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Bubu Ogisi’s Lagos, Nairobi, and Accra-based brand is promoting Pan-African pride with collections rooted in mythology and indigenous storytelling.

By Lindsay Samson

May 14, 2021

Founded in 2009 by Bubu Ogisi, IAMISIGO is a contemporary African fashion brand focused on preserving handcrafting techniques and ancestral textiles through its assertively conceptual, and abstract yet highly wearable designs. Their artisanal collections tell a story of cultural diversity and Pan-African unity, exploring a divine connection to the continent through sartorial expressions of social commentary, diverse cultural inspirations, and spiritual exploration. “It’s definitely also a reflection of my own style,” Ogisi says of the drama and undeniable ingenuity of her work. “I always say if I’m not going to wear it, I’m not going to design it.”

Bubu Ogisi. Photo: via @bubuogisi

The brand's just released FW’21 collection, named ‘White Gold’, draws inspiration from one of the most precious elements on the planet: salt. Comprising striking pieces including ruched midi dresses in jewel tones and tailored patchwork jackets, Ogisi made use of recycled materials like salt jute sack, banana and palm raffia, and calfskin in their construction. Through the employment of highly sustainable processes (only natural dyes including salt, hibiscus, charcoal, and walnut were used in the creation of the collection), the range is an effortlessly elegant interpretation of both the historical value and mythology of the natural mineral resource by which it is inspired. 

Rich color, textured materials, hands-on craftsmanship, and experimental silhouettes are the hallmarks of the IAMISIGO aesthetic. Ogisi’s pieces are at once classic and unorthodox: classic womenswear styles like shirt dresses, tailored trousers, and oversized jackets are transformed into audacious statement pieces through distinct fabric choices that have included bark cloth, PVC, and Kente cloth. With its design concepts rooted in indigenous storytelling, the brand challenges fixed ideas of what African fashion can be while addressing environmental concerns through sustainable production practices including upcycling.

Ogisi, who was born in Nigeria, grew up between Lagos, London, and Paris and lived, by her own assertion, a kind of nomadic European-African existence; one that exposed her to the locations’ markedly different design sensibilities. She would later move to Ghana to study, a country she chose specifically in order to ground herself in an African environment of creative expression, before going on to study at the renowned Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Technique de la Mode (ESMOD) in Paris. There, the designer was influenced by the artistry of a new and venerated culture of fashion, eventually moving back to Nigeria to implement her design ideas in an African context. 


     

Bubu Ogisi. Photo: via @bubuogisi

The brand's just released FW’21 collection, named ‘White Gold’, draws inspiration from one of the most precious elements on the planet: salt. Comprising striking pieces including ruched midi dresses in jewel tones and tailored patchwork jackets, Ogisi made use of recycled materials like salt jute sack, banana and palm raffia, and calfskin in their construction. Through the employment of highly sustainable processes (only natural dyes including salt, hibiscus, charcoal, and walnut were used in the creation of the collection), the range is an effortlessly elegant interpretation of both the historical value and mythology of the natural mineral resource by which it is inspired. 

Rich color, textured materials, hands-on craftsmanship, and experimental silhouettes are the hallmarks of the IAMISIGO aesthetic. Ogisi’s pieces are at once classic and unorthodox: classic womenswear styles like shirt dresses, tailored trousers, and oversized jackets are transformed into audacious statement pieces through distinct fabric choices that have included bark cloth, PVC, and Kente cloth. With its design concepts rooted in indigenous storytelling, the brand challenges fixed ideas of what African fashion can be while addressing environmental concerns through sustainable production practices including upcycling.

Ogisi, who was born in Nigeria, grew up between Lagos, London, and Paris and lived, by her own assertion, a kind of nomadic European-African existence; one that exposed her to the locations’ markedly different design sensibilities. She would later move to Ghana to study, a country she chose specifically in order to ground herself in an African environment of creative expression, before going on to study at the renowned Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Technique de la Mode (ESMOD) in Paris. There, the designer was influenced by the artistry of a new and venerated culture of fashion, eventually moving back to Nigeria to implement her design ideas in an African context.  

“I’ve never wanted to create work that could be considered normal. [The brand] is experimental and embraces a rebellious spirit.”

