Staff writer Giulia Leo sat down with Lenora Biche, a JCU student to discuss fashion, self-expression and much more.
By Giulia Leo / Staff Writer
Lenora Biche is a senior John Cabot student, graduating in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. During her second year of university, she became a RA, motivated by the desire to help others. Today, she owns the clothing line BICHEdesigns, which uses African traditional fabrics to produce a unique type of streetwear. I sat down with Leonora to grab my usual virtual coffee and find out more about her.
Why did you decide to study Business Administration and Entrepreneurship?
Actually, I started as an Economics and Finance major. In high school, I was good at Economics and Business, but I was also told that I had a great inventive and that I was particularly creative. For this reason, I was trying to find something that was a mix of the two, and I thought that Economics and Finance was a good place to start. However, in my second year, I realized I wanted to get involved in the field of Business. When I had to choose between Business Administration and International Business, I was initially skeptical on which one to pick. However, I finally went for Business Administration, because I concluded it would have trained me better to become a leader.
Speaking of leadership positions, you were also Resident Assistant at JCU, why did you decide to become one? What did you like the most about it?
I was supposed to come to JCU in Spring 2017. Unfortunately, I did not have my paperwork and documentation ready by then, so I had to wait until next Fall to enroll. However, during the Spring 2017 semester, I got a friend request from a girl names Sierra Wharton. Back then, all I knew was that she went to John Cabot. Apparently, Sierra was meant to be my RA as well as my roommate during that semester. Sierra and I had the best relationship, and we are still very close today, four years later.
I received so much from Sierra when she was my RA. I decided to become an RA myself precisely to give back. I wanted to be able to be there for others, because I knew what it meant to leave everything behind and move to a completely new country. Then, of course, there are several benefits that come with being an RA: you get free housing, a meal plan and leadership training.
I’d say that the thing I liked the most was the fact that I found myself in that position. In Cameroon, I was always in leadership positions, but when I first came to JCU I suddenly became very quiet. I think that I was scared because I was new, and I didn’t know my way around. However, when I became an RA, that shell I had built around me finally broke, and the Lenora from two years before came back to life. As time went by, my position allowed me to become even bolder and more assertive, and it shaped me into the person I am today.
You own the clothing line, BICHEdesigns. What inspired you to create it?
I always knew I wanted to work in fashion. However, my idea of fashion does not simply revolve around wearing clothes. I intend fashion as a tool to spread my culture, gain confidence, and express my identity. Buying an item of clothing, to me, is not about buying a product, but a feeling.
BICHEdesigns was born from the wish to realize two goals of mine: to become a fashionista and to honor my culture. Most of the time, people don’t really know what African clothes are like or what they’re about. So I thought, “let me teach people more.” BICHEdesigns aims at creating to educate, and it does it by combining tradition and everyday life. BICHEdesigns offers clothes that people would wear on a daily basis, but that also embrace my own tradition.
I see you recently created your own masterclass on how to give one’s closet a makeover. Where did the idea come from?
I’m a very creative person, and I’m always looking for ways to make my ideas and projects come to life. That process became easier when I started working with a business coach. I happened to win a giveaway of hers and, since then, she has been training me to become a business and stylist coach. Not only did she provide me with a space where I could express myself, but she also constantly motivated me to do better and believe in myself. One of the first things my coach wanted me to do was create this masterclass. After one week of knowing her, we immediately started working on the webpage, and I created the content for the class. I still can’t understand how I was able to do all of it in so little time. I guess I always had it in me.
When I had to pick a topic, I knew I wanted to teach people how to declutter and get rid of clothes they don’t feel confident or represented in. My goal for the masterclass was to guide people on how to express their true identity through what they wear. So far, I’ve worked with a great variety of people. Some were older than me, others younger; some were businesspeople, other CEOs…but they all wanted to find themselves through clothing.
I conducted the class with the intent of teaching people that looking good is not about wearing clothes. It’s a mindset that derives from finding out what belongs to you.
As our time together came to an end, I thanked Lenora for taking a virtual coffee with me. When I clicked the “end call” button, I couldn’t help but feeling inspired. Lenora’s passion and determination left a smile on my face, as I kept thinking about her words:
“My mission is not to impose my own style on others, but to help them find out what message they want to spread through clothing, and how to use fashion to tell their story.”