Exploring cultural and gender identity with hand stitched designs.
By Amira Hasan | 18th September 2020
CREDIT: BAMI LONDON
Made to order, hand-stitched leather accessory brand BAMI London is all about storytelling with personality. Talking to the namesake behind the brand, 28-year-old London born Bami Oyefeso, I get an insight into her process and the journey behind her unique concept which has gone from strength to strength in the past two years.
“I want my brand to reflect what masculinity should be; genderless.”
Driven by the freedom to express genderless masculinity without the judgement of society, Bami’s limited edition pieces are intentionally gender neutral. The brand also reflects Bami’s interest in Kente, the indigenous Ghanaian textile made from interwoven silk and cotton which she incorporates onto her leather accessories. As the demand for her work continues to grow, Bami is ready to explore more seasonal trends. While maintaining a focus on traditional African prints, she intends to expand into jewellery design as well as leather accessories inspired by one of her favorite animals, the panther.
In her third year studying at London College of Fashion, she and her class were assigned a project set by Tommy Hilfiger, themed ‘America.’ Bami found herself delving into different Native American cultures as a result. “I found that many animals have different symbolic meaning which prompted me to find which was my own” Bami explains, “as I was searching, I was taken by black panthers.” Out of this she established BAMI London’s logo, a geometric take on the animal.
Bami attributes some of her brand’s exponential growth to the increasing prevalance of the Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd. “With everything going on, such as BLM and Black Pound Day, the demand for my designs has exploded.” While she still has a nine-to-five, the demand for her brand has surmounted, giving her cause to consider making BAMI London her full time job. On top of this, Bami explains that with everyone being stuck indoors due to COVID-19, there has been a shift in the way we spend our money — investing in small-scale brands instead of fast fashion and large-scale companies. It’s no surprise that the demand for BAMI London’s exclusive accessories has grown.
“Feel the fear and do [what you’re afraid of] anyway. The only person you have to answer to is your future self.”
Given the current climate, Bami shares what it’s like to be a Black woman in the leather industry. When attending the annual Italian leather trade market ‘Lineapelle’ expo, she tells me how walking between business stands she does notice a differentiation in treatment toward her compared to others, however, Bami’s resounding advice is to let yourself feel the fear of doing the things that you find uncomfortable, and going for it regardless. If not skin colour, there will always be something you’re fearful of.
BAMI London epitomises what it means to be a brand of the times. Alongside standing for a shift in how we perceive fashion with its genderless approach, it highlights that accessories can be designed with meaning. With plans to have a studio of her own and increasing the quantity of accessories in her production, BAMI London is conscious-come-powerful by design.