she got financial assistance from her uncles in the first year of school, by the second year she started juggling school and entrepreneurship, focusing on makeup and hairstyling. She stated in an interview that she didn’t want to do tailoring, as she saw it as a poor man’s job because her mom didn’t make much money.

In her final year at the university, Veekee James had amassed carryover courses, causing lecturers to ask for sexual favors, the thought of which made her quit school. She returned to Ajegunle with disappointing news. Her mother, though heartbroken about her only daughter’s academic failure, did not fail to support her.

Little beginnings, tales of successes and challenges

Image Credit: Veekee James

On her return to Ajegunle, Veekee planned to start her makeup and hairstyling business, but many people—family and friends—were already in that line of business, making it saturated. So, she decided to switch to fashion.

Veekee James’ fashion enterprise began in her mother’s parlor. To boost her business, she took advantage of social media and invested heavily in photoshoots with well-known photographers, despite the expense. She got her big break when BellaNaija posted her outfit, leading to a breakthrough.


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Image Credit: Veekee James

Over the course of six months, she gained significant patronage and was able to save about ₦500,000 to rent a place in Magodo in 2018. Things began to change for her as soon as she left Ajegunle.

In 2020, Veekee moved to the Island, having saved about ₦5 million within a year and a half in Magodo. She was left with nothing after paying for the rent but followed God’s leading. The Akwa Ibom gospel minister, who now charges millions from ₦8,000 and occupies four duplexes in the Chevron area of Lekki admitted in an interview that was shocked by the swiftness and the manner of her lifting, though it was expected.

Veekee never went to fashion school nor did any formal training but learned sewing from her mother. Veekee, who has been sewing since primary school, says the Holy Spirit gives her designs, sometimes through dreams.

Her designs have made headlines on the AMVCA carpet and other events, having styled personalities like Osas Ighodaro, Toke Makinwa, Tomike, Funke Akindele, and a host of others.

On challenges, Veekee revealed that she had difficulties with location when starting, getting clothing materials in Nigeria, and idea theft.

Well deserved Recognitions

  • In 2019, Ruth Erikan James won the CarniCo 2019 fashion competition.
  • In 2021 she won the Fashion Stylist of the Year at the Sugar Awards.
  • In 2022, she won the Best Designer Award at the AMVCA and Fashion Designer of the Year at Herconomy.
  • In 2023, Veekee won the Prize for Fashion at The Future Awards Africa, Best Celebrity Stylist at the Readers Choice Awards and Bridal Fashion Designer Brand of the Year at the La Mode Awards.
  • In April 2024, she made the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list.

The mindset driving the success

Veekee is not one to doubt herself. Speaking on the fears she had while starting her business, she said, “Since I was born up until now, there is nothing I have put my hands to do that I failed at.”

When asked if she knew she would bep this great, the confident woman said, “I knew I was born for this, I just needed to put my mind to it. I have always known that I was going to be the one to take my family out of where we were. I am that promised child. I stand out wherever I go. My mom waited for five years to have me. She had me by prophecy; she was told that this was the girl that would change everything, and I did not doubt myself. I knew I just needed to keep pushing. This is me.”

In her words, “I’ve always been that girl that really just wanted to enjoy life, but I wasn’t born into that kind of life. So, everything I’ve done in life has always been towards being successful. I’ve always been a hustler because I wanted to make a name for myself and my family… I would say I am a girl that came out of nothing and did everything that she could to become what she always dreamt of becoming.”

Family is everything

Veekee James and her husband at her Ajegunle home
Image Credit: Veekee James

Veekee adores her mom and siblings, calling them her backbone and stating that she can do anything for them. Veekee, who is now married to her ex-friend’s former manager, Femi Atere, often makes her followers gush about the love they share.

Advice to fashion designers

Image Credit: Veekee James

Veekee’s advice to fashion designers is, “If you want to stay in the fashion business and don’t want to be forgotten soon, you have to be consistent with designs.” She also advised up-and-coming fashion designers to stand firm on pricing, so long as you are giving your clients their money’s worth. She says, “Your customers will adjust; stick to your price.”

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