Meet Bukola Owolabi, the visionary Creative Director and Founder behind Emagine by Bukola, a trailblazing brand that has taken the Nigerian fashion scene by storm. In just three short years, Bukola has transformed the brand into a force to be reckoned with, leading a team of dedicated professionals who share her passion for empowering and celebrating extraordinary women.
Emagine by Bukola is more than just a fashion brand; it is a custodian of grace, a beacon of excellence, and a trusted partner in celebrating the victories of women. With an unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional service and style, the brand has solidified its position as a trusted name in Nigeria and Africa’s bridal and custom-made fashion.
Bukola’s creative prowess has garnered widespread recognition and trust within the fashion and lifestyle community. Her exceptional designs have graced the pages of notable publications and caught the attention of influential partners. Her ability to understand individual preferences and transform them into works of art is unparalleled, from styling prominent society women to dressing luminaries in the Nigerian film and music industries.
In this interview, she takes us on a journey through her creative process and speaks about the Emagine by Bukola 2024 Bridal Collection, “Unrelated,” a collection set to make an indelible mark in the world of bridal fashion.
What drove your decision to create Emagine by Bukola and focus specifically on bridal and couture fashion?
My motivation stemmed from my passion for design and my desire to celebrate individuality and elegance. I saw a gap in the bridalwear market, and I recognised the need for bridalwear that truly reflected the uniqueness of brides. I wanted to create pieces that made each bride feel like the best version of herself on her special day. Intending to address these gaps, I established both EB Bridal, specialising in bridalwear, and Emagine by Bukola, focusing on haute couture fashion.
In just three years, Emagine by Bukola has experienced remarkable growth. What strategies or approaches have you implemented to achieve this success?
Our commitment to quality and meticulousness is at the core of everything we do. We prioritise paying close attention to every detail. We place great importance on collaboration and building strong relationships with our clients and partners. Additionally, we also leverage the power of social media. We have reached a wider audience and connected with clients worldwide through digital marketing.
As a fashion designer, what challenges do you face in staying ahead of trends and meeting the evolving needs and preferences of your clients?
Staying ahead of trends and adapting to our clients’ changing preferences are thrilling challenges in the fashion industry. We achieve most of this by conducting extensive research, attending international fashion events, and drawing inspiration from global design trends. Our ability to customise our designs allows us to cater to individual tastes, as most of our fabrics are custom-made. We do not simply imitate other brands or designs; we create our fabrics entirely from scratch. We sketch out the designs, embellish them, and bring them to life. This approach has been instrumental in keeping us at the forefront of trends and facilitating our continuous evolution.
How do you balance your creative design process with the managerial responsibilities of running a successful fashion brand and ensure your team members share your vision and deliver outstanding service?
It is undeniably a difficult task. It’s important to have a team that is both passionate and in sync with this vision. Regular communication and the establishment of clear brand objectives are vital. Creating an environment that encourages creativity and ensuring the consistent delivery of exceptional service is also essential for maintaining a unified team. These are the things that have helped in achieving balance. Continuously reminding your staff about the objectives and regularly communicating these aspects to them are key practices.
What role has social media played in growing the brand’s presence and reaching a wider audience?
Social media has been pivotal in growing Emagine by Bukola’s presence. It has allowed us to showcase our designs, connect with clients worldwide and stay updated with industry trends. Using platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, we have successfully engaged with brides and fashion entities, creating a worldwide community that truly values our craftsmanship.
Can you share any memorable experiences or moments that have solidified your commitment to providing unparalleled service and impeccable style?
There have been numerous instances, but one stands out. Not long ago, a bride shared her experience wearing one of our creations and expressed how it made her feel like a true queen on her wedding day. This helped solidify our commitment to providing unmatched service and style. Knowing that we played a part in making someone’s dream day extraordinary is incredible and very satisfying.
What advice would you give aspiring fashion designers who want to establish their brand in the industry?
