It’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you my first guest, the beautiful and extremely talented Abimbola Ipaye aka “Bimms”. Bimms is a renown aso-oke/ fabrics designer based in Nigeria but has designed bespoke wedding attires for numerous clients across the globe. Her hard work and impressive clientele has afforded her name a great respect within the Fashion Industry.
If at all you are looking for someone to design your traditional wedding attire, Bimms is the person to go to; her creativity and originality is second to none.
I paid Bimm’s a visit one rainy afternoon at our rendezvous and I must confess that I was taken aback at how incredibly humble, polite and down to earth she was. She is undoubtably a woman of great character with a heart of gold. I found myself laughing and grinning pretty much the whole time I was with her; her personality is just so bubbly and affectionate. I hope you guys get to be inspired by her story like I was.Bimms
I’ll advice you grab a cup of coffee or a snack and do enjoy the read below 🙂
What’s a typical day like in Bimm’s Life?
You really do not want to know and I’ll try not to exaggerate (because except you’re on ground, that’s when you’ll be able to see what my typical day is like) but I’m going to put it in a nutshell. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to eat all day. So maybe when I’m on my way home I’ll start to think have I eaten today? Oh no…okay let me stop by and buy something. So that is what my life is everyday. I joke about this that I’ve sold my soul to my business because that’s practically all I do. I don’t like partying, I don’t like TV or hanging out. I come to work and I go back home.
What are 3 things you can’t live without?
Working, my phone and being playful because that’s how I reduce my stress.
You are without a doubt the best and most sought out aso-oke, aso-ebi/fabrics designer in West Africa, where do you draw the inspiration to create your beautiful designs?
(Laughs) No the whole world! I have to give God the glory. God gave everyone a gift but it’s now left for you to make use of that gift. My inspiration comes from very silly things…you know I might see one thing and a 100 things will come to my mind.
How would you describe your own personal style?Bimms
Classy and uncommon.
What was it about aso-oke that made you specialise in its design?
Okay I believe that I’m from a country where everyone is one way forward; nobody wants to take a risk, nobody wants to bend. I saw that they were only doing aso-oke in one particular way. I remember when I was young….my creativity started when I was young. We were three girls and my mum used to buy us the same dress and I was always thinking, why should I be wearing the same dress with my sisters? So I would remove the sleeves and remove something and sha join something together. When I started growing up, I used to ask my mum if my grandma burrowed her her aso-oke to wear on her wedding day. My mum was always angry that NO (she made mine)! And I said but it looks exactly the same. Then I can remember my cousin got married. Even when my cousin got married I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anything. So when my cousin got married, I told my mum and said ‘mummy you went and burrowed Temi your aso-oke”. She looked at me and I’m sure she almost asked if I was crazy. She said NO they made her own aso-oke for her. I said God forbid! If aso-oke is like this I’m never going to wear aso-oke. She looked at me and said you don’t have a job, you don’t have a boyfriend, you’re talking. Who will marry you? You want to become a liability and I said to her “mummy can I start aso-oke?” She looked at me and the hiss was the longest one I heard in my life. She said “you…wo go and sit down in one place. Once you find out what you want to do with your life, come and tell me.” You know if you want to kill me just tell me I can’t do something. It might take me five years but I’ll prove you wrong. So I just said to myself, if other fabrics that are plain can be designed so beautifully, I can do that to aso-oke x10. Any other stuff you are putting on this other fabric, it can be placed on aso-oke too because it’s cotton. So that’s where I got it from. That’s why you’ll see me do or you wake up and see on my page, that I’ve done different stuffs with aso-oke because it’s doable. Aso-oke has always been boring and I’m glad I could change the face of aso-oke.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
When my brides call me to say thank you. I mean sometimes when they call, they cry or they hug me. I’ve had a bride come here before and she was crying and praying…okay don’t let me even talk about the bride. Let me talk about the mother of the bride. The mother came here and she’s a Hausa lady, and she asked me to make something for her daughter. So she came in randomly to check what I’ve done for her (and she’s an elderly woman). When she walked in and I brought out her own clothe, she started crying and I was shocked because I thought maybe I had done something wrong, I said mummy what’s going on? And she said you have a gift and please don’t ever be ungrateful to God. So I held that in my hand that whatever it is I go through, whatever trial or anything, I’ll never be ungrateful to God. So that’s the best part of my job in fact money is not even close to being the best part of my job.
What is your creative process like from the point of receiving instructions (or the conception of an idea) till delivery?
