by Yemi Olowu
For over two decades, Yemi Osunkoya has stunned brides, their grooms, family and friends with his artfully created masterpiece wedding gowns. Though based in the UK, the creative head behind Kosibah Creations, who also makes eveningwear, has found himself returning home more often in recent years, as more Nigerian-based brides seek his skill and mastery to create the stunning gown they have always dreamt of. He speaks to YNaija about his craft…
Tell us about what you do
I’m a bridal and evening wear designer based in London, and what I do is bespoke gowns for specific clients made from scratch for them to enhance and flatter their figures in a way that celebrate the female form and make the best of the way they look, regardless of size, height, body type. What am trying to do is to ensure that my clients look their best and as a recreation of the classical hour glass figure.
How long have you been doing this?
By September it’s going to be 20 years since Kosibah has been in existence, although my first fashion show was in 1982 – a very long time ago. But officially, I would say 20 years.
Kosibah is a variation of my mother’s name, which is Cosiba, I replaced the C with a K and added H at the end.
Any formal knowledge in dressmaking?
Oh yes. I did a four year degree course in textile design at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, then I went to the Paris Academy of Fashion in London, where I learnt couture and techniques in women’s wear. I was trained to do old school couture.
Any future plans of opening a store here in Nigeria?
Well because I don’t do ready to wear, I do bespoke wear, each garment is made specifically for that person. I live in England, I work in England, but I have Nigerian clients. It’s easy for me to pop over and do my consultation, fittings, but actually the clothes are made in England and that’s what it’s going to be for the immediate future. I don’t sell off the shelf, so there is no point in having a shop.
Can you name a few of your clients?
Recently I did the wedding for the Royal family in Ife, Mrs Derele Fayose, Alisha Dickson, she a UK presenter and pop singer,Sheila Ferguson, Indra Ove, to name a very few. Would like to keep some clients confidential.
Is it just bridals?
I do evening wear, but to be honest, coming from a Nigerian perspective, how many people would fly from Nigeria to England to fit an evening gown? If they are happy to do that it’s absolutely fine. But I push bridal wear more in Nigeria, because I feel it’s the one time people are prepared to go an extra mile.
How do you achieve a dream gown for a bride?
It’s a combination of several things, I have lots of original sketches which I constantly update, and in all this sketches I look for the best way to achieve the hourglass figure, a look that is appealing and flattering. When a client comes to me, I look at their body type, and automatically am thinking what’s best for this person, then I ask them questions about what they desire to wear because most people have thought about their wedding dress from when they were young. Most elements might not work, but I will make sure I know what they like and what they wouldn’t like or what area of their body they are not very confident about to cover up, and the body part they are very proud of and they want to enhance and a combination of other things, you know. They might like the top part of my sketch or a different part of the bottom. That’s how the design evolves and suits them.
Do you usually have difficult brides?
I’m used to that, but what we have to understand is that a girl’s wedding is the most important day and there’s a lot riding behind it – a lot of anxiety, lots of expectations, they want to wow their friends and I understand that, and again that’s why I don’t compromise on my prices. You can be as forcey as anything, I can deal with it, but you have to know you are paying for the value of what you’re getting.
How much does an average Kosibah piece cost?
A bridal gown starts from 2,500 pounds, and on average between three and eight thousand pounds. Now, what people have to remember is that these are bespoke couture gowns, made from scratch and very labour intensive. Am aware everybody has different price point for a project and I totally respect that, but also they have to understand my point of view, because I don’t do off the peg – these are couture.
So how is business?
Well I thank God, it’s going very very well, am also doing dresses for more brides in Nigeria. I was in Nigeria five times last year, this is my second time in Nigeria this year, and most likely I’m coming back at the end of May to do a few fittings for brides I’ve met on this trip, so this trip has been quite successful for me and I’m hoping for even more success this year and the years to come.
Photo credit: Yemi Osunkoya | Facebook
Twitter – @yemikosibah