Agathe Ngo Likoba presents her collection of beautifully feminine jumpsuits on the runway at New York Fashion Week
Debuting her fall line at Fashion Week New York this week, fashion designer Agathe Ngo Likoba has a fresh and exciting line of jumpsuits which are bringing practicality, timeless style, and a little Parisian influence to the runway and to women’s closets everywhere. What’s even more exciting is that about an hour and a half’s drive away in Derby, Connecticut, Agathe is opening up her new boutique, the only boutique of its kind to offer high-end haute couture and prêt-à-porter jumpsuits that are perfect for everything whether it’s a day at the office, a night out on the town, or orchestra seats at the latest Broadway show.
The beautifully feminine jumpsuits are all graced with the Likoba® logo, a poised swan silhouette adorned in 24 karat gold. I had the privilege of talking with Agathe about her inspiration, her new line, and what she loves most about Fashion Week.
The Likoba line of jumpsuits is stunning. What was the inspiration behind the line?
The inspiration comes from the time I spent in Bruges, and seeing women dressed up all the time, going to polo matches and other high fashion events. My mother is my biggest inspiration, because she has always been very sophisticated and elegant, even at home. I lived in Paris before moving here. Also women from the ’50s and ’60s, I like Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren, even Joan Collins. It’s very old but it never goes out of style, and they really inspire me.
The jumpsuit concept is quite unique, and a great combination of elegance and practicality. When a designer first sets out to create haute couture, jumpsuits aren’t the first thing that comes to mind, so what led you to focus on the jumpsuit design?
I used to run track and field, and I never liked those shorts! I just like to focus on my running. I don’t want something coming up, my bottom is showing, stuff like that. So one day I went to a little boutique in Paris, and I saw something that wasn’t attractive at all. It was actually a jumpsuit. But when I tried it on, I thought this is amazing! Why aren’t there more jumpsuits? I started looking for jumpsuits everywhere I would go. I thought, this would be ideal for women. We have a lot of stuff in our closets, and it’s always a problem to figure out what she’s going to wear, the pants and top, and trying to match it and put it together. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could just have one piece? You don’t have to spend so much time thinking about it, and you get to look really elegant and don’t have to try so hard. I decided I want to create this, I want to make jumpsuits. I want to be that person who’s going to come out with something really different that combines the old school like Jackie Kennedy and Coco Chanel, but in today’s style. I’m always looking for ideas to make the jumpsuits very interesting. The next high fashion collection is going to be really extravagant. I am hoping somebody’s going to wear one of my jumpsuits to the Met Gala.
Since launching your line in 2016, you’ve come a long way in two short years. Is this your first time at New York Fashion Week?
Yes, it’s really exciting! In my first show people went nuts. Oh my gosh, you only design jumpsuits? Nobody’s doing that. I want to be that person who creates this for women.
What are you looking forward to most for this Fashion Week?
I’m excited for people to see what I’m offering, and I’m hoping that some of the celebrities are interested in wearing my jumpsuits to really get it out there. Also I’m opening the new boutique on Saturday, so hopefully a lot of people will come. I would love to also have a boutique in Greenwich or in the Hamptons, or in LA in the future, but step by step.
At every Fashion Week, designers aren’t always offering fashions that are terribly practical, which is very different from what you are doing. Do you think we’re going to see more designers moving into more practical implementations of fashion this fall and in the coming year?
I have been seeing that! I think a lot of designers are going to get ideas, and adding more and more. I’m excited to just be that designer that only offers jumpsuits, and to have the boutique where women can actually come and find all kinds of jumpsuits. It’s not like when they go to a store and there’s only one jumpsuit here or there. They have a lot of options.
You can definitely see that Parisian influence in your designs, and the influence of some of those fashion icons you mentioned. Tell me more about your background, and how you came to be a fashion designer.
I was born in Cameroon, and my family moved to France when I was six years old. I spent all my summers in Bruges. I went to school for nursing, but in the meantime, I had this idea, so I was working quietly on fashion in my home, just doing research to find jumpsuits and see how they were made and what was wrong with them, why they wouldn’t fit right, and why women don’t buy more jumpsuits, and why no designers are offering them. I studied the business models of Chanel, Prada and H&M, because I didn’t really know that industry. It was new to me, but I had this brilliant idea and had to learn the business side while also learning about design. All those years, I had to learn to do all those things, without going to fashion school. I spent a lot of time doing market research, consumer behavior, shopping habits. I was really interested in fashion, but was working in the operating room! In between operations I would get ideas and draw, and as time passed I got better at drawing so I could express myself and put down on paper what I really liked. It’s been a process of 16 years to this point, and it’s been a lot of work. I was determined to create a jumpsuit line, which nobody has done before. Once they put it on, they feel very feminine and chic, and they look happy.
You’ve done work with Junior Achievement as well. What sorts of things do you bring to the kids in the Junior Achievement club?
I talk to kids about how I started my project, moved to the United States and how I chose my business. This year I’m going to high schools and teaching them about entrepreneurship, how to start a business and the steps you need to follow and keep yourself motivated. How to make a business plan, how to get customers, how to grow nationally and internationally, and where to go for funding. I teach them al these things, but mostly it’s how to follow your dream and to say, I have this idea and have to try it.
Your new boutique in Derby, Connecticut is an exciting development, tell me more about it.
I wanted to bring a little bit of Parisian atmosphere to Derby. A place where women can go, socialize, and feel like they’re going to get special treatment. The boutique is very clean, it’s not overcrowded. It’s like if you went to a boutique in Paris near the Champs-Élysées. That’s what I want to give my customers. I have the high fashion and the ready-to-wear, and the ready-to-wear is affordable for everyday women and still gives them the elegance, nice cut and fitted look, but it’s more affordable. Then we’ll have the high fashion, which is more for the rich and famous. I want women to be able to come in and feel like they’re on Fifth Avenue, on the Champs-Élysées or in a high fashion store in Milan. I want to bring that European feel to Derby. I also have cosmetics which is my own brand, and ites for men because I don’t want anybody to feel left out!
What sets the cosmetics line apart?
What sets it apart is that it’s natural. It’s like if you took products from your garden. It’s a natural skincare that is very efficient. That sets it apart, because when you put it on, you don’t even feel like you have something on. That goes for the makeup also, it’s very light, not so heavy, and very efficient. And, the packaging is very chic, almost like Chanel packaging.
You mentioned you’ll have a few men’s accessories too at the boutique, which I think is great, because you need to give us guys something to do other than sit there and hold our wife’s purse. What kind of men’s accessories will you have?
I have men’s ties and cufflinks, also with nice packaging. The reason I came up with that is when women come and spend a ton of money, they have to go home to their husbands with a gift, so the husbands won’t be so upset at the amount of money they’re going to spend!
Good point! That sounds wonderful, and I just wanted to say merci, et bon chance with the store and fashion week!
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.