It starts from when my bride talks to me (the moment you start talking to me and I’m getting to know who you are). People think I read people but no I don’t, but from saying a few words you can name five things about someone, do you understand? By talking to my bride (I think it’s a gift also) I can tell you who that person is. So from telling who that person is, I know what she likes and what she doesn’t like. That’s why sometimes I don’t like to chat with you on WhatsApp or whatever, I want to see you face to face. I’ll already know what to give you and that’s why I say please let me dress you. When I dress you, all my brides do not know this that when I dress them, I dress them based on their personality. Except the ones that are extra and say I want to look like this, I want you to draw this e.t.c but the ones that are real and when they talk…the thing is you give me your style by talking to me.
What are some of your favourite colours and embellishments to play with?
I’m going to be selfish and that’s why when brides tell me to pick colours for them I don’t listen to them. My best colour is mustard; you can see I’m wearing mustard. Whenever I’m wearing mustard, I feel like the most beautiful lady ever because that’s what mustard makes me feel. I love black too because I’m slightly fair and black brings out the best colour in me. For my embellishment, I’m not going to mention any. I play with a lot of them…I play with things that are unimaginable. I was even telling someone that I saw something upstairs yesterday, and I was like oh can I get a piece of a sample? Why I was asking for it is because I want to make something out of it. I want to send it to my manufacturer and ask can this be done? If he says no, I’m not going to take his no because I don’t take no’s. I’ll just put it in my bag and take it somewhere else and ask can I make this? Do you understand…so I won’t mention anything as my favourite embellishment.A Bimm’s bride wearing mustard
Can you tell us about a time a client didn’t like your work and how you handled the situation?
It’s very easy. If you don’t like it, I’ll ask you what you want and I give it to you. If you don’t like it and I was the one that suggested it, I’ll give you a new outfit even if your wedding is the day after. I don’t know how we are going to do it but I’ll make sure I deliver it to you. BUT if you are the one that picked something and I tried to advice you that this won’t work or that won’t work, let me do it this way…i’ll be so unhappy, i’ll be so mad but guess what? That material has my name on it so I have to fix it. Irrespective of who did who or who didn’t do what, I need to sort it out. That’s why I always tell people that I can be angry but customers like that give me 100 more customers because she would never forget. There was one time I was in the UK and I had done something for someone. When she came she didn’t like it and she wasn’t that upset but who will tell me a bride won’t be that upset? She said “oh Bimm’s don’t worry, I’ll just wear a lace”…I said no. She said my wedding is in the next…I said no. I said if it’s going to take me to buy a ticket right now, I’m going to buy it but guess what? I don’t need to buy a ticket I can do everything I want to do from here. Then I called my workers, take this and take that….when she saw the aso-oke she didn’t believe. In fact, up till today when she sees me, she said to me I have respect for you and I’m never going to loose that respect even if today I heard you killed your mum. I sorted it out from here and that was it. Like I said the most important part of my job is to make you smile.
What invaluable skills would you advice upcoming designers to develop (early enough) in order to have a successful career?
Always bring something new to the table because there are loads and loads of ideas out there. For instance Deola Sagoe’s komole, I’ll never copy it because Deola Sagoe has made a name for herself in that komole. I need to make a name for myself. All of these people (fashion designers) don’t understand why BIMM’s is flying around because all you do is, (I do something) and you go to my page and copy it. Then you want your name to be out there, it’s not possible. Bring something new to the table. Do not expect to be a copycat and become first in your class. It is not possible. For instance, both of us are in the same class and I copy you all the time. You’ll forever be the first in that class and I’ll be a follower and I don’t like to be a follower. So to the young entrepreneurs, do they want to be a follower because they might feel I’m an entrepreneur, I am my own boss so a lot of them follow. They are still in that bondage. You are waiting for someone to do a design and you’ll go and copy it and because you have someone that can manufacture it, you feel you can spoil the business for that person. Or you feel there’s ‘no big deal’ in what she’s doing and you copy my design. I can never do Deola Sagoe. If a Chinese woman enters my office today and offers me a machine 10x better than the one she’s using, I’ll tell them how can I create mine? Because I want BIMM’s to be all over the world. So they should always bring something new to the table. People always give an excuse that “oh this person has started doing it”…the world is big enough. You can achieve anything. Also they shouldn’t see anybody as their competitor. I am only competing with myself. The moment you start seeing someone as your competition, you’ve lost in the game. You should do something whereby even your colleagues (that hate you and don’t like you), whenever they see you they bow for you. They may not bow to you physically but they bow to you. You think I don’t know my colleagues talk about me? The moment they say “there’s no big deal in what she’s doing’ they bow to me. You know why? Because you can’t do it and that’s why you’re saying there’s no big deal in what she’s doing. So make your colleagues (I call them my colleagues) make them bow to you. Also, don’t think they are your friends. There are no friends in any sector. If we are doing the same thing, and you are telling us to be friends….no. We are friends based on the fact that we are pretending to each other. You’re my first enemy because guess what? I won’t show you how I feel and you won’t show me how you feel. So are we friends? There are no friends in business, as long as you guys are doing the same thing; we are not friends.
