Interview with Bubu Ogisi, founder of the brand IAMISIGO
Bubu Ogisi is a fashion consultant, designer and owner of IAMISIGO an independent fashion brand based in Ghana and Nigeria that seeks to create a striking awareness of how African culture can be fused with an audacious but yet minimal design aesthetic. Bubu was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. IAMISIGO has been featured on vogue.co.uk and received amazing reviews internationally.
How did your brand IAMISIGO start off?
I’ve always been obsessed with clothes and I am fascinated in discovering different traditions and weaving techniques from African countries. In 2006, I went from Nigeria to Ghana to study. In the beginning, I was planning to become an architect. But then I really got into indigenous fabrics and learned how to communicate with them. The brand IAMISIGO itself started in 2009.
What does IAMISIGO mean?
I created the name of my label by turning my surname around and by adding ‘Iam’. My surname means a lot to me but turning it backwards gives it a certain mystery identity, which is very personal.
What is your brand about?
It is very audacious. Simple. Extremely individual. Independent and uncontrolled. With my brand I want to communicate with people. Tell stories. About things that happened. Things I discovered and bring them into my garments to inspire others. Also I want to bring an understanding for my continent to the world. For example about the culture and style of the Benin and the Dahomey amazones I discovered during studies. (Ed. note: The Dahomey amazones were represented in the film Cobra Verde by filmmaker Werner Herzog and the bodyguards of Black Panther are inspired partially by the Dahomey Amazons).
What importance has craft for your fashion?
It is interesting to work with craftsmen and learn from them as well as they learn from me. This is also kind of a social experience, for thus we can overcome the immobile system of classes you still can find in many African countries.
I would call myself an artist. Not an African or Nigerian artist. Just an artist. I like to be undefined and surprising.
What are the ideas behind your collections?
I reflect topics which surround me are important to me. Like my last collection is about spirituality. I use it to ask questions about religion, about what was before we were colonised and forced to go to church or forced to believe in a certain vision. So far I have made about ten collections. One is about Ghana. Another is called Basic. One collection is about white noise inspired by a childhood memory sitting in front of the TV waiting for the national TV programme.
One is called Taboo inspired by the Wodaabe nomadic tribe. Yet another collection is about androgyny inspired by the movie Calamity Jane. I watched many western movies and especially this one over and over again. They try to make her a woman. But she is comfortable being rugged. I thought, that’s just me! Women now should be comfortable to be whoever they want to be. IAMISIGO dresses the woman who is simple at heart, but yearns for more.
How did you get recognition for your brand?
I have a cool small team supporting me. Still a lot of communication is focussed on my person and we use social media especially Instagram as fashion is so much about the visual. Also we do very different installations in special places. For example, one time we covered rooms in warehouses completely in aluminium foil, because I am obsessed with that material. But everything I do with my brand has to be somehow effortless. If I would do everything on purpose, I would lose the feeling for my brand. Fortunately, many things just happen and lead in the right direction.
Is IAMISIGO more a fashion or an art brand?
Maybe both. I would call myself an artist. Not an African or Nigerian artist. Just an artist. I like to be undefined and surprising.
What is your next step?
Something really out of the box in terms of clothing and in connection with East African weaving techniques.