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Bubu Ogisi: Telling African Tales Through Fashion

Nigerian fashion designer Bubu Ogisi (C) puts the final touches to her models during her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

Nigerian designer Bubu Ogisi, wearing one of her distinctive huge hats and heavy spectacles, runs a group of models through final fittings in preparation for Lagos Fashion Week, one of the cultural highlights in Nigeria’s commercial metropolis.

Models pass past, dressed in black, white, and tan creations with hand-crafted bracelets and collars, as Ogisi inspects elements of her Spring/Summer 2024 collection titled “Shadows,” with the aim of investigating protective materials and fibers.

Ogisi, one of Nigeria’s leading designers, has been in Vogue and collaborated with Victoria’s Secret, but she is still inspired by her investigation of African stories and traditional materials.

Ogisi, who describes herself as a researcher rather than a designer, visits Africa in search of inspiration to incorporate traditional materials and techniques into her designs for her IAMISIGO brand.

Models wearing clothes by Nigerian fashion designer Bubu Ogisi wait backstage at her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)
A model wearing clothes by Nigerian fashion designer Bubu Ogisi walks down the runway at her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

“I think I’m still just continuing my process and expanding actually the materials that I’m researching,” Ogisi told AFP at the fitting in the 16/16 boutique hotel in Lagos.

“It’s what I love engaging in every day.”

Kenya, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and her native Nigeria are among the African countries that have inspired Ogisi, who worked in the oil and gas industry before studying fashion in Paris, discovering her artistic voice, and launching IAMISIGO.

“Everything I create is always either assembled there or I bring all the magical elements or ingredients for the soup that I created between Nigeria and Kenya,” she said.

“But I love sourcing for everything I find within these different places.”

Models wearing clothes designed by Nigerian fashion designer, Bubu Ogisi, walk down the runway during her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)
Nigerian fashion designer Bubu Ogisi (C) is seen backstage during her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

According to IAMISIGO art director Roxane Mbanga, Ogisi’s work aims to resurrect “erased by colonisation” stories from the past.

Later, at Lagos Fashion Week, Ogisi’s models strolled slowly past the seated audience, their hands and faces adorned with henna.

Because there was insufficient gasoline for the generator, the exhibition went without air conditioning until late, a logistical difficulty shared by many enterprises in Lagos, where the power supply is unreliable.

Despite the heat, the event carried on, joined by artist Sheila, who performed a ceremony with chants honoring the shadows and spirits.

“For me, what Bubu represents in a global, not just an African perspective, is the need for us to understand that craftsmanship is at the very heart of fashion,” Omoyemi Akerele, Lagos Fashion Week founder, told AFP.

“I see Bubu as an artist and I see her as, sort of like a harbinger, so to speak, of craftsmanship, you know, she goes out of her comfort zone to travel into communities.”

Nigeria’s creative industries are increasingly making an impact throughout the world, with Afrobeats music singers Burna Boy and Sake selling out stadiums and receiving awards, and Nollywood films becoming hits on streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon Prime.

According to Ogisi, who has collaborated with musicians and other artists, Nigerian design blends seamlessly with the other sectors of entertainment.

A model wearing clothes by Nigerian fashion designer Bubu Ogisi’s, walks down the runway during her fashion show, Shadows, in Lagos on October 29, 2023. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)

“You can’t, you can never, ever, remove costume from any of these musicians,” she said.

“Directors need their films to be as amazing visually for the audience, and you can’t have that without an amazing set of pieces for the body.”

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