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Yemi Osunkoya: King Of Bridal Couture

Award-winning designer Yemi Osunkoya established the Kosibah label in London in 1991 in honour of his mother, Cosiba. Osunkoya’s brand specialises in elegant, contemporary couture bridal wear, evening wear and formal day wear, with clientele well-represented in the UK, Nigeria and the USA. His signature made-to-order dresses use corsetry and boned bodices to recreate the elegant hourglass figure.

Yemi Osunkoya for Kosibah at the 2018 Lagos Bridal Fashion Week

The couture dressmaker, who recently showcased a collection on the Lagos Bridal Fashion Week runway, had an insightful chat with Guardian Life about his passion and the evolution of his designs.

What was your biggest fear when starting your own line and how did you overcome it?
My greatest fear was that people may not like my designs and patronise my business. I overcame it by initially accepting every commission that came my way, from evening gowns, wedding dresses, tailored suits for women as well as formal and casual menswear. Then, I realised I hated doing menswear. I also realised that, because of the labour-intensive, bespoke nature of the way I was trained, casualwear was too time-consuming to be viable business-wise. Organically, I began to specialise in bridal and evening wear.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been several. [I have dressed] two members of the British Parliament and two daughters of a Peer to the British realm, both at the Palace of Westminster. [I was invited] to St James’s Palace to meet HRH Prince Charles as one of the African diasporas in the UK doing great things in their line of business. I’ve also dressed daughters of Nigerian and Ghanaian Royalty. I appreciate and have been humbled by all these opportunities.

How have you remained sustainable since you entered the bridal business?
I’ve always been prepared to cut my cloth according to my size and not be tempted to do things because other people are doing them or expect me to do so. Also, I’m constantly trying to improve my craft and myself, learning new techniques and keeping up with technology.

What valuable things have you learned from your experience in the business of fashion since you started designing professionally?
I have learnt the importance of developing and nurturing networking relationships with vendors in businesses related to mine. It’s been vital to the growth and sustainability of my business and has also helped on a personal level.

How would you describe your work ethic?
Driven and compassionate. I’ve always been driven to succeed and not make [my parents] regret their decision or give the naysayers an opportunity to say ‘we told you so’. After my business evolved into mainly bridalwear, I realised I had the temperament to deal with anxious, nervous or demanding brides. A wedding is the most important event in their life this far and so much expectation is built around it, so I empathise with them during the process of creating their gowns.

How would you describe the perfect Kosibah bride?
The perfect Kosibah Bride is someone who has decided she wants a dress created for her from scratch, appreciates and knows the value of couture, and has the budget to afford it.

After the cross of your 25th year in the business, your style evolved. What now inspires your designs?
It was important to me that one has to keep evolving and renewing one’s design aesthetic and style while keeping to the elements that make one unique. I’m inspired to create softer more ethereal designs and use soft, floaty fabrics such as tulle and organza.

*All images are from Yemi Osunkoya.

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