FEBRUARY 3, 2017

Oritsegbugbemi ‘Bubu’ Ogisi, of Lagos' I.AM.ISHIGO, defies categorization.

words by: vane karolle


Entering the I.AM.ISIGO showroom in Lagos feels a bit like entering a sacred space. Walls foiled with aluminum, collections past and present assembled in color order, music from unseen speakers, red and yellow ottomans tastefully and airily stacked, whimsical paintings framed and hung. The sacrosanct space is brainchild of creative and artistic director Oritsegbugbemi ‘Bubu’ Ogisi. After earning a master’s degree in fashion business from the prestigious ESMOD (l’Ecole Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode) in Paris, Bubu centered on the necessity of building a distinct space.

“In fashion, you have to have that space where people come, see and understand what you’re all about. This is my baby, this is my vision,” she says, referring to her showroom in an almost dulcet, yet determined tone. “I had to get a space so people understood where I’m coming from creatively. Whenever people come here, I tell them: you’re walking into my mind. This is a showroom, not a store, not a studio. It’s a showroom.”

I.AM.ISIGO opened in 2015, beginning as a white–out nook on Victoria Island in Lagos. “The space is an avenue of showing people that we can transform and create installations so you understand the brand more as it evolves,” she explains. “We have the daily and the monthly visual merchandising. Every year, we change the interior of the space. First year, it was all white, clean, pure and very minimal. We opted for tires that year because we wanted to show people ‘how fashion rolls.’ The tire seats used in making the often coveted dining sets are made out of recycled helicopter tires.”

Bubu has also created her first satellite exhibition at the Lagos gallery Art Twenty-One, where she says, “we had our bicycle racks in different colors, our tire dining-sets, a unique display of our pieces which was really peculiar because this was at an art gallery. We had to transform the color scheme for our pieces to suit that of the furniture and the racks.”

And then there are her sartorial creations: when dressed in I.AM.ISIGO, you never second-guess. “To me, the body is the ultimate canvas,” Bubu says, referencing her current collection, which she’s titled UNCAVED. “Some people might rely on a mirror to be sure of their reflection. But this collection was all about creating pieces which rule out second thoughts. On trying them on, you’re already decided ‘Like Oh! I know I look cool in this or that!”

She draws major inspiration from the Omorate people of southern Ethiopia, she says, communities who live in the valley and don’t wear conventional clothes. Instead they rely on natural fashion - accessorizing with earrings, bangles, headpieces made out of tusks.

“The Omorate people rely on each other for feedback. That’s what we channeled while creating these pieces; it’s like your friends creating patterns on your body so you have no fear, no doubt because they know you and they want to make you look as fabulous as they’d love to look themselves.”

That translates to love and appreciation - to people relying on others as opposed to reflection for validation. “I’m telling my clients that you don’t need to rely on a mirror when buying these pieces. You can trust me.” Talk about fashion embedded with love and credence. This is a brother’s keeper sort of brand.

To showcase the collection, Bubu created an installation in her showroom called THE INSULATOR - covering the walls in aluminium foil. “It’s stimulated by the phenomenon of foresight - not relying on your reflection - which is why we opted for aluminum foil [instead of mirrors]. You can see and at the same time you really can’t.” Distortion at play.

With all these layers, inspirations, influences and spaces it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who Bubu is. Many refer to her as a talent – befitting. But Ogisi would rather be called a creative entrepreneur - even more so. She’s living proof that creativity can be remunerative. And she’s prolific: The I.AM.ISIGO showroom hosts bi-monthly events. If you’re in Lagos and vibed out to the “Falana Uncovered Live” performance series in the last year, you have Bubu to thank for the design and ambience. As creative and artistic director, a designer, body artist, creative consultant, visual merchandiser, and more - Bubu defies categorization.