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Chris Aire
{Last update 14-04-2015}

The name Chris Aire may not ring a bell in Ivue, a quiet village located in Uromi Local Government Area of Edo State. Although a progeny of the famous Iluobe family in Esan Kingdom and a world-class citizen, his face isn’t popular on Nigerian television stations and his many nicknames are not known to a lot of Nigerians.Maybe, a few folks from home could still remember the calm but stubborn

Airemiokhai, who played, cried and possibly fought with other children as they sauntered through earth roads to and from school. Maybe, the local church warden, who officiated during his confirmation, might still remember his innocent but determined face.To those, who saw him grow up back then, there was nothing so spectacular about Chris.  In a family over a hundred children shepherded by a cast-iron disciplinarian and an influential business magnet, it could have been difficult to predict which child would stand out in the crowd.

Therefore, Airemiokhai was just one of those boys who could grow up to be either a star or a scar in his family.

But Chris, the humble boy, who left home many years ago to seek for greener pastures; has crafted a large niche for himself by making a bold statement in the global fashion market. 

Born from a wealthy family, the dogged boy, Chris, literarily wrestled with the gods. He left his father’s business empire and launched into the murky job market at age 18. He had very little in his pocket when he stubbornly strutted out of the comfort of home and the warmth of a big family.  On arrival at the United States, he settled for a music career in Memphis. The music thing didn’t work.  Just as life showed him the other side of opulence, his dad demanded his immediate return to Nigeria. Chris would not.  And for daring to disobey, he was unilaterally omitted in the father’s will.

Not given to throwing a pity party, Chris took a few actions that underlined his independence. One of such actions was the incision of a part of his local name, “Airemiokhai.”  Airemiokhai is a derivative of two Esan words, “Aire,” meaning “drawing close” and “Okhai,” meaning “greatness.” His name literarily means “drawing close to greatness.” But standing at the crossroads of destiny, he decided to cut-off Okhai from his name, apparently to make it shorter and easier for people in his new neighbourhood to pronounce. The decision might have also underscored the potential brand and swagger in the man.

With failure staring him in the face like the Sword of Damocles, he left Memphis for Los Angeles, where he tried his hands on acting. In Los Angeles, Chris enrolled in school and flipped burgers to support himself. The future looked as bleak as his pocket but his never-say-die spirit was stronger. At a time he was broke and had no job, so he took a chance and borrowed $900 with which he paid to attend a self-help seminar. It was at that seminar that his “eboh” (god) linked him to a kindred spirit. He met and became a friend to a boy whose father was in the jewelry-mounting business. Chris didn’t waste the opportunity because it later brought the real “Aire,” to his “Okhai.” For over six solid years, the lone Esan boy plunged himself not only to friendship with the jeweler’s son but also apprenticeship in jewelry making. In time, he found his feet. He discovered his creative potential and suddenly, he was ready to showcase the great ideas locked up in his small frame.

He was ready to sell jewelries he did not have to stars he never met in his life; a tall dream! Even when his temperament for success was firing from all salvos, the Esan boy had no money and no gem stones. He had a name that bespeaks of a sound brand, “Chris Aire,”

And he used it to the maxima. He started hanging around places where stars frequented and did not miss any opportunity to sell the story of his exceptional craftsmanship in jewelry making.

The first major break however came when a basket ball star, Gary Payton bought the story of the ambitious black boy from Nigeria and ordered for a platinum pendant shaped like a basketball. Presto! Chris Aire brand was born. 

The boy who was hanging around looking for patronage by stars suddenly became a star being sought after by stars. He took the Los Angeles jewelry market by storm and before the dust could settle, the entire United States was feeling the vibration. 

He is quoted by one of the online media to have said, “For years people told me I didn’t belong, that a black man couldn’t sell jewels. Well, here I am, and I’m not leaving.” Chris Aire is not just any black man. He is from Nigeria, where a lot of Westerners associate only with corruption and conflict. But here was a humble Nigerian boy, with a typical Nigerian spirit dominating not only the American jewelry market but also making stunning statements all over the world, with his exceptional brand.

He is reputed to be the first jeweler to stage a show during the New York Fashion Week to display unusual jewelries as fashion. He has also traveled to top fashion countries in the world to showcase his legendary creations and dragging hundreds of stars and celebrities to such shows.   