There’s one last thing I’ll like to say to the upcoming entrepreneurs. I’ll tell them to get a shop or rent a place based on their clientele. I started from my room. I move as my client’s base moves. Some people just want to start and rent a shop immediately but guess what? You are going to be using all your profit to pay the landlord and by the time you know it, you’ll be bankrupt. You’ll then pack all your things and move back to your house then there’s no business. People that we started together, when they walk into my shop they ask me how did you do it? I did it in a way where I didn’t use my ten fingers to feed. If I tell you that with this business, people think that because she has this business she doesn’t have to do other stuff. You don’t know how many things I do. I have other small businesses. If I open my drawer for you, I have that thing ‘kolo’ and I have an account where I throw in money. I’m doing Uber. I invest in other businesses and all the 10% , 15% I’m earning, I’m not touching it. There are loads of things to invest in. Someone is not making 200k naira yet and they are living a life of 500k naira because you feel you’re an entrepreneur; I told my sister this once. There was one time she said she bought a Jimmy Choo and I said what? I asked how long has your business been running? When I was your age, I was making more money than you’re making now and I never bought such. I used to wear Primark and I used to wear Primark with style because anything Jimmy Choo is doing, Primark is doing it, so that’s it.
Do you have a fashion school or any upcoming training (or internship) programmes for fashion students?
Well I believe I’m not a good teacher and no matter how happy and jovial I am, God forgive me…I’m more scared of human beings than God because human beings are not nice. Some will come in the form of I want to learn but they are coming to kill you. I’m the kind of person that if my spirit has not pushed me to do something, I just don’t break into it. So even if I want to start teaching, I’m not going to teach the privileged. I’m going to teach the less privileged. I’m not going to teach someone than can go to school and sit down and use his brain. I’ll teach people that don’t have the opportunity to do this. Those are the ones I want to teach. Those are the ones that would appreciate it. I have over 16 people working for me and I tell them every time, you should be lucky you’re working under me because I used to be like you guys and I want you to be like me tomorrow. So I’m not going to give up on you. I don’t sack my workers, I make them sack themselves and I give second chances. Oh someone stole…next thing you’ll hear is send her away. I’m like if I send her away will that change her from stealing in another place? But if I keep her here, I’ll teach her the morals and for the fact that God can give second chances and more than second chances, why can’t we give ourselves? People think I’m foolish when they offend me because I don’t say anything. Guess what I’ve given excuses for them in my head. Oh she didn’t mean it that way, that wasn’t what she was going to say, that wasn’t what she was going to do. Guess what? I’ve moved on. But if you keep doing it, I’ll just move for you. I’m planning on teaching in the future and I’m planning on having a school because i’m always saying to myself, very soon I’ll stop this and all I’ll do is teach. Maybe if the governor’s wife wants me to do something for her, I’ll do it but one day I’m going to stop this and I’m just going to teach.Bimm’s with the Vice President of Nigeria and his wife
Can you mention a few of your favourite fashion designers?
I‘m not a fashionista and I don’t know all these designers. People don’t believe that I don’t know all these designers. I really don’t. I’ll say this I don’t have a favourite designer but I love a good clothe; even if its coming from Primark. I love something classy even if it’s coming from Zara. I love something that turns heads even if it’s coming from Banana Republic. I don’t have a favourite, all you have to do is just wow me with you being classy. Right now Gucci is doing it for me because they are not stopping.
What are your dreams as a Fashion Designer?
My dream is to put Nigeria on the map. Wherever you get to, people ask where are you from? I say Africa. Where in Africa? I say Nigeria. They say where is Nigeria? When I went to Indonesia, it got to me and I was like if I can know Bali (without being here before) someone should know Nigeria. So I’m going to put Nigeria on the map and not by working for all these foreign designers but by being a consultant for them. They’ll say my consultant is an African and she’s coming from Nigeria. And not just being a consultant, being a consultant with the aso-oke because we are used to not using our own product. So that is what I want to do. I can’t wait to be a consultant for Gucci. I can’t wait for Gucci to start doing aso-oke jacket because during the winter they wear jacket all the time. That’s my dream.
