Adebisi Sogeyinbo is the creative mind behind the Nigerian bespoke womenswear brand ZirconsbyAdebisi. In a chat with LEADERSHIP STYLE MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA and ROSEMARY OBOH she divulges the demanding nature of the business of fashion and the secrets to her creative ingenuity
Birth of brand ZirconsbyAdebisi
My name is Adebisi Sogeyinbo, we all know that if you don’t have passion for fashion you can’t do fashion. I have always had a love and passion for fashion and design. It all began when my mum celebrated her 50th birthday. She had previously given her fabrics to a tailor who made a mess of it. I went to meet the woman and confronted her with the fact that what she sewed wasn’t any way near what was agreed upon but the tailor insisted that nothing could be done.
Agitated, I began to show her how to correct her mistakes and eventually sat on the machine to make the needed restructuring and adjustment without any previous knowledge of sewing. When we were done, she said to me ‘you should be a fashion designer, I don’t know what you want to become but you must be a fashion designer’.
I had always wanted to be a fashion designer but was unsure about my decision until that moment. While in the university, I would design cloths and asoebi for my friends to the delight of many. Even when I had graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, I was still hesitant so I took a job with KPMJ professionals. While there, my colleagues would complement my outfits and advise me to become a designer. Eventually I made the decision to quit and follow my passion.
I started small and with my savings rented a shop. I then enrolled in a fashion school before interning and working at MORFA for six months. Like I said if you don’t have passion for it, you can’t do it. Fashion designing as a business is crazy and very demanding. It takes up your time almost to the exclusion of everything else.
What has been the reception so far from both local and global clients?
Initially it was dull but over time business picked up and now we have a lot of customers. If you are good, even though you are hidden people will find you or seek you out. Instagram has been very good for me. 80 percent of my clients today are from Instagram as a result of the pictures of my designs I post on it. God has been so faithful. Referrers have also taken me very far as my satisfied clients would brag about or refer others to me.
You are yet to make your fashion runway debut. Is your reason in anyway tied to the presumption of a faction of Nigerian designers who believe it is a waste of time and money?
I feel that there is perfect time for everything. I can’t be hasty because it has to be planned for and I have to be ready for it. This is a global platform and I can’t afford to fail or be regular. I want to showcase to the word such unique designs that there would be a standing ovation and people will marvel and say to themselves ‘wow. Where have you been?’ So, I am working towards it and by God’s grace this year I will make my runway debut.
It’s so crazy, but the truth is I design at midnight and I love very loud music. When my creative mind is stifled and or needs to create a design, my secret most inspiring place to go is the cinemas. I just go to any cinema nearest to me, pay for any random film showing.
While watching the movie without concentrating, inspiration starts flowing and I start sketching the design in my mind’s eye. This happens to me always! I don’t know how or why but that’s where I draw or get inspiration. Naturally fashion designers all over the world also inspire me, a piece, texture or hue can strike a creative cord and voila!
Most pressing challenges faced as a designer in Nigeria
You can be a great fashion designer but the final pieces are dependent on finding the team of tailors that can create and replicate it to your standards. When you find one, that can, the feeling is nearly indescribable because it can make the difference between a satisfied or dissatisfied customer. Therein lies the challenge for me as a designer.
Another major challenge is when clients come to you with a copy or photo of another designer’s work and want you to create an exact replica for them. They are always surprised when I tell them I can’t do that and suggest to them gently, the options of either a tweak of the design a little bit to make an original or a complete overhaul. Though some insist on their way, most eventually allow me to do the needful.
The issue of design theft is at an all-time high in Nigeria, how has it impacted your creative work over the years.
Top global fashion brands create designs that are copied worldwide daily so who am I to complain. Anybody can copy my designs. I am happy when people copy my designs, it means that they are inspired by me and that’s a beautiful testament to my creativity. Once I put out a design and people copy it, I don’t change or tweak the affected design because I know that mine is still different. There are some elements to my design that cannot be copied literally. Nigerian designers have taken over the world’s fashion space, reeling out unique creative pieces rich in style and heritage.
What is fashion to you?
Fashion to me is life! Fashion is you breathing. You can’t go out naked; you have to wear something. The way you wear that ‘something’ says everything about you and shape people’s perception and reception of you. So like I said earlier, fashion is life.
Favourite fashion piece
I love skirts. Skirts are so versatile that you can be dramatic and dynamic with them. I can pair a great skirt with almost any top in my closets.
Sleeping well and eating beans are my beauty secrets. It’s amazing how my skin glows when I eat beans. When I am attending a major event or party I always eat beans the night before. I think it’s because when I eat beans I tend to drink lots of water so it detoxes and hydrate my skin resulting in a radiant glow.