For aspiring fashion designers, authenticity is very key. Stay true to your unique vision, and do not be afraid to take risks. Building a solid network within the industry is important. Learn to embrace the power of collaboration and remember that success does not happen overnight. It requires perseverance and dedication to your craft. Most importantly, be yourself and embrace your uniqueness.
You recently released your SS24 bridal collection titled “Unrelated”. What was the inspiration behind this collection, and how did the creative journey unfold in bringing it to life?
The collection is inspired by our industry journey, reflecting my six-year career as a fashion designer. It embodies my experiences, challenges, moments of joy, and the creative process involving research, sketching, and working closely with my team to transform these emotions into beautiful designs.
It’s been a revealing process. Our team started working on the collection in May. We encountered unexpected challenges with designing a bridal collection and had to let go of 4-5 designs. We had to ensure that these designs would be well-received by the public. This meant making tough decisions and fostering a positive atmosphere among our workers and staff. We wanted everyone to infuse positivity into the brand and the collection, especially during those countless all-nighters where no one could go home. As a new mother, not spending much time with my daughter was tough. But we overcame and successfully launched the collection.
The “Unrelated” name was chosen to avoid foreign-sounding names for the bridal collection. While the dresses may not be similar, they are all connected to the brand and carry its DNA. Each dress has a unique look, representing different qualities such as daring, boldness, confidence, and elegance. The name reflects that although the dresses may not seem related, they form a distinct and cohesive collection.
How does this collection differentiate itself from your previous collections?
This collection’s departure from traditional bridal wear is one thing that sets it apart. It features unique fabric detailing like custom-made patterns drawing inspiration from galaxy constellations. These designs celebrate the individuality of each bride, incorporating elements like beaded waistlines, intricate textures and voluminous skirts that exude grace. The patterns were exclusively developed by Emagine by Bukola, making them unattainable for other brands as they were not involved in their creation.
What emotions or experiences do you hope to evoke in brides who wear the “Unrelated” collection?
We hope to evoke feelings of goodness, resilience, uniqueness, elegance and gracefulness.
We want brides to feel self-assured. We want them to understand that when they don our collection, they are complete as both a bride and an individual. Our goal is to create an impact, enabling our clients to embrace their innate brilliance, radiate a timeless aura and command attention. We want the collection to leave a long-lasting mark on people’s memories.
How does this collection reflect your personal design aesthetic and vision for Emagine by Bukola?
This collection reflects my design aesthetic by challenging traditional norms. Our emphasis was on creating one-of-a-kind bespoke items. For me, it was about redefining bridal wear to blend traditional and modern elements. Emagine by Bukola seeks to empower women to express themselves through unique and high-quality designs.
Can you share any plans or projects Emagine by Bukola has in store for the coming years?
We have some exciting plans for the future, including expanding our presence in international markets. This includes collaborating with renowned designers and introducing new product lines that cater to various fashion preferences and customer segments, including a ready-to-wear collection. We aim to continue our corporate social responsibility through the Emagine Foundation.
What is the Emagine Foundation?
The Emagine Foundation, an integral part of Emagine by Bukola, is committed to empowering the girl child through orientation and hygiene initiatives. We conduct educational programs to boost their self-esteem and career aspirations. Additionally, we emphasise the importance of hygiene, providing knowledge and sanitary products to ensure uninterrupted access to education. We aim to instil confidence, independence, and opportunities for a brighter future in these young girls, aligning with the vision of Emagine by Bukola and the Emagine Foundation.
What does success mean to you as the creative director and founder of Emagine by Bukola, and how do you measure it?
Success is defined by the impact I have on people’s lives through my designs and the exceptional quality and service I provide. It involves creating timeless pieces that make brides and all my clients feel truly special on their most important days. Success is also measured by the happiness and confidence I see in the clients who choose our designs and the growth of Emagine by Bukola as a brand that resonates with people worldwide. The fact that people can confidently say that they want Emagine by Bukola and nothing else is a testament to the impact I can make. Making a difference is what success truly means to me.