She walks in calmly and stylishly, and I’m immediately struck by the cool vibe she’s giving off. Nikki Ogunnaike is every bit the almost mythical figure of a New York City fashion editor. Wearing a black blazer, an understated, staple piece, she somehow makes it look modern and fun, pairing it with a red crew neck and fantastically fashionable shoes. She’s polite and humble, practically the opposite of what you would expect from the Senior Fashion Editor for Elle.com, one of the industry’s most influential publications.
Nikki Ogunnaike was born in Virginia to Nigerian parents. Growing up there and attending the prestigious University of Virginia, Nikki considers herself a country girl at heart. Going against the typical desires of foreign parents to become a lawyer, doctor or engineer, and, in part steered by the influence of her sister, Lola, Nikki decided to become a journalist.
“My sister Lola is such an inspiration to me,” she tells us. It’s clear that her sister knew what all of us would come to discover — Nikki was destined for great things.
Journalism was not what Nikki’s parents initially expected from her. Her sister Lola had moved to the Big Apple and earned a job writing for the New York Times. When Nikki saw all the opportunities, room for growth, and big city experience her sister was receiving, she craved the same. She laughs, recalling initially how her parents were horrified by her career choice in fashion, but how they now “brag to their friends and family.” However, she never forgets, and pays homage continually throughout our interview, to her sister, who acted as the catalyst that Nikki’s parents needed to accept her profession.
“I’m not afraid of hard work.”
Two weeks after graduating from the University of Virginia, Nikki moved to New York and got an internship at Elle.com. To make money while pursuing her dream, she also worked at her brother’s wine store along with another part time job at Club Monaco. With Nikki’s drive and tenacity, it’s no surprise that, shortly thereafter, she scored a job as a Fashion Assistant at Vanity Fair. After that and a stint at In Style, she came back to Elle.
With that resume, she’s certainly an influencer to listen to. She graciously dropped some serious “keys to success” with us for those pursuing a career in the fashion industry. She tells HelloBeautiful,
“It’s a small industry. People will remember you. Move with kindness and gratitude. Staying nice and humble will only benefit you because 90% of the time you will come across the same people within the industry.”
Currently at Elle.com, Nikki is making a fashionable and impactful impression on the magazine and its readers. She founded a series called, Black In Style, which gives a platform to Black fashion influencers. (Here’s one she did with LaQuan Smith).
Speaking with her signature swag, she tells us how grateful she is to have a supportive platform like Elle, which gives designers a platform to be able to showcase their work and influence, and share what is happening in the fashion industry.
Since Nikki’s time at Elle, some noticeable changes and inclusions have been implemented. One of our favorites? Viola Davis gracing the cover of their magazine in her natural hair. Nikki feels it is important not only for just women, but also for black women to be able to feel confident in their natural hair, natural look and in their natural environments.
“My personal style is mix of classy, preppy, and a little edgy. I mean, as you can see, my hair is shaved around all sides. It’s a mix of all the influences I’ve had in my life.”
Much like you’d expect, her personal style is eclectic and, frankly, impeccable. Style is an evolution and Nikki is proof. She reveals that her style started off very “matchy,” reminiscing on how her “Banana Republic turtleneck would always match her Banana Republic sweater.” Her style has evolved due to the experiences and influences in her life, making her one of the most popular fashion editors on Instagram. But, unlike so many of her counterparts, she’s not phased by this. While she admits one can “profit off a good Instagram page,” she stresses the importance of authenticity. “Not every photo has to be retouched,” she warns. She also admits to just posting photos of what’s truly going on in her life. “It’s all about staying true to yourself and living an authentic lifestyle.”
People can smell b.s. a mile away, so it’s no surprise Nikki has grown a loyal following of fashion lovers and influencers. I mean, hey, who doesn’t want to see her Hermes sketch?! Personally, I follow her hashtag: #NikkisCostumes.
Each time I peruse her Instagram page, I constantly see supportive text from her sister Lola in the comment section. The sisterhood bond is real and strong. Nikki admits that Lola is her mentor and best friend who has inspired her throughout her journey.
While Nikki has her own personal style, she wouldn’t want to make any trend ‘go away.’ To her, style is about individuality and rocking and owning something you like, whether it’s “on trend” or not, is what is important. (The most epic of trends in her opinion? Denim).
Nikki reveals that being a fashion editor is hard work and challenging while being fun, thought provoking, and extremely rewarding. Bhind the glitz and glamour there is a lot of planning and editing that she cautions young women interested in the profession to realize. To keep stress to a minimum, Nikki enjoys running, no doubt how she keeps that amazing shape of hers.
Nikki Ogunnaike is definitely a woman in the fashion scene to watch as she uses her influence and style to introduce the masses to the idiosyncracies of fashion.