By Yemisi Suleiman
Talk about a brand that celebrates individuality and feminism in a stylish combination of timeless elegance and a touch of contemporary twist in the Nigerian fashion industry, one name that readily comes to mind is “Ituen Basi”.
With a distinct signature that is inspired by old couturiers and designs synonymous with the tradition of the finest quality infused with unquestionable creativity, Ituen Basi ranks among the best in the industry.
Unlike lots of Nigerian designers who stumbled into the profession, Ituen Basi, trained at the London College of Fashion; after graduating with a BA in Theatre Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife.
Her training at the London College of Fashion enabled her to deepen her knowledge and formalized her experience in the fashion industry. In this chat with Esther Onyegbula, Ituen Basi talks about the challenges of being a fashion designer in Nigerian, her style, amongts other issues.
As a designer what is your definition of style?
Style is an outward expression of your inner self, which manifest in terms of the kind of clothing that you wear and how you package yourself. Style is innate, it is something that comes from within and you can only see it in the outward appearance of what people wear.
How would you describe your style?
For me style is something that is more than a piece of clothing; my style is fun, comfortable, and ecliptic; I like to wear something that tells a story.
It could tell my personal story, you might not know that the scarf that I am wearing is my mother’s for instance and it means something to me because it was passed down from her mother to her.
I love the feeling of nostalgia people experience when they walk in and see my collections, just remembering that their grand mother use to have this fabric.
What is one fashion item you won’t be caught wearing?
When it comes to fashion I never say never, but my sense of decency will always take the better part of me, which is why I wouldn’t wear bikini for instance, but I could wear a mini dress over a pair of trouser.
Which fashion item would you splurge on?
I am not crazy about any of these items.
When it comes to colours which are your favorite?
Although I work with all kind of colours, I believe white is probably my favourite colour as it provide a striking canvas for me to work with.
How would you describe your designs?
When describing my designs, I normally use the word individualistic because my designs lends itself to the wearer and its fun; which is why during fashion shows or exhibitions, I tell my models to smile whenever because they are wearing clothes that are fun and there is need to let the audience see that.
When cutting a piece of fabric what inspires your designs?
My designs are inspired by anything and everything, it could be the shape of a shadow on the wall, it could be a butterfly the flutter pass, or something. It could be an old design that inspires a new one, so a lot of things actually inspire my designs.
As part of the industry, how would you describe the Nigerian fashion industry?
The industry is a bit chaotic, because there are no structures, having said that I do congratulate the fashion practitioners in Nigerian for being extremely resilient considering all the odd set up against them. Practicing fashion in such a chaotic environment it is really applaudable.
In your opinion what issues need to be addressed to enhance the industry?
A lot of the fashion practitioners and artisans need to have training; training doesn’t have to be formal, it could be something like apprenticeship, internship, mentoring, just go and work with somebody who knows a little bit more than you. By so doing we can start emulate our competitor outside the country.
Gradually the world has become a global village, we means we are competing with International standards whether we recognise it or not.
And we need to prove that our standard meets international standard which is only possible when we aware of what obtain internationally and ensure that we incorporate it in what we do.
Based on the fact that you worked as a designer in the UK and presently in Nigeria what are the challenges you have face here as a Nigeria designer?
Initially I would say personnel, but the issue of personnel isn’t peculiar with Nigeria alone, running a factory in England, I realized that the issue of personnel is everywhere because human beings would be human regardless of nationality so it is just a question of learning how to manage them.
Power is one big challenge, the issues of power and lack of it is major challenge because it totally destabilises a lot of things. With all the power problems, we are not in a position to compete effectively.
As a designer why are Nigerian’s designers and their collection very expensive?
We need to consider all kind of challenges the average Nigeria designer goes through, before we kill them. like I said earlier on, how much does it cost to put a skirt on a rack? I have always maintained that the way forward in Nigeria with a lot of Nigerian designers is affordable clothing.
But designers are not within everybody’s reach or the majorities reach, because of the challenges they pass through to actually put a piece together. Come to think of it, at the end of the day you are not just doing it for the love of it alone ,you are doing it as a business, which should be lucrative and pay your bills.