From Short Courses to Successful Fashion Business Owner: Bolupe Adebiyi
With a background in luxury event planning, Bolupe Adebiyi decided to come to LCF short courses, join our Essential Guide to Fashion Business and start her own fashion label:
“As a luxury event planner, my clothes have to be comfortable enough to move around in, professional enough to meet with clients, yet edgy enough to reflect my personal style. Finding this balance of edgy, functional and comfortable outfits was tough and so I ended up designing my own outfits. All my friends and clients loved my designs and I started making them for them too– then I was in the fashion business without realising!”. Bolupe Adebiyi
Bolupe Adebiyi - Cotton Loops Founder
Tell us about your background
My name is Bolupe Adebiyi. I am the founder at Cotton Loops. Cotton Loops is a black and white fashion lifestyle brand. We design and curate black and white style globally.
I have planned and designed social and corporate events since undergrad and went fully into event planning and design after graduation. Therefore, beyond my personal style, I have over 15 years’ experience with luxury event planning and bridal styling, space design, corporate event planning and have had my own event planning company for 9 years.
As a luxury event planner, my clothes have to be comfortable enough to move around in, professional enough to meet with clients, yet edgy enough to reflect my personal style. Finding this balance of edgy, functional and comfortable outfits was tough and so I ended up designing my own outfits. All my friends and clients loved my designs and I started making them for them too– then I was in the fashion business without realising!
Why did you choose London College of Fashion?
London is the fashion capital of the world. I have found the best expression of my personal style in European fashion infused with my early African influences.
I love how classic and timeless the fashion in Europe is so to find a fashion school that curates all those fashion experiences and is also one of the top fashion schools in the world, had to be LCF for me to start off my fashion business.
How did you find out about the course?
I was looking for short fashion courses I could take while in London for the Event Production Show in Spring 2018 and I found the ‘Essential Guide to Fashion Business’ course.
Also, love how convenient the scheduling is and classes are spread out and on throughout the year so it is really easy to enrol in courses that suit your business need at any time.
Cotton Loops designs
How did taking the course Essential Guide to Fashion Business help you get where you are now?
First of all, I wanted to do a lot of things in fashion and I found it hard to articulate all of these into a plan.
And here I was, coming from a service career background into retail and not just any retail – fashion retail!! I knew it was going to be a big jump but the course showed me just how much of a jump it was.
It also prepared me for the fashion business. In just over a year of business, we have moved from third party manufacturing to owning and running our own factory currently running at full capacity and now even having to expand.
We have produced over 100 bestselling designs, been at over ten local and international trade shows and exhibitions, have an extensive customer base, ship to over six countries and before the end of the year will start stocking in stores in Europe, America and other countries in Africa – all under a year. The fashion industry is very expansive and this course helps to define the roles within it to better guide your navigation.
This course helped us to get our processes right before we even started, helped to define and section which parts of the market to target, what our global competitors were doing to achieve or not achieve their goals using multiple real-life examples, and what we needed to get there.
Even options on resources to use in achieving our goals. Also taught me how to key into global issues affecting fashion to facilitate global reach for our company.
What is the most challenging aspect of having your own fashion label?
The biggest challenge currently is Scaling the business.
We have mastered our processes at our current level of production and distribution. There is now an exponential increase in interest in and demand for our products in different global regions especially after we showed at The Pure London Show where Cotton Loops was also on the runway.
Scaling our business to meet the higher levels of demand requires unprecedented levels of expertise, raw materials, machinery, processes, funding, manufacturing and production etc.
There are also the issues with exporting and distribution which we are currently looking for expert help on.
You were nominated in ‘best ethical brand category’ at the Pure London Show, how do you make sure to stay sustainable?
Being an ethical brand is one of the things we are proudest about at Cotton Loops and we feel lucky and grateful to Pure London for recognising our efforts in this regard as this spreads the ethical message around to even more people globally.
We currently run a three-point agenda and working on adding a fourth before the end of the year.
- We use mostly natural fabrics such as 100% cotton and linen and do not use materials derived from animals such as leather or fur
- We employ only adult staff in our factory as well as provide room, board and food for our live-in stitchers and other production staff who also leave at the weekends to be with their families to resume after the weekend.
- We upcycle all our production waste into reusable lifestyle products such as rugs and bags and donate some of these to local women in the markets who have their children sleep or crawl on these in an otherwise unkempt environment and we use some of these in our retail store as well. We are currently adding on a 4th agenda before the end of the year. We are working with local artisans to purchase bulk fabrics local to their region for our next collection. We are facilitating programs for them on how to produce and achieve these fabrics by using non-toxic dyes and healthier alternatives in achieving even better results.
Pure London Show
What would you say are the top skills you should have before starting your own label?
A love for fashion, an affinity for business, thirst for knowledge and tenacity to be able to overcome roadblocks.
What advice would you give someone that is thinking of starting their own label?
- Have a defined niche that makes you stand out – in the fashion world of noise, only authentic brands that have something different to offer will sustainably survive.
- Build an ethical brand – even if you can only start with only a one-point agenda. If we are all more socially conscious, we as the fashion industry can end up being a big part of the environmental sustainability and positive change move.
- Adequate information - A lot of businesses start up a label without having enough information on the industry they are in or the target market they are marketing to. Be thirsty for knowledge so you can mitigate the inevitable risks or setbacks.
- Passion: Passion will pick you up again from where life and dashed hopes and disappointments drop you unceremoniously.
- Be GREAT at one thing and find paid or unpaid help for areas where you are lacking.
Who would you recommend the course to?
Start-Ups - If you have not started, you are in luck – this course has everything you need to know to build a successful business.
Fashion Business Owners: This course has answers to question you currently have or will have about your business – processes, human capital, sourcing, branding, manufacturing, PR, tradeshows etc.
Fashion Enthusiasts: If you are curious about the fashion industry and how it works, it will take you on an exciting roller coaster of the glamorous world of fashion. The inner workings and how brands are built and sustained – the seasons of fashion and who is doing it and not in the world of fashion.
Fashion Lifestyle Entrepreneurs: This course teaches you about the available career options in fashion – the role of influencers, stylists, production staff etc. It teaches there are more employability options in fashion beyond just owning a fashion.