By Elizabeth Ushie
Bisola Adeniyi, the both a local and international fashion player, is the Founder and Creative Director of Lady Biba. The Economist turned fashion designer has made a name for herself in the fashion industry.
In 2014, she won the Fashion Business Challenge award amongst others. She speaks on how she surmounted challenges in the fashion industry, vis-à-vis her resilience in carving a niche for her brand against all odds.
Though you have a degree in Economics, you decided to delve into fashion and make a career out of it; was it passion for fashion?
After my first degree in Economics, I planned on going for my Master’s degree in the same course and then get a job in the corporate sector, but as it turned out differently. I started seeing opportunities in the fashion industry and I opted for it. After some time, I had to register my business and that brought a new face to the business.
What is fashion to you, how do you see fashion?
There are different ways to look at fashion; some people would see it as a business to make money while others see it from the industry perspective. There is a lot that goes into fashion: fabric, production, the actual production of the clothes, pattern cutting, quality control, manufacturing, merchandising among others. It is not just design; there are different aspects of fashion people can go into. Also, I look at fashion from an emotional perspective, I love fashion and when I used to study, I did draw sketches at the back of my notebooks and my exam papers.
Fashion helps you express yourself, it channels your creativity, allows you to show a side you probably cannot talk about because when you go into a room, you are communicating with your dress sense though that is more of style so I will say it is the other aspect of fashion. Fashion is very robust and dynamic so for me, it is both a business and a creative outlet.
One wonders why you did not go into fashion early in life, were you restricted by your parents?
Just like most Nigerian parents, I struggled to convince my parents on my decision to go into fashion. I remember the first job I got in a fashion magazine company, the money I was paid was nothing to write home about and so, convincing my parents was a huge task.
But when I started my business, they supported me in any way that they could. I was living in their house, eating their food and most times, they supported me financially because my business was new.
I was discouraged at first due to security reasons and the fact that my parents were into white collar jobs. They did not understand the fashion industry but things have changed so much. I worked with photographers, stylists, bloggers and it was the same story they told about their parents. Some of us put all our efforts into the fashion industry, although some of them pulled out but for the rest of us, the industry is still vibrant and interesting.
How do you keep up with fashion trends?
Keeping up with fashion trends is very essential and while most people are aware of these trends, others are not. Fashion is cyclical so as a designer, I always make sure that I read fashion news and what is trending, use social media as a tool not just for entertainment, look at fashion business all over the world, what people are wearing and it informs my decision because it is important to know what is in vogue. And it informs the kind of designs I make. I do not follow trends verbatim but use it as inspiration and guide because most times, I may have designs and change details on them so that people of that type can relate to it. For instance in 2020, COVID-19 was a huge factor as a lot of things happened. Most people stopped going to work and that informed our new easy wear collection. We have launched our holiday collection now and it is important to maintain our perspectives, for people to see the piece and the essence of the brand, and for us to remain relevant in this line it is important to stay in the trend.
Talking about COVID-19, how did you cope with the challenges that came within that period?
I think the biggest challenge for me was being mentally balanced. That period was very tough for everybody but what was more important to me was my team; I wanted them to be well taken care of as it is important for everyone to eat and though we could not make full salary payment, it was important to keep morale up. The biggest challenge aside from not making sales was making temporary decisions because I knew it would be over.
What was the biggest risk you took starting off this business and challenges that came with it?
Going into fashion was a big risk because I would have gone for my Masters program and got a job which was safer. Starting a job was tough because there were not lots of ready to wear brands you could look at to say this brand is successful. Most people were into aso-ebi and bridals. I went into bridals for a while but it didn’t work out so I will say that was the biggest risk I took.
Why did you leave the Bridals line?
Bridal line requires after-sales communication and maintaining relationships. My human resources were limited and the fact that I must be available for consultation was tough. Besides, not having time was a source of concern for me. I realized I was more suited for ready to wear so I focused on that.
Has your brand been associated with any celebrity so far?
Yes, we dressed Osas Ighodaro in the Tinsel series, BBN Dorathy, Adesua Etomi, Linda Ejiofor, Big Brother Naija Diane among others and it was great.
The brand name ‘Lady Biba’, what inspired it?
That was easy, my nickname is Bibi and the ‘a’ is from my surname Adeniyi and ‘Lady’ stems from the love I have for female folks. My brand is specifically for women but not limited to the corporate world.