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Jean Genie 

Thursday, Sep 30 2004
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Photos by Jenafer Gillingham

“My main inspiration comes from the shape of a woman,” says Christopher Enuke, who transforms denim into design with his line Oligo Tissew (a term he coined to mean “refined cloth”). His bootylicious jeans are engineering magic that make a gal look like she spends 30 hours a day doing Pilates: bias-cut fabrics; curved waistbands that are higher in back and lower in front, which lengthens legs and torso; and cleverly placed darts and reverse-stitched seams that further flatter the figure. It’s SoCal’s wardrobe staple re-created as super sexy architecture. “There are a thousand and one people cutting jeans. We are making a jean that’s completely different but still looks like a jean. I don’t just charge for the wash — I charge for the structure.”



Silk-and-cashmere knit blouse
with vintage cotton jeans



Enuke, who started Oligo Tissew nearly two years ago, always knew he wanted to do a different kind of denim; however, he started making his mark in knitwear with his innovative handmade line Oliver Twist, which has been an on-and-off venture — in between jobs designing for companies such as BCBG and Jag Jeans — since he started it some 14 years ago (it’s very on these days). He and wife Amy Enuke, a glamorous multitasker who runs the business side as well as doing the graphic design and modeling for the company’s look books, work out of a studio downtown that testifies to the Enukes’ growing success: stacks and stacks of jeans ready for shipping, the ever-ringing phone, stylists seeking trousers for celeb clients (Nicole Kidman, Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow are reportedly fans).



Rayon knit blouse and rayon
knit plaited skirt



Yet the runway to becoming a designer wasn’t easy — he had to fight for it. “My mom was a designer,” says Enuke, who grew up in London where he attended boarding school, and lived for three years in Nigeria where his parents are from. “I grew up with five sisters — they all could sew. So I was a victim before I knew what I was a victim of. I couldn’t seem to get enough of it. I was fascinated by it.” However, his mathematician father, who owned an architecture firm, wanted him to pursue architecture or engineering. “Fashion designer wasn’t quite accepted in Nigeria,” Enuke says. He took the unheard step of moving away from home and studying textile at art school — a more acceptable subject — and after two years his father finally gave Enuke his blessing. “He said, ‘You fought for it long enough. You must want it and believe in it, so go ahead and sew.’ ” Enuke moved to L.A., where he graduated from Otis Parsons.



Raime knit blouse with cotton
denim short shorts



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The desire to push fashion forward as well as his bicultural background informs his design: “The English aspect is the vanguard thinking, while the Nigerian is in the colors and the unorthodox.” The bow and the star that adorn the pockets of his jeans are more than trendy details. “The remembrance bow is to remind us of underprivileged children, and the star represents what they should become if given a chance,” explains Enuke, whose company sends money to his parents’ village in Nigeria, Akumwantauno, to pay for teachers’ salaries and scholarships (his father administers the foundation).

“We are not just cutting jeans.”



Christopher Enuke


MODEL: Amy Enuke

HAIR & MAKEUP: Daina Sher

JEWELRY: Quartz crystal necklace by Gabriella Artigas

Oligo Tissew/Oliver Twist available at Native, 5915 Franklin Ave., (323) 962-7710; Politix Women, 8522 Beverly Blvd., No. 607, (310) 854-0070; Hollywood Trading Co., 420 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 451-9002; Bleu, 454 S. La Brea Ave., (323) 939-2228.

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