You Can’t “Tie” Her Down: Valley Chats with Designer Nicolette Orji

1Fresh off her fashion debut last weekend, Valley sat down with the woman behind Billie Jean Bowties and Designs, Nicolette Orji, for the latest on her original line.


Valley: How did you get your start in fashion?

Nicolette: My passion for fashion started when I was in high school. I subscribed to Seventeen Magazine and Teen Vogue and was inspired by what I saw. I also started shopping at the thrift store in high school. That made me passionate about clothes because of the different options I had of putting an outfit together. I was able to showcase that passion and love when I came to Penn State. My sophomore year, I was the fashion show director for an event at Penn State Altoona called Taste of Africa. I had to help come up with the clothes, concepts, themes and music for the show and I really enjoyed doing that. After the show, it made me realize how much I wanted to be a part of the fashion world. It made me realize my calling in life.

V: How have you developed your brand, Billie Jean Bowties and Designs?

N: Being unique and staying true to myself is important. When I showcase myself to the world, whether it be how I dress, act, or present, I always want people to be amazed by what I do and how I carry myself. I’m always interested in things people don’t usually see a girl doing, especially things guys do- like menswear and DJing. I wanted to start a brand that represented my unique and bubbly self and a brand that would make the world go “Wow! This is unique! This is different! She is different!” I didn’t want to be the average girl who starts a brand for girls.

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V: What are some of the looks you’re working on this season?

N: This season I’m working on making outrageous, colorful, spunky bowties. Bowties people have never seen. Bowties people usually never wear. I’m also working on trying to expand my sewing skills so I can make dope outfits for my guys and also girls, in the future. One of my favorite pieces I have out now is my Lego bowtie because it reminds me of my childhood. My childhood represented such a happy time in my life that I cherish.  I had so much fun and I want people to feel that too, when they wear anything from my brand.

V: How did you come up with the name for your line?

N: I got the name of the line Billie Jean Bowties and Designs from another name that I go by, which is Nikki Billie Jean. My full name is Nicolette, so people sometimes call me Nikki. The “Billie Jean” part of my name I got from Facebook. In high school I decided to change my name on Facebook to “Nikki Billie Jean” in remembrance of Michael Jackson. He was a musical genius, broke world records and gave back to the community. He inspires me to go above and beyond. I also wanted the name of my line to represent who I was and I decided to call it Billie Jean Bowties. Before, I debuted my line at Touch of Africa one of my friends told me that I should add “& Designs” to Billie Jean Bowties so it can showcase more of what I can do.

V: Who/what is your fashion inspiration? 

N: I am Nigerian American and my African culture has inspired me by the colorful, bright African print we wear. The material I’ve made my bowties out of is from an African print called “ankara”. Janelle Monae also inspires me- she is so classy and unique. I wear my hair in a hairstyle similar to hers too. I hope to meet her one day and would love for her to wear one of my bowties.

V: Besides designing, you’re also a stylist, blogger, model and DJ. How do you juggle so many things?

N: My dad was a DJ and I always grew up in a house surrounded by music 24-7. I played the piano for 10 years and my dad’s side of the family is very musically talented. I was born to be apart of music I think. Music is my first love. In terms of my style, my parents always inspire me. I remember my mother fixing her Jeri curls and putting on red lipstick. I told myself that when I get older I wanted to dress like them. If my mother ever noticed that I was good at something, she always told me to go above and beyond to make sure I was good at it. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but that’s the joy of having so many talents. My goal is to conquer the world and blow people away.

V: How would you describe your personal style?

N: A colorful, classy, splash-of-vintage, freshness. I love to wear bright, colorful clothing, especially with prints, patterns and color! I’m a big fan of pants, especially 70‘s-ish wide leg pants that cover your shoes. They create the illusion that you’re taller and I love anything that makes me look tall. My favorite type of clothing that I can get from the thrift stores is a blazer – especially ones from the 80’s and 90’s era.

V: What piece of advice would you give Valley readers?

N: Remember the popular quote by Yves Saint Laurent, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.”

For more information on Nicolette’s line, upcoming events and style advice, check out these links:

Instagram: @billiejeanbowties

Photos courtesy of Billie Jean Bowties and Designs.

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