You are an extremely busy woman, what do you do to unwind and rest?
Ehen let me tell you by being by myself. I like to hangout by myself. I don’t eat. I don’t like food. I don’t like hanging out. What can I say? I love to travel. If you want to get me a gift just contribute money and buy a ticket for me. As I am busy right now, if someone says I have a ticket for you next week to spend 5 days in Zanzibar, I’ll say please can we move it to 2 days? I love to travel. Being on a plane and being by myself relaxes me because I do a lot of thinking. I am one of those people that when I’m on the plane, I always pray to sit down next to someone that is very intelligent and sees the world differently and not the common people you find. When I don’t get to meet someone like that, sometimes I put on the tv…I’m not watching it…I’m just thinking. I cry on the plane because I think about stuff. I smile on the plane and in fact I play with cabin crew too much. It’s not like I want anything from them (such as more food or something). Whenever I’m getting down they are like, “oh I’ve never seen your type before, they’ll never forget my memory”. I always try to leave a trace of goodness wherever it is I am. You know I think I have multiple personality disorder. When it’s my work I’m a crazy woman because that’s what puts food on my table, that’s my life, that’s my gift. When I’m not working, I’m quiet. That’s when people get worried…oh what is wrong? One moment I’m all jumpy and playing around and the next moment I’m quiet. So they are like are you okay? I’m like I’m fine, this is who I am.
Assuming you were invited to a grand costume party and you could dress as anything or anyone you want, what/who would you be dressed like to the party and why?
Me. Because I want you to be able to see what I’m wearing and go and copy it. But know this, I Iove two people in my life; Princess Diana and Maryam Babangida (she was a style icon but a lot of people didn’t see that).Maryam Babangida and Princess Diana, Lagos, 1990
The Nigerian fashion industry is something that is fast growing…a great deal of Nigerian fashion brands are being showcased in reputable places around the world. What is something important that you are yet to see happen in the current Nigerian fashion industry?
I don’t think I have an answer to that question because you know things are evolving everyday and Nigerian designers are NOT slacking or slowing down. Everyone is doing well and we are getting new designers everyday…I mean you have 15 year old designers now. All they have to do is just put more work in whatever it is they are doing and be original. I’m very particular about them being original.
What is your most prized item in your wardrobe?
(Guilty look)… it’s my Chanel bag. That’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought and I don’t think I’ll buy another one.
Can you tell us something not many people know about you?
I’m an introvert. A lot of people don’t know that and a lot of people don’t know my level of relationship with God.
If the whole world had your attention right now, what would you tell them?
That love is beautiful and we should stop hating on ourselves.
Last but not least, do you have any good book, movie, documentary or place you’d recommend to your readers?
I’m very weird, I like to watch crime and investigation and I like to watch CNN. The CNN came from the International Relations in me because that’s what I studied. If I were to recommend a place (maybe because it’s the best vacation I’ve had)…I’ll tell people to go to Bali, Indonesia. You won’t even be sitting in your room, forget. You don’t even need to book a hotel room. Just tell them to put you by one side (just for you to be changing your dress) because there is always something to be done. Always. Okay I won’t go back there because that was the longest flight; it was 23 hours. But guess what with Emirates, you won’t regret it because they just keep feeding you. They won’t let you know you’re travelling that far. There’s a lot of places I actually want to travel to, I should have gone this year but I just keep saying oh I’ll go next year. But this coming year….I’m going to enjoy 2018 like it’s my last.
At the end of our meeting, Bimms and I tried to take a couple of pictures together but the pictures were greasier than a frying pan; all thanks to our oily skin. It was hilarious because we kept dabbing and patting our face dry but what can we say…our facial glow refuses to be tamed. We later settled for a mirror selfie.Bimm’s in her storeroom
To stay updated with Bimm’s latest designs be sure to follow her on any of her social media platforms below:
Whatsapp line: +2348028369943
Business line: +2348090833134 (calls only)
No 6a Admiralty road, off Admiralty way
Lekki Phase 1,
Bimms’s and I are wishing you all a wonderful and prosperous new year!
Thank you for stopping by today but before you go, do show Bimm’s some love by dropping a comment or any question you may have for her below and be sure to watch out for my next amazing guest!!