Bishop's Stortford fashion designer is making Jehu-Cal a brand name to remember
A 21-year-old clothing designer from Bishop's Stortford is making waves in the fashion industry.
His brand, Jehu-Cal, is attracting attention from fashion publications, including Highsnobiety and V Magazine.
Emay Enemokwu began designing his own clothes when he was a student at The Bishop’s Stortford High School (TBSHS).
“I started designing when I was in my early teens and that was because I couldn’t afford the cool clothes back then,” said Emay. “I was looking at Margiela and Gucci and I couldn’t afford that, so I started drawing my own clothes at home.
“On the non-uniform days, I’m wearing Vans and Uniqlo and everyone else is wearing Ralph Lauren and all these designer brands, and I was just like ‘I wish I had this’.”
Emay left TBSHS after Year 11 and went to Herts and Essex High School, where he studied chemistry, biology, business and maths for A-levels.
“I’ve always loved fashion since I was young, but I didn’t know enough about it to go and study it or for me to take it up as my main course of education, so I thought I’d just stick to what I’m good at.”
Sticking to a more academic career path seemed like a safer option for Emay, so after sixth form he began studying accounting and management at the University of Kent, whilst continuing to design clothes in his dorm room.
“I just kept learning fashion on the side, so I’m reading articles, I’m going to London Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, I’m seeing all these different brands online,” he said.
At 19, he brought out his first T-shirt to sell online. “That was a ‘Never Been Safe’ T-shirt based on the Black Lives Matter movement,” he explained.
Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that campaigns against systematic racism and violence towards black people. It began in the USA after Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, was shot dead in Sanford, Florida in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer.
Black Lives Matter’s message resonated strongly with Emay, and he wanted to do something to raise awareness for the movement in the UK. “I thought the first T-shirt for my brand will be something I believe in strongly, so I brought out that one,” he said.
It sold well, not only in the UK but all over the world, and Emay was pleased as it got more people talking about the movement.
“It sparked a lot of conversations that I could then have with people on Facebook and Instagram, talking about why I made the T-shirt and what I believe in, et cetera, so it was a really good way to start the brand.”
Encouraged by the success of his fashion debut, Emay decided to manufacture and sell more of his designs in his online store.
“I think people don’t buy into the clothes, they buy into what the brand stands for and the story behind it,” he said.
Born in east London as Jehu-Cal Emmanuel Enemokwu, Emay was picked on at primary school because of his unusual first name.
He said: “You know how kids are, like, a funny name, they pick on that, and because of my appearance as well.
“I wasn’t witty back then, so I would retaliate, and I got in quite a lot of trouble in school.”
Emay and his family moved to Bishop’s Stortford when he was about eight years old, which gave him the opportunity for a fresh start. He started going by his middle name, which eventually became shortened to Emay. “It was like I was a new person,” he said.
Emay is now in his third year of university. A feature of his course is that he must spend a year working in industry, and he saw this as an ideal opportunity to work on his Jehu-Cal fashion label, but first he had to convince his tutors this was a good idea.
“They said no at first,” he said. “But after a lot of pushing and showing them what I can do, presenting to people and showing the brand, they said, ‘Yeah, you can take it out as a year and work on your brand solely for a year’. So that’s what I’m doing now.”
Emay is working from his parents’ home in Thorley Park, working from his old games room that he has converted into an office.
The eldest of three, Emay hails from a creative family. Sister Jessica, 19, another former Herts and Essex High School student, is studying biochemistry at the Queen Mary University of London, but is also a talented young actress and is a member of the National Youth Theatre.
His younger sister, Joanna, 12, also has a flair for performing arts. “She is part ofa Theatretrain,” said Emay. “I actually went to go and see her perform there, actually. She’s doing really well.
“So, we’re quite a creative family and quite sporty as well. Jessica is also first-team netball at university and I was playing first-team basketball at my university.
“We’re sporty, academic and creative, the whole family, so, yeah, it’s quite a good mix.”
To find out more about Jehu-Cal, visit www.jehu-cal.com, or check out the Instagram page: www.instagram.com/jehu_cal
More by this authorCat Barkley