Designing wedding dresses and giving back to the community
Tope Okodugha studied accountancy but, like many others, discovered her passion laid somewhere else... designing wedding dresses. She had always wanted to come to London College of Fashion and study Bridalwear. This year, it came true. After applying to the LCF X TheAssemblyhub #passion2purpose competition and winning, she was awarded an incentive to study a course of her choice at LCF.
"I was so excited, It's literally a dream come true!"
The Assembly is an African-based community and platform for ambitious young creative and in collaboration with LCF announced the #passion2purpose competition. The aim was to shine a light on those unique business models that are socially conscious and prioritize the impact on the community, locally and globally.
Founder and LCF Alumnae, Pepper Chikezie, told us why she launched The Assembly:
Yoanna "Pepper" Chikezie
"Talent exists but opportunity doesn't and this is the one of the fundamental reasons why I founded The Assembly and it's something that has been reflective of some of my experiences as a minority and creative from the UK and something that is true to the experiences of many creative talents across Africa. But ultimately, I truly believe that anyone should have the opportunity to pursue their passions and achieve their ambitions as a creative."
Pepper explained that when choosing the winner of the competition, they were looking to highlight creative businesses that transcended profit-making and had a positive impact on their immediate environment and communities.
Tope's business, Maibecca, is both successful and unique. She doesn't only provide beautiful bespoke wedding dresses to her customers but also gives back to the community in one of the best forms there is: Education.
Rooting from gratitude towards an internship that changed her career path, she decided to provide young designers with a chance to get hands-on experience before, after or during their education.
"After graduating with an accounting degree, I realized I wanted to do fashion and so I took a three-month course and after that I got a styling job at Dutch multinational fabric manufacturer. I then went on to intern with of the biggest designers in Lagos.
Those 5 months interning changed my life forever. It was a good opportunity to get hands-on experience and it was one of the reasons why I decided, that when I start my business, I was going to ensure that people that need opportunities after school could get them with you.
It’s a whole different ball game after fashion school. You don’t just come out of school and start designing, there’s lots of things you need to learn first. You need understand what a fashion business and designing is like in real life."
Once her internship was done, the only way forward was to set-up a business. She started off with dresses, but as she designed her own wedding dress and people started asking for her to design theirs, she realised it was a great opportunity.
She’s now been designing wedding dresses for a year and has made about 10 bespoke dresses for 10 happy customers. Turning her home into a studio, she has hired young fashion designers to help her.
“I decided to pay my knowledge forward by helping young aspiring fashion designers to gain hands-on experience with me and earn an income at the same time! As a result of this opportunity, a lot of them are way ahead of their colleagues and peers in school; and this, getting to be a part of their success story gives me great joy and fulfilment.”
Tope's time at LCF
Tope explained that coming to LCF has improved her tailoring skills and changed her design perspective. One of her highlights was our bridalwear tutor, Christina, who shared her expertise in a very fun and engaging way.
"My dresses are now more precise, I get to work from different angles, and I see things differently".
On top of enhancing her skills, she added that being LCF trained is a huge selling point. She will be able to make more outfits and get more customers at the same time. As to what the future brings, she wants to keep things bespoke and is planning on launching a bridal collection.