It goes by many names – Exquisite African Fashions, African Fashions & More, and formerly Boutique Afrique – but the little maroon shop in Central Phoenix has probably slipped your gaze when heading down Indian School Road.
A turn south at A One Liquor or the La Paz Funeral Home brings you to an alley and some parking spaces for the African Fashions & More Boutique, 931 E. Indian School Road. Walking in, you are met with a stunning array of colors, textures, and merchandise.
Now meet the shop’s owner: Oluremi Ijirigho – or just Remi. She and her husband Bruce have owned and operated African Fashions & More since June 1, 2003, relocating to the current 10th Street and Indian School spot from the Azusa World Ministries Church Complex at 51st Avenue and Thomas Road in early 2012.
The shop does a good job of living up to the colorful “Everything African” banner across the storefront window. “It’s like a full fashion house,” Ijirigho says. “Because our goal is not to gather low-class things, we want [customers] to see African fashion in a different light.” The shop offers men's and women's clothing and dress shoes, accessories, contemporary and traditional beads, and “authentic African” fabric – meaning wax, cotton, and African laces.
Prices can range from a $5 bar of shea butter soap to a $200 pair of sparkling heels and back to $50 for six yards of pre-cut wax fabric. Many customers of African Fashions & More utilize the authentic fabrics to make their own traditional clothing. Ijirigho uses "different companies [from] different countries" as her fabric sources.
“Being Nigerian, you know, we are very fashion conscious,” Ijirigho says. It shows. A carefully crafted gele (or a head wrap) is displayed above Ijirigho’s smiling face, followed by vibrant beads, blouse, and skirt.
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A “Yoruba woman” (Yoruba being an ethnic group from West Africa), Ijirigho's title does not stop at shop owner – not even close. A prominent Phoenix figure, Ijirigho is a mother, a Christian, a storyteller, a dancer, a choreographer, a former registered nurse, and a mediator of traditional African marriages. Yeah. Ijirigho’s talents has made her an artist-in-residence at the Arizona Commission On The Arts, earned her a spot at the Arizona Alliance of Black School Educators, a storytelling guest at the Villa Montessori School, and much more.
A Phoenix resident since the mid-1980s, Ijirigho says she has seen Phoenix flourish, and she wants her shop to contribute. “So as Arizona is growing, I want the arts to grow,” she says. “We have a lot of Africans here, but I’m not gearing toward them, because this is where we come from, but we want other people who appreciate the African arts.” Ijirigho calls this the power of diversity.
Ijirigho says due to the location, she has diversified her clientele, which she enjoys because she is a people person. She says this skill is a “big strength that has helped me, and it brings all the kind of clients I have had.”
She explains her relationship with her customers can go beyond just trade. “We have a good rapport, they want to come back again,” she says, “I want people to know about the shop, because I have a lot to offer.”