Growing up under the tutelage of a seamstress mother, was all the push she needed to uncover her passion for fashion. Years later, transforming her passion into a career, Sandrah Tubobereni, Founded TUBO in November 2014, a womenswear label, that is best known for her creativity in redesigning the traditional African bridal attires, chic prêt-à-porter fashion clothing, and distinctive haute couture pieces.
After a brief stint in Business Development and Finance, Sandrah who holds an MBA in Global Financial services from Coventry University, UKwith a B.Sc. in Economics, decided to pursue her passion as an intern at Ecoluxe Fashion, London, U.K and MOOFA in Nigeria. TUBO as she is simply called, has been on international runways such as Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL) and Glitz Africa Fashion Week, Ghana, as well as styling some top celebrities in Nigeria and personalities around the world.
What sparked your interest in fashion designing and at what point did you decide to make a career of it?
Fashion happened for me as a child. It started as a business while I was in primary school. I made my primary school uniforms myself and for sale as well. I cannot even say what age exactly, because I grew up in it. My mum was a seamstress in a little shop on Jetty Road, in Abuloma, Port Harcourt where I grew up. She was so strict. She would bully me to make my uniforms myself or get flogged in school for not wearing the right one; trust me, she wasn’t just threatening. In fact, I learnt how to design, cut and sew myself by force. She taught me to be very independent from primary school. I would take a taxi to her tailoring shop after school everyday. That was my fashion school. I knew how to use every machine there from cover buttons to industrial buttonhole machines, everything. In secondary school, I took school uniforms and day wear orders from my mates in my dormitory. By the time I got to the university, I was not just a designer but a hair stylist and a makeup artist as well. But, I decided to concentrate on one of the arts and so I choose fashion. Up until my MBA days, fashion remained a side hustle and I decided to make a career out of it full time in 2014.
So why did you decide it was fashion for you?
Originally, I planned to build a career in finance and do fashion on the side so that I could still be relevant and ultimately, make my contribution in the financial sector of the economy. I had this ‘big’ idea that the only way to change the economy of Nigeria, was to become Minister of Finance and implement the right policies. Growing up, I have realized that I do not have to be a CEO of a bank or finance minister to change Nigeria or change the world, but change will only come if I follow my passion and use my business as a medium of sharing my message. That way, I can change my environment and encourage the people I meet to transmit this change into their environment as well.
In November 2014, I realized I wasn’t fulfilling this desire by pursuing a career in finance. Personally, fashion is beyond sketching and stitching pieces of fabrics together, it’s about touching the lives of women I come in contact with, chasing my passion and changing the world starting from my little workforce, clients, vendors, etc. Being an employee in the corporate world was restricting me from doing that. So that is why I am here today.
I have seen your collections on the runway. How much of western influences do have in your designs?
A great deal of influence I must say. TUBO is now an international brand. We have brides from across the globe, Nigerians and Non-Nigerians. We aim to make traditional wedding outfits as stylish and easy to wear as possible. Our popular OTISI set is a great example of how we’ve re-shaped and transformed traditional wedding attire into global appeal. Today, the “OTISI set” originally designed for the modern and sophisticated Eastern-Nigerian bride, is no longer restricted to that region. It is designed to look like the traditional blouse and “2-wrapper” mostly made with heavily embellished George fabric.
What is the sole aim behind the OTISI set?
The “OTISI set” is created to meet the needs of the modern bride getting traditionally hitched at home or in the diaspora, who is not ready to deal with the hassle of tying a double wrapper. It is designed with the infusion of western styles from sleeves to necklines, but still retaining the core traditional look. It is rich in culture, yet, easy and comfortable at the same time. The best part is that it can be worn repeatedly as a dress, a skirt and blouse or as a complete OTISI set, after the wedding day.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
This season at TUBO, it is all about padded shoulders, beaded tassels and volume. This clearly reflects in our 2018 collection, “Her Form”
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Fashion is art. As an artist, your inspiration can come from anywhere. Mine sometimes comes from the client’s body or even the fabric: but most of the time, I am my own muse. In fact, I have mannequins in my studio molded to my body shape and statistics and as I drape on them, I sketch what I see. Other times, I could draw inspiration from another artist and recreate my own masterpiece. Sometimes, I just create what I see in my mind’s eye.
You have been on for 3 years now and still going strong. How has the experiences and innovations shaped you overtime?
For the past three years in business, I have consistently learned equanimity, clemency and tenacity.
Who is the TUBO woman?
The Tubo woman is bold, sexy and empowered. She is the perfect blend of fragility, femininity and strength. She carries herself with grace as she strides to achieve anything she dares to without fear of failure. She is unapologetically in a different class of her own.
What wouldn’t you wear in the name of fashion?
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
I would like to see our ready-to-wear line TuboRTW running as a Separate business.
What is the best advice you have received as a young entrepreneur?
“Humility plays a huge role in innovation. The solution to your idea might be in the mind of your least employee. A mind that seeks to innovate is not bothered about yesterday” Mrs Ibukun Awosika
What advice would you give to young designers who look up to you?
