Bashiru Kolawole Kuti popularly called Bashy Kuti is one of the leading Fashion Designers in Nigeria. Though he is based in Ibadan, he has a huge clientele base that spans Lagos, Abuja, Ilorin and even Port Harcourt.
His label, BKK ULTIMO is well known. And Bashy has been faithful to his first love, fashion design, for many years with multiple credible awards to his credit.
Over the years, this respected fashion designer, who launched his outfit about two decades ago, has won the confidence of the elites who, in turn, have rewarded him with impressive patronage owing to his creativity which has stood him out. He also believes it’s the key to success in fashion business. This Ibadan based designer’s office is a Mecca of sorts to celebrities, top politicians and captains of industry.
Recently in an exclusive interview with City People Assistant Editor, SUNDAY ADIGUN, he speaks on how he started BKK ULTIMO 18 years ago, and also dwelled on what the upcoming fashion designers must do to maintain their brands and labels.
What keeps Bashy Kuti going?
I always tell my clients that in anything that is beautiful, if you check it very well, you would discover that there is simplicity in it. I believe so much in simplicity. We have a lot of designers out there and I give it to Nigerian designers. We are all working hard to make sure that Nigerians patronize Nigerian designers. For me, keeping the momentum is to keep doing what we have always been doing. The fashion industry is too big for anybody to claim he wants to take it over, but you can make your mark and concentrate on what makes you different. As a clothier, you must have something striking about your job that people will not get elsewhere. I am a fabric person, and I have been keeping my relevance by the grace of God. I have stayed on this job for a long time to know what the industry dictates and know when to strike. I am proud to come up with designs that a lot of people have copied and are still copying. So I have paid my dues.
BKK is a big brand in the fashion industry, how did it all start?
We bless God, we have come a long way, 18 years in my field, it is not a joking matter. I thank God for where I am today, and still looking forward to where God is taking me to. I also want to thank all my clients all over the world and as well as the media, I appreciate you all.
When you set up a business, you must always know why you are going into the business. For me, I didn’t just wake up and say the next thing to do is to be a fashion designer. I have always known a lot about fabrics because I was privileged to have learnt about it from my late sister. She taught me a lot about fabrics and I fell in love with it. I didn’t start the business in Ibadan; I actually started from Lagos, but when I weighed and felt the stress, I moved back to Ibadan, you know Lagos and its hustle; it was not easy at all, so I relocated back to Ibadan in the 90s for fresh air to focus more on fabrics. Although it was a family business, after learning I now decided to make my own statement and carved a niche for myself, then I moved into fashion designing, that was how BKK brand started. And I thank God today, we have grown over the years and the city is now getting bigger as more people have continued to come into the city to establish their business as a result of government’s efforts to help small and big scale businesses to grow. I owe my success in Ibadan to God and my very committed clients, who have stood by us through thick and thin. We have survived for more than 18 years, but the truth is that we are still struggling to catch up with our colleagues outside of Ibadan. Fashion is my passion, and it has really worked for me, fashion is not what you can just jump into, you have to know the reason why you are going into it, and the statement you want to make through your creativity, because it is that creativity that people want to appreciate in you, I have lots of clients that I can tell you are so passionate about what they are putting on, there are many upcoming designers that also depend on your creativities because they see you as their role model, and you cannot disappoint them.
What has been the acceptability of your brand over the years?
We have so many top shots, which I won’t mention their names, but I can tell you, we have sewed for President, Governors, Ministers, Senators, Honourables, Corporate World, I can categorically tell you that the brand is speaking worldwide, BKK is really waxing stronger and stronger.
What does it take to manage a brand?
Like I said earlier, that if you want your brand to be relevant, you have to work hard for people to accept it. BKK has about 32 staff, though I have reduced them to 27, but you know before you can control people of that number, you must have a brand that they respect so much, and must be disciplined. Though there are little challenges, you know it’s not easy to manage people, before you can control people, you need extraordinary grace. Electricity instability is also one of the challenges. But if you must succeed you have to be persistent and keep on moving. Till tomorrow I still see myself as one of the crawling labels, praying to God to push me up, I have lots of people that I also respect in this industry, people that I met in this industry and they are still relevant till tomorrow, even the upcoming still need to learn from them, like Vivid Imagination, MUDI, so many of them. Like I said earlier, in this job, creativity is very important, if you want to grow, don’t copy, you should know the kind of label you want to have. Somebody like me I don’t like copying people, I always create my own design, when you bring your fabrics to my factory, I would tell you what you will do that will give you value for your money, that will be better than the design you have in mind. So my brother, creativity is very important in this field, you must have your own style.
Do you have any other branch apart from your factory in Ibadan?
It doesn’t really matter that you have branches all over. Your business can be in one place, the most important thing is your delivery system, I deliver to anywhere, if you give me your cloth today and you want to use it in 5 days time in America or any in country, forget it, I will deliver, when I started, I started with door step delivery, and we are still doing it, you don’t have to come to my factory, if you have a cloth and you call me, I will tell one of my guys to go and get the cloth, take your measurement, and deliver, so delivery system is part of success in this business. I think I am more comfortable in Ibadan. The truth is that your clients will locate you, no matter where you operate from, as long as they know you would give them the value for their money without stress. We have opened a branch in London and our clients from that side of the world can begin to enjoy the services of BKK without any hitch. Opening branches everywhere does not mean your job is growing or people have to come accept your brand. What it means is that you want to be visible everywhere, but it still does not mean your business has grown. Some people only want to expand because they are being pressured to do so. For us at BKK Ultimo, we will expand at the right time.