I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Yemi Osunkoya, Creator and Lead Designer of Kosibah Couture Bridal & Evening Wear. This September will mark Kosibah's 20th Birthday!! Throughout his 20 years in business Mr. Osunkoya has won many awards such as Bridal Designer of the Year at the Mahogany Bridal Awards in 2002 and 2004, the Excellence Award at Gathering of Africa's Best and was also recognized as one of 100+ Black Achievers! He has designed gowns for Louise Rose, leading actress of Universal Film Life & Lyrics, Alesha Harvey, Sheila Ferguson formerly of the Three Degress, Hollywood actress Indra Ove, Miss World Agbani Darego, and singer Stephanie Benson. The list could go on and on but I will let you all get to know him a little bit! I really enjoyed speaking with the humble and very talented designer! I hope you guys enjoy the interview as well!
Memi: Could you tell us a little bit about your beginnings and how you got into the bridal gown industry?
Yemi: I guess it started at a very young age because I could draw, and I loved to draw very decorative sketches. That was a talent that was encouraged by my parents and my art teachers, and I’m talking from about 7 years old. When I got to, about 16 years old, and to the point where I had to start deciding what I wanted to do with my life, I decided fashion was what I wanted to do. I was truly supported by my parents and majored in textile design from a Nigerian university in Fine Arts. I then came to England to study couture design. At that point I just wanted to learn how to make a pattern and how to sew, so I just took a short course at the Paris Academy of Fashion in women’s and menswear. This was in the early 90s while England was in a recession. After writing a lot of letter applications for jobs I said to myself ‘why continue doing this when I can set up on my own?’ So that is exactly what I did I set up Kosibah in September 1991. I started off doing everything from menswear to casual womenswear. But I quickly realized that I did not like doing menswear because it just did not give me any satisfaction and casual wear was not viable for the techniques I use to make my gowns. So it was a natural progression for me to go into bridal and evening wear.
Memi: What do you love the most about dressing brides for their special day?
Yemi: I think the fact that making a gown is so labor intensive, as in lots of man hours, and very detailed. It is fantastic that the result of all that hard work, is the focal point of someone’s special day. Since I specialize in figure enhancing gowns, most of my gowns can take around three inches off the waist. Regardless of what shape you are I can enhance it to make you look beautiful. It is just fantastic seeing the work and being appreciated by loads of people because the dress is such an important part of the day. That is one of the reasons why I always like to go and dress my brides to make sure that they look EXACTLY the way they want to look and I’m able to see the dress in its final setting, with the makeup, the hair, and the atmosphere. It just makes it all worthwhile.
Memi: How do you manage to stay current on latest trends and fashion?
Yemi: I understand that you NEVER stop learning. This September will be our 20th anniversary…
Memi: CONGRATULATIONS! That is wonderful!!
Yemi: Yes thank you so much! I still keep an eye on what the trends are by paying attention to a lot of industry and bridal magazines. My style is quite “classic”, so it is a bit timeless. At the same time I give a nod to trends for the fashion forward brides. It really is a delicate balance as to how I keep on top of things.
Yemi: From what I have gathered in terms of color, I think blush is something that is going to reign this year. It is a very very very light pink color. I think a lot of people think pink is too cliché and girly, but blush is just a HINT of pink. I think that is a major trend we will see coming. I am seeing a lot of dresses with more structure, and I also think sleeves are going to come into play. Not the old-fashioned type of sleeves but maybe a sleeve made with sheer, lace or organza. I think a lot of girls will love to wear sleeves especially if it is something that can come off later. So those are my two major predictions.
Memi: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Yemi: The way I think about it I am making clothes mainly for the person in front of me as opposed to just doing random sketches. My main focus is trying to enhance the figure of whomever I am creating a design for, trying to celebrate the female form without compromising anything. I truly believe a woman can be feminine without losing any power; you can be powerful and feminine at the same time. That is where my MAIN inspiration comes from. Sometimes I am inspired by fabric if it has a particular texture or something that catches my eye. I will then design something that will suit the fabric, but mainly it’s more so “what can I do to enhance the figure of whomever I am designing for.”
Memi: Your dresses are known for celebrating the womanly figure and that is one thing that drew me to your designs. Every bride you dress looks like they are born with an hourglass figure and I LOVE that! My question is a lot of designers look for stick figure models and try to hide the curves of “endowed” women. So why do you, as a designer, opt to highlight the curves and not hide them?
Yemi: I think that is the advantage of growing up in Nigeria. I grew up with the “Real Woman” aesthetic. Most African women are curvy and when I was developing as a designer I was just comfortable with that! I am a designer that just wants to celebrate the fact that women have curves and my designs lend themselves to that.
Memi: I saw your profile on your site and I see that you have a really long list of awards and achievements from Excellence Awards to Bridal Designer of the Year! How do you manage to stay grounded, humble, and motivated even with all these honors and accolades?
Yemi: I think that the main thing is my nature; I just have a lot of good friends and family that always KEPT it real! And besides that I am doing something that I LOVE doing and the fact that people appreciate it and love what I do is just a bonus for me. I really don’t see any reason to get above myself! At the end of the day I am just happy that people love my work and I’m just very GRATEFUL!
|Kelly Rowland in Kosibah|
Memi: Who is your dream client that you would love to dress for their wedding day or the red carpet?
Yemi: Two people I would really love to dress are Oprah Winfrey or Beyonce! I know that if I make something for them, because of the way their body is shaped, I could really create some fantastic results. They have amazing personalities and figures and I can tell they both appreciate couture designs and that sort of thing.
Memi: For my readers that would LOVE to be a Kosibah bride how do they go about owning one of your pieces?
Yemi: First thing they have to do is get in contact with me through my website which is http://www.kosibah.co.uh/ OR follow me on twitter @YemiKosibah. As I said before EVERY dress is made from scratch for the individual so they either have to come to England or get me to where they are. It’s easy for me to go back and forth to Nigeria but coming to the States I think the clients will either have to come to me or bring me to them. That is why I really like to concentrate on bridal wear because I feel a bridal gown is a gown that every girl will be ready to go the extra mile to acquire.
Memi: Do you ever plan on coming out with a retail line that brides and bridesmaids can find at local bridal salons?
Yemi: I would never say never but it isn’t something in my immediate plans. I think it’s good to know what you do, establish your niche and stick to it until such a point where you can make transitions and still maintain your brand. At this point I just want to continue to focus on haute-couture gowns.
Memi: Okay! That is all I have for today! Is there anything else you will like to let our readers know about Kosibah that I may not have touched upon?
Yemi: Well you asked about opening up a retail store and, though that is not in my immediate plans, I am planning on developing a range of bridal shoes that will go with my designs. I am very particular about the type of shoes and heel height that brides wear with my gowns. So it is just a natural synergy of something that will suit my plan so that will probably be the next major thing that will come from me.
Memi: Thanks SO much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit and talk with me I really appreciate it and congratulations on celebrating 20 years this year!!
Yemi: No problem and thank you sooo much!
MORE PICTURES OF MY FAVE KOSIBAH DESIGNS:
Just stunning RIGHT!?!?!?!? I LOVEEEE his gowns! I'm just obsessed with the way he makes the Figure 8 POP! Let me know what you guys think!! Talk to me!
Stay Beautiful My Loves,
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