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Observations: Steven Onoja On Restructuring The Human Mind


Steven Onoja is a Nigerian-born fashion consultant, photographer, creative director, and content creator residing in New York City. Steven first discovered his love for art at a young age and soon began to develop an interest in painting. He came to the fashion capital of the U.S. at the age of 20 where he began working in an art gallery, developing his artistic skills, and competing in several art competitions. Steven’s love of art soon merged with his passion for fashion. His stylistic vision is very urban and designed with the creative individual in mind.

Steven’s first brand, Ostentation and Style, opened up the doors for him to work with companies like Nike, Levis, Herschel Supply, Kato Brand, Raen Optic, M. gemi, and Fossil. He has been featured in publications such as GQ, Details, Ebony, and Men in this Town. He has also worked with brands like Conair, Crown Royal, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, and Amazon.

Steven looks back at his success so far as a warm-up. He is ready to crank up the heat as he evolves into an individualist in the blogosphere using a combination of his writing and photography talents. His work is influenced by everyday life, culture, and fashion and he hopes that his creativity will inspire other Black creatives to find their place among the artistic world. Steven is a true source of inspiration and a reminder of what you can accomplish when you choose to share your passions with the world. 

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What inspired the expansion of your brand beyond working at an art gallery to the many different creative avenues it is today?

I grew up thinking the art world, literature, was a haven for those not otherwise accepted anywhere else. I grew up admiring paintings of contorted faces and abstract women. Nonetheless, I was able to escape from a world that didn’t accept me for who I was and I got older and discovered works by people who shared my tawny hue and read about people and history. I knew I wanted to be a part of this. But it’s a whole different world when you go from reader to writer, when you go from appreciator to photographer or painter. Behind the scenes is a world that is not different from the world I grew up in. I’ve realized there isn’t much room for black creatives specifically africans. We are so invisible within the art world that it just isn’t heard of. 

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How old were you when you migrated to the United States and how did those early years living in Nigeria influence your career? What are your other influences?

I moved to the state when I was 20 to further my education. At 18, I was fearful, something like a mad man that I wouldn't know how to get where I wanted to be. But now that I’m doing what I love, I realize it’s much more about liking who you are when you get to where you wanna be. Don't settle for anything less. Life is far too short to just be OK, though some days it’s all you can be. I’m in my early thirties and it's all I can do to keep my youth in check – work harder, take better care of myself, prepare to be a good husband and father (if life sees fit to grant it) and keep myself grounded. And my mom is one of my biggest influences. I am working to build a life representative of the early 20th century: a dedication to things well-made, to camaraderie, to feeling proud of the work put into the world. We all learn our way.

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How have recent events including the global pandemic affected your creative process?

It definitely affected my creative process most importantly not being able to travel or explore places I would have loved to experience. I decided to focus on creating indoors, despite the limitations. 

What inner work have you put into practice to stay inventive?

As a writer I take inspiration from everything around me. As a creative person I look to my surroundings and build from there. A talented artist will tell you the same, but I live in a world where everything around me is touched by the phenomenon that is influenced. 

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As an inspirational entrepreneur, what is your message to creatives aspiring to bring their message to light especially during these times of uncertainty?

Use what you have to get what you want.

Lastly, what can we expect to see from your brands in the next few months to a year?

I am currently working on a personal project. It’s going to be a photo book honoring my late mother.

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Producer: Raven Irabor
Talent: Steven Onoja
Photographer: Makeda