Be original. Be consistent. Be accountable.
If there is one celebrity you would love to dress, who would it be, locally, internationally and why?
Locally, Genevieve Nnaji. She has always been a source of inspiration to me. She has been on our TV screen since I was a child and remained relevant in the industry till date. As a brand, she tells a story of consistency, a market leader and a yardstick to measure success in her industry.
Internationally I would say Gabriel Union. I fell in love with her character as MaryJane in “Being Mary Jane”. They both have the perfect bodies and the right attitude to be a Tubo Woman.
What is your motto in life?
I am my own competition. I will consciously and continuously, strive to become a better version of myself daily; and live life on my own terms without any external pressures.
Aderinsola Fabikun – Gaining international recognition
Aderinsola Fabikun is the Creative Director of the contemporary womenswear label, Fablane by Derin. The self-taught designer, ventured into fashion designing at the age of 19, after earning a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Covenant University. Having spent almost a decade in fashion designing and gaining an in-depth knowledge of the mechanism of the industry, the Lagos- born fashion designer has become one of the most promising young Nigerian talents, making waves with her brightly colored, fun, unique and timeless pieces. She was honoured with the Female Fashion Designer of the year at the 2016 Eloy Awards and recognised by SME100 as one of the 25 Female entrepreneurs under 25 making an impact in 2015.
She has collaborated in campaigns with major brands such as Malta Guinness and Vaseline Nigeria, and a number of other public figures have been spotted in her designs.
At what point in life did you discover your creative flair?
I think I’ve always had a creative side. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting in my mother’s bedroom, watching her get dressed for events. I would be wide-eyed watching her mix prints, colour and textures, styling elaborate geles with ease. I remember how I would always help her pick shoes and wrappers to match her outfit. Experiences like that, gave me a sort of early start in fashion, helping me build confidence in making fashion choices. Naturally, in university, I made myself resident fashion adviser, helping my friends pick out outfits,? by making the pieces they owned work.
And when did you turn your hobby into a money making business?
How I transitioned from hobby to profession was as simple as a piece of fabric. After graduation, I was obsessed with all things Ankara and I happened to have seen this beautiful Ankara print form. I remember begging her for the fabric and made a tunic out of it. It was the first piece I’d ever designed. I remember how proud I was of that simple tunic and rightly so. That tunic was my starting point and the first domino to fall. When I wore it, my sister asked that I make the same tunic for her. When she wore it, her friends ordered for their own tunics. Before long, I started getting orders from strangers and that was how it all began.
Your label officially kicked off in 2012, how has your work evolved since you began your own label?
In 2012, we started off making tunics and working mostly with Ankara prints. Over the years, we have gained knowledge in different types of fabrics and stretched our creativity with the type of designs we produce. We produce pieces that can go from day to night, red carpet pieces, reception dresses and bridesmaids’ dresses. In 2017, we introduced our RTW range and we are still working towards taking it to the next level.
What do you love about your job?
Everything! I love the creative journey of seeing a piece evolve from an idea in my head, to a sketch, and finally – REAL- on a client’s body. The joy is unexplainable.
What inspired your brand name ‘Fablane by Derin?
Back in University, my close friends called me Miss Fab. I would like to believe it was because I was stylish, but it was probably because my last name is Fabikun. I added Lane because it’s a continuous journey and I included my First name, Derin, for originality.
What influences your designs?
I get my style inspiration from any and everything. When I am not working, I am always almost absent minded because I am thinking of how to merge so many ideas into one. Most of all, I gain inspiration from the bodies of women, it’s so beautiful how we are all shaped differently. I always try to create pieces that can suit or be modified to suit all body types.
Who is the Fablane by Derin woman?
The Fablane woman is young, spirited and confident! She isn’t afraid to express herself through her dressing and doesn’t mind being the center of attention.
What advice would you give to young designers that look up to you?
Do not be money-driven; it is your passion that will keep you going during difficult times. Secondly, be original. Lastly, do not give up, Keep at it!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned since you started your company?
I learned that mistakes are inevitable regardless of how experienced you may be. I have also learned to say, No. I have grown to understand the importance of having a proper structure in place.
How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene and its impact on your business?
The Nigerian fashion industry is growing rapidly and we are being recognized within Africa and abroad. Social media has helped put a spotlight on a lot of homegrown designers like myself. I have women from all over the world reaching out to request for FBD pieces.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
Before the end of the year, I’ll like to have a stand-alone pop-up sale outside Nigeria.
How does being a fashion designer influence your style?
I am not sure because I am such a lazy dresser. I love my boubous. But when I have to step up, I am a very big risk taker. I am not afraid to try new things.
When you are not working, how do you spend you ’me’ time?
I spend a lot of time with family and close friends. I typically don’t watch TV, so one of the goals I set at the start of the year, was to watch more TV shows. So far, I have been dedicating a lot of my free time to doing just that.
If you were not a designer, what would you rather be?
I really love to dance, so maybe I would be a professional dancer with my own dance school. I also have an NGO in works, so I would probably be more focused on that as well.