She launched her own brand DUMEBI, moves back and forth between London and Paris and was recently featured in Vogue as a trendy and emerging young designer. Meet our IFA Paris Graduate Barbara Biosah.
Michel Temman: Could you introduce and tell us more about yourself, how you got started in fashion and also about your life nowadays between London and Paris?
Barbara Biosah: I’m a luxury fashion designer from London, based between London and Paris. I specialise in couture detailed unconventional and exotic handmade clothing, shoes and accessories. Born in London but of Nigerian heritage, I’ve always been interested in art and embracing both cultures. As a child I attended several Nigerian parties in London with my mother and was really fascinated and inspired by the very colourful, vibrant and flamboyant attire and rich culture. I then gained a love for Haute Couture and French fashion, the beautiful and colourful couture collections of Dior, Christian Lacroix and Thierry Mugler reminded me of the extravagant African attire I was used to seeing.
Barbara’s brand DUMEBI on the runway
M.T.: When and how did your (hi)story with fashion start exactly?
Barbara Biosah: My love for fashion began when I was about 10 years old, my mother owned a boutique in North London and would travel all around the world and buy luxury goods and sell them. My mother also bought materials and had tailors working at the store making custom clothing for clients and customers. It was there that I learnt about sewing and gained interest in creating fashion. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I could really pursue my love for fashion. I then took a two year Fashion & Clothing course for my A-levels at Winchmore School and then went on to take a foundation course at Southgate College. I was accepted into Parsons New School for Design in NYC, where I studied for a year before transferring to IFA Paris in France to pursue my love for Haute Couture. I graduated from IFA Paris with a Bachelor degree in Fashion Design & Technology in 2014. I really loved Paris and IFA Paris taught me many skills, how to edit my work and design collections like a Fashion Designer and not a fashion student!
DUMEBI recently featured in Vogue UK
M.T.: When and how did you create your own Couture brand DUMEBI?
Barbara Biosah: Shortly after graduation, I undertook a very hands-on three month internship with British avant-garde fashion designer Gareth Pugh in his London studio. He was celebrating his 10 year anniversary at London Fashion Week at the age of just 33 and this really inspired me as I was 22 turning 23 at the time. I thought: if he could do it, then maybe I can. So after completing the internship in February 2015, I spent my time back and forth between London and Paris, researching, working, collaborating with photographers and creating content for my website, taking French lessons until I finally registered my company in London in September and then moved back to Paris in November 2015 where I opened up a small atelier. This was the official start of my Couture brand DUMEBI. Since then, I’ve been working with a small team and spending my time participating in fashion shows and trade shows internationally and continuously collaborating with amazing industry professionals to create editorials and more content for my website and social media in order to create buzz around my brand.
The aesthetic and sensual world of DUMEBI
Barbara in her Paris atelier
M.T.: What is DUMEBI’s brand DNA and also what are your various inspirations?
Barbara Biosah: DUMEBI specialises in exotic couture clothing created for young fashionable woman, mixing inspirations from Africa with a British modern twist and Parisian flair. Everything is handmade using the highest quality materials and focusing on great attention to detail. Being a creative person, most of my collections are inspired by art, mainly renaissance and old master paintings as they were the most vivid and dramatic artwork telling stories, mostly biblical. Because of my Nigerian heritage, I’m inspired by colour and bold shapes, so my designs are usually very dynamic and strong. One thing I felt that was missing from some of the Haute Couture brands that inspired me, was that I would go to the stores and it was completely different than the catwalk, everything was watered down and marketed for an older crowd. The concept of DUMEBI is that its’ exotic couture clothing doesn’t need to be watered down for stores and can be as strong and as entertaining on the runway but also worn to fabulous events and outings by fashion forward young women.
“MY ULTIMATE GOAL IS TO GET A CELEBRITY BRAND AMBASSADOR LIKE RIHANNA OR BEYONCE. I FEEL THEY REALLY REPRESENT THE ESSENCE OF DUMEBI!” – BARBARA BIOSAH
M.T.: You design clothing, shoes and handmade accessories. You probably have a “total look” vision in mind? This is also your idea of bringing beauty and pride to women today?
DUMEBI’s designs on the catwalk
Barbara Biosah: Yes, I’m all about the total look! I think when it comes to fashion, style is a very important aspect. You can have amazing individual pieces but not knowing how to combine them or what works well with it can make it hard for clients to visualise how it will work/look. Creating a total look gives the option to people who love to match outfits. Since all our products are handmade, including all the special textiles we use are made in house, it may be difficult to find something elsewhere that matches it exactly.
M.T.: How were your studies at IFA Paris valuable?
DUMEBI Capsule collection
Barbara Biosah: Studying at IFA Paris benefited me a lot. It’s a very good fashion academy that offers all-round knowledge, with the countless projects from the very specialised and intense subjects I was able to learn, practice and improve my skills. The critics we had after every presentation helped me to edit my work and presentation, as those things are very important for being a good fashion designer. It also built up my confidence in presenting my work to a crowd and being able to explain my concepts and inspirations. I had the opportunity to showcase my work on the runway in Paris at the IFA Paris Graduation Show, which was an amazing experience. I was 1 of 5 students chosen to show my final graduation collection during Shanghai Fashion Week and flew to China to participate in a Fashion Contest, which was an incredible opportunity!
M.T.: We can see your style as very unique with its’ powerful shapes and drapes but also very free, edgy and limitless. How do you personally define your own style and what do you like to wear?
Barbara and her muses
Barbara Biosah: I would say that my personal style is very similar to most of my designs and are very self-reflective and when designing something I always think “would I wear this?” because I have quite a loud girly and colourful style. I’m obsessed with high heels, I wear them everyday, to school, to work, to meetings, etc. And I love dresses, I almost never wear jeans, and trousers depends on my mood but they have to be super stylish. I usually only wear them when I’m cold, lol. I do get a lot of people saying to me when they see my brand “It’s very you!”
M.T.: You became a name – recently feature in Vogue UK – and a very observed and followed emerging fashion designer. What are your current happenings, new projects and perhaps the next challenge?
Barbara Biosah: Thank you! My dream is to become a household name. For now, I am organising my SS18 fashion show at London Fashion Week on the 15th of September*. It will be my debut fashion show at London Fashion Week as I previously showcased in Paris last year. With this show, I am hoping to get my products sold in luxury departments stores like Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and maybe a few in Paris. My ultimate goal is to get a celebrity brand ambassador like Rihanna or Beyonce. I feel they really represent the essence of DUMEBI!
M.T.: What advice would you give to fashion students dreaming to follow your path?
Barbara Biosah: My advice to prospective and current IFA Paris students would be: “If you really want it, go for it!” It will be hard, emotional… One minute you are very positive, the next you are feeling insecure and doubting yourself. But it’s normal. You have to continue to believe in yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other brands because what’s going to make you successful is your unique style. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people twice, three times. Put yourself out there: collaborations and good relationships are the keys to my growing success!
*Barbara will be showcasing her SS18 Couture Collection at the Saatchi Gallery for London Fashion Week on Friday, September 15th.
For more information on the program pursued by Barbara at IFA Paris, please visit: Bachelor in Fashion Design & Technology