Nigerian Fashion Designer Bubu Ogisi: Embracing African Stories and Traditions in Style

Bubu Ogisi is busy with the final preparations for Lagos Fashion Week, one of the cultural highlights in Nigeria’s economic capital. The Nigerian creator is passionate about weaving African stories and traditional materials into her designs.

Dressed in black, white, and earth-toned outfits, adorned with handmade bracelets and necklaces, models strut down the runway as Ms. Ogisi checks certain elements of her Spring/Summer 2024 collection titled “Shadows,” which explores materials and protective fibers.

Wearing her trademark oversized hat and black sunglasses, Bubu Ogisi, considered one of Nigeria’s foremost designers, has been featured in the prestigious Vogue magazine and associated with the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand.

She sees herself more as a researcher than a designer, traveling across Africa in search of materials and traditional techniques to incorporate into her IAMISIGO brand creations.

“I believe I continue to push my development and redefine the materials I research,” Ms. Ogisi confides during a fitting at a Lagos hotel. “It’s what I love to do every day.”

Kenya, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and her native Nigeria have all inspired her. She initially worked in the oil industry before studying fashion in Paris, discovering her creative flair and establishing her brand.

“Everything I create is either assembled on-site or I bring all the magical elements or ingredients for a concoction created between Nigeria and Kenya,” she explains. “But I love sourcing from these different places for everything I find.”

The company’s artistic director, Roxane Mbanga, believes that their mission is to bring forth stories from the past “that were suppressed by colonization.”

– “Craft Pioneer” –

During Lagos Fashion Week, models with hands and faces adorned with henna walked slowly on a sawdust-covered runway in front of the seated audience.

The show largely proceeded without air conditioning due to a lack of fuel for the generator, a logistical issue faced by many businesses in Lagos, where the electrical grid experiences failures.

But it went on despite the heat, accompanied by artist Sheila singing songs paying tribute to shadows and spirits.

“In my opinion, what Bubu represents, not just on an African but a global scale, is that we need to understand that craftsmanship is at the very heart of fashion,” says Omoyemi Akerele, founder of Lagos Fashion Week.

“I consider Bubu as an artist and a kind of craft pioneer, in a way. She steps out of her comfort zone to engage with communities,” he adds.

Nigerian creative industries are gaining increasing recognition worldwide. Afrobeats musicians Burna Boy and Sake fill stadiums and win awards, while Nollywood films find success on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

For Bubu Ogisi, who has collaborated with musicians and other artists, Nigerian fashion naturally blends into other entertainment realms.

“You can never take fashion away from musicians,” she says. “Filmmakers need their movies to be visually stunning for the audience, and that can’t happen without an array of stunning pieces for the body.”