Over a call with Industrie Africa, Ogisi plainly expresses passion as she speaks of her brand and is confident in its purpose. “I’ve never wanted to create work that could be considered normal,” she says, laughing. “[The brand] is experimental and embraces a rebellious spirit. I design for women or men who are adventurous, curious, and ready to explore. ” As opposed to rapidly producing trend-focused fashion, Ogisi uses the power of slow fashion design to communicate complex stories of Africa's past, present, and future. Her brand operates between studios in Lagos, Accra, and Nairobi, she explains, while regular trips to various locations across the continent to source materials and learn new skills are crucial to Ogisi's creative process. “I also try to [use my work] to question certain issues that have to do with the environment,” she says. ‘And I think that’s one of the reasons I try to make everything by hand.” To this end, IAMISIGO emphasizes low waste processes like patchworking and reuse, priorities that are powered by childhood lessons from her family in not being wasteful with the abundance that we have.

According to Ogisi, the entire process of designing and producing a collection takes about a year. During this time, she says, she’ll gather fresh inspiration from her travels, search for the best quality materials, think about the story or message she wants to portray, while also ensuring that she’s in a spiritually and mentally prepared space to create. But she always makes room for the unexpected. “You need to allow for mistakes in the process of creation. Many people may like to over define things but I’ve learned… not to over-plan,” she laughs. “Because nothing ever really goes as planned.”

IAMISIGO FW‘20. Photo: Courtesy of IAMISIGO

IAMISIGO SS‘21. Photo: Courtesy of IAMISIGO

IAMISIGO AW‘21. Photo: Courtesy of IAMISIGO

A recurring theme of IAMISIGO’s collections has been one of spirituality and mythology. Through the use of traditional textiles and championing of socio-political themes, she aims to communicate stories that offer a new understanding of the continent to the world. For instance, the brand’s FW ‘20 collection, titled ‘Chasing’ Evil was rooted in Congolese mythology and culture. Taking its cue from the country’s traditional spiritual practices and the popular Sapeur subculture, the collection features textured surfaces, dyed recycled cotton, and reconstructed recycled garments that collectively create a pool of eccentric designs. “Essentially we’re conveying and transforming [these stories] into fibers as a form of wearable art,” Ogisi says.

Also key to Ogisi’s creative process and aesthetic is the idea of legacy. To her, what IAMISIGO offers is “wearable art,” the kind of creations that will both reflect and define a generation in years to come. The luxury brand aims to represent a continent that understands its history and stories by bringing together those scattered tales of the continent and crafting them into something tangible and beautiful. “Through unison, we are able to …create and live better,” Ogisi asserts. “It’s through finding, preserving, and owning different stories and philosophies of the continent that we can assert our identities creatively.” 

shop the brand

Short-Sleeve Tie Detail Jumpsuit
Short-Sleeve Tie Detail Jumpsuit
Short-Sleeve Tie Detail Jumpsuit
Short-Sleeve Tie Detail Jumpsuit

IAMISIGO

Short-Sleeve Tie Detail Jumpsuit

$341
3-in-1 Shirt Dress
3-in-1 Shirt Dress
3-in-1 Shirt Dress
3-in-1 Shirt Dress
3-in-1 Shirt Dress

IAMISIGO

3-in-1 Shirt Dress

$413
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress
Paneled Shirt Dress

IAMISIGO

Paneled Shirt Dress

$332
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt
Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt

IAMISIGO

Paneled Short-Sleeve Overshirt

$299
Oversize Square Jacket
Oversize Square Jacket
Oversize Square Jacket
Oversize Square Jacket

IAMISIGO

Oversize Square Jacket

$443
Front-Pocket Culottes
Front-Pocket Culottes
Front-Pocket Culottes
Front-Pocket Culottes
Front-Pocket Culottes

IAMISIGO

Front-Pocket Culottes

$399
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants
Paneled Pants

IAMISIGO

Paneled Pants

$307
Slit Front Paneled Shorts
Slit Front Paneled Shorts
Slit Front Paneled Shorts
Slit Front Paneled Shorts
Slit Front Paneled Shorts
Slit Front Paneled Shorts

IAMISIGO

Slit Front Paneled Shorts

$234