In recognition of his exceptional craftsmanship, his revolutionary ways with gem stones and his sassy style, his clients have given him endearing names ranging from “Iceman,” “Emperor of Ice,” “King of Bling,” “Mr. Gem.” The list continues. 

It is reported that his famous $20 million dollar diamond dress has travelled through international catwalks. Many of his custom-made designs have been used by the crème of world celebrities Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie, Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx, Clint Eastwood, 50 Cent, Adrien Brody, Madonna and Snoop Dogg. His remarkable jewelry line consists of his signature watch line, bridal jewelries and his exclusive red gold collection and his legendary dog tags among other fantastic pieces.

Little wonder when he said, “Acting and designing are really the same art form. They express that which is embedded in your sub-consciousness. I am very glad I settled on the one that most expresses who I am.”

While Chris crisscrossed the world “blinging” and making waves and preaching hard work and courage to young people through his products, he later found the need to “evangelize” his home country. And then he came to Abuja. The day was Tuesday, November 30.2011The place was Transcorps Hilton.

With his classical touch of distinction, Chris turned the Piano Bar into a bowel of blings, adorned with choice curtains, light, rug and flowers; with a spatial interplay between furniture and space. It was clear that master artiste was in the house. It was the launch of the first Chris Aire Concept Boutique in Nigeria.

The night started with a soft piano performance but the hall later exploded with old-time reggae beats featuring Legends like Bob Marley, Eric Donaldson, and Peter Tosh as well as Nigerian acts including hit tracts by Andy Sureman, Majeck Fashek, Maxwell Udo, among others.

As early as 8.30 pm fashion divas, business tycoons, designers, bank executives as well as serving and former members of the National Assembly, all decked in sumptuous attires and striking jewelries, started streaming into the hall. The red-carpeted route to the hall was lined with ushers; spotting the colours of Chris Aire’s signature red gold.

They moved freely sharing banters as waiters served assorted champagnes, wines and cocktail. As guests stream into the hall, guarded by polite security personnel, they stop to feast their eyes on the some of the signature designs displayed on polished wood cases. Tri-tags, Dog Tags and traveler watches and a wide range of new collections of precious and semi-precious pieces made from gemstones mined in Nigeria under conflict-free and fair trade deals; were also on display.

Chris breezed into the hall at 9pm spotting a milky-coloured suit on a black trouser with his signature gold and diamond necklaces adorning his neck and a black suede shoes to match. A lot of smile, handshakes and click-click of cameras followed as he moved round the hall welcoming guests to the event. He was generous with embrace and hugs but all the guest didn’t have a touch of the hand of success before Chris dashed out to appear on the Red Carpet, located at the lobby of the hotel.

He made another entry at 10.19 pm and the programme started. Terry Waya was the first to tell the tale of the “blingsman.” Waya, who said he is a longtime friend of Chris Aire, told the audience that the programme was meant to defy the biblical notion that a prophet is without honour unless in his hometown. 

He said, “Chris is a very private person. He is an engineer who believes in what he does.” Waya recounted how Chris was almost frustrated when he first came home to introduce his product in Nigeria. According to him, the first exhibition of Chris Aire’s products took place in his home and was attended by governors, ministers and top flight businessmen. But when he said Nigerians don’t appreciate their own, the audience fired back and rejected the notion.

When Chris finally held the floor, his humble disposition melted the hearts of the guests, some of who might have waited for hours for the ceremony to kick-off. In a few words, he thanked all those present at the ceremony and invited them to savour Moet and Chandon champagnes that flowed freely.

The reception was immediately followed by a party to end all parties, where drinks were flowing thanks to Belvedere Vodka, top Nigerian DJ Jimmy Jat span the best in old and new tunes and special live performances took place from 2Face, Duncan Mighty and Grammy Award winning artist, flown in all the way from the United States especially for the event…Shaggy!
Other celebrities in attendance on the night included Hollywood actresses Tichina Arnold of “Everybody Hates Chris” fame and Lynn Whitfield of “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate/Madea’s Family Reunion, as well as Nollywood superstar actresses, Genevieve Nnaji and Rita Dominic, among others

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