The seeds of Yemi Osunkoya’s fascination with fashion in general and bridal wear in particular were sown at his first high society wedding in Nigeria. From then on, whenever he accompanied his parents to social gatherings, he would feel compelled to draw the dresses and guests after the function. So began his life-long love of figurative drawing. As he entered his teenage years, Yemi fell under the spell of the glamour and sophistication of Bob Makie’s costumes for Diana Ross and Anthony Price’s gravity defying gowns for Jerry Hall. A career in fashion design was beckoning.
After a degree in Textile Design at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, Yemi completed his studies at the Paris Academy of Fashion, Oxford St, London, gaining top marks in both men’s and women’s wear.
Yemi completed his studies in 1990 in London at the height of the recession. But, undaunted by the economic climate and determined to make his own mark, Yemi decided to strike out on his own and founded his own design label Kosibah.
It was natural that he would name the company in honour of his greatest supporter: his mother, Cosiba. The name Cosiba comes from the Republic of Benin and is the Day Name given to a female child born on a Sunday. However, in deference to the Yoruba tradition of not addressing elders by their first names, Yemi changed the spelling of the company name slightly as a mark of respect.
Yemi has worked hard to make Kosibah a truly global brand, but with clientele particularly well represented in the UK, USA, West and South Africa and the Caribbean. Among his celebrated clients, Yemi counts Lady Janet Boateng, Dianne Abbott MP, Kelly Rowland, Alesha Dixon, Sheila Ferguson, Hollywood actress Indra Ové, Louise Rose and members of several royal families in Nigeria and Ghana. Still on Yemi’s wish list of celebrities to dress are Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Kerry Washington and Diana Ross.
Despite A-list success, Yemi’s designs are firmly rooted in the desire to make every woman look and feel good. Drawing on his African roots, Yemi’s designs celebrate the curves and shapes of real women. His signature use of corsetry and draping creates gowns that flatter and enhance every woman’s figure. And his long experience of providing a personal attentive service to each of his clients means that he is now an expert in providing exactly what his clients want.
He also draws inspiration from the vibrant, multicultural life of London which is now his home. The capital’s diverse populations allow Yemi to fuse influences from across the world into his designs with the luxurious fabrics, sumptuous embellishments and meticulous attention to detail associated with the finest traditions of Parisian couture.
INSPIRATIONS BEHIND KOSIBAH
1. Diana Ross – In my teenage years, I fell under the spell of the glamour and sophistication of Bob Makie’s costumes for Diana Ross. I just loved the way in all her concerts she went through numerous changes of uber glamorous gowns. This has had a long lasting effect of my designs.
2. Anthony Price – Again, growing up, I very much admired Anthony Prices seemingly gravity defying gowns for jerry hall and Paula Yates. It was very obvious that there was quite a lot going on inside the gown not visible from the outside to create such figure enhancing gowns. Over the years, I have developed techniques that achieve the same effect of recreating the classical hour glass figure.
3. The 50’s New Look era. I spent hours in the library as a teenager pouring over books featuring the New Look era. Designers such as Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy produced such beautiful, exquisitely made couture gowns. I’m very drawn to this golden age of couture where so much of what made the garment what it was on the inside of the gown.
4. Growing up in Nigeria, West Africa, I was used to seeing women of all shapes and therefore feel very comfortable designing for ‘real’ and curvaceous women. I following on from that, celebrating the female form is my main inspiration. Because all my gowns are bespoke and made from scratch specifically for each client, making her look and feel her best on her wedding day is my main focus. My signature use of corsetry and draping creates gowns that flatter and enhance every woman’s figure.
5. Finally, I also draw inspiration from the vibrant, multicultural life of London which is now my home. The capital’s diverse population allows me to fuse influences from across the world into my designs with the luxurious fabrics, sumptuous embellishments and meticulous attention to detail usually associated with the finest traditions of Parisian couture.