APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs
Michelle Olupona: Busayo is really a celebration of the diversity of African textiles and an effort to present African prints and textiles in modern, sophisticated shapes. I am inspired by textiles, the fabrics drive the design. I am primarily interested in the diverse array of textile possibilities across the continent beyond wax print. I certainly love wax print fabrics but there is so much more than that. I aim to design for the regular woman, who loves fashion but is not consumed by it, and someone who loves to wear unique pieces. All of our fabrics are often grouped together and that is unfortunate.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Michelle: I have been making pieces for myself for a long time. My family left Nigeria in 1991 and I returned for visits beginning in 2000 and would create pieces on each of the trips. I grew up in Nigeria and have always loved going to the market to buy and explore the fabric options. I began seriously focusing on creating a collection in 2010. I created designs for other folks, because the fabrics are beautiful and the possibilities are truly endless. I loved wearing these pieces, that integrated my love of African prints and tradition with a more Western aesthetic, and thought other women might want to do the same.
APiF: If your label would be a person, what kind of person would it be?
Michelle: She is spunky, fun-loving, sophisticated, loves to travel, filled with curiosity about life and connected to who she is and has a keen awareness of where she wants to go.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Michelle: Wow, too many. It changes all the time. But right now I would say it is probably the Henry Skirt or Kehinde tunic.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Michelle: I currently host events in New York, selling in boutiques and online through my website, www.busyaonyc.com. My goal is to be in 50 boutiques by the end of the year.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Michelle: Follow your heart and just start, take classes, immerse yourself in what you love and start reaching out to people and telling them about what you are doing. Develop your craft, I think the advice works for really any field that you are interested in and is not limited for fashion. Work on a business plan and if it is only a few pieces, create your stuff and start getting it out there.
APiF: What are your fashion plans for 2012?
Michelle: Accessories, accessories, Accessories. Visiting other countries in Africa for fabric inspiration. I am traveling to Mali and Nigeria shortly and I am very excited about the possibilities. Expanding the line and making the collection bigger and better.