1. Tell us how you identify? What does that mean to you? What do you want others to know about your experience, community, or heritage?
I identify as an African American woman. I grew up in Nigeria until the age of 8 and then I came to America. My exposure to these two very different cultures has shaped my outlook on life. I truly strive to let my future be defined by the choices I make. My parents, Nigerian immigrants, are also great contributors to my life view. Their journey has been one for the books – fighting through every obstacle imaginable to get to where they are. I bring that intensity to tackling obstacles as well.
2. Can you elaborate on the sense of pride that you feel around this month and celebration?
I recall high school being the first time I really understood the importance of Black History Month. I was exposed to stories of legends I’d never really heard before. I also grew up in Prince George’s County – the most affluent Black community in the nation. Black excellence was always around me. Today, I see people come out of that community who are doing monumental and iconic things. So learning the Black History of this country and then living amongst people who literally are making black history – it gives me all the feels. I’m not sure I can articulate – it’s just a really really great feeling.
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3. How do you recognize Black History Month?
I’m proud to be a black woman. I can’t step away from my blackness, so it’s literally embedded in my designs. It’s expressed in the textiles I design and the colors I choose. Black History Month is really every day to me. I don’t wait for a particular month to celebrate us. I celebrate being black and black excellence every day.
4. What do you do throughout the year to keep that sense of pride alive?
I exist. I create. I celebrate black women every chance I get. I cheer for my fellow black creatives, and I celebrate their art. I’m very intentional about creating opportunities to celebrate AND employ black people. You’ll always see black models, photographers, writers, etc as a part of my team.
5. What do you think is important for people to know about this month and celebration?
As I’ve said before, I think it’s important to intentionally celebrate black history every day; however at a minimum, I think we all should use this month to highlight the black experiences that have been particularly transformational in our lives. The testimonies of great black leaders that inspire you to work through your obstacles. Share the black authors you’re reading who allow you to escape the wretchedness of our reality at times. Share the black films and tv series that make you laugh till your belly hurts or illuminate the experiences you thought were unique to your life. Both past and present. There is so much greatness coming out of the black community today. We should share it as much as possible – very much a “give them their flowers now” moment.
6. This year’s theme is health and wellness in the Black community. What do those words mean to you?
What comes to mind first is finding new and healthier ways to enjoy the things that we love – read “food” haha. I think that’s a big one for our community. I see it on the Nigerian front as well as the African American. We have such amazing food – but we have high rates of diabetes and heart disease too. So I’d love us to figure that out as a community.
I think we’ve made great strides with mental health ambitions. I’ve seen the “Therapy for Black Girls” sites and things like that. Just a lot more conversation around mental health. That’s gold. Still a lot of work to do. But I think as we keep sharing and encouraging one another, it can only get better.
It would be those two for me. Improving the health of our bodies and our minds.
7. How do you feel about mental health right now in the community, and how are you taking care of yourself?
I really love this question because I think mental health is everyone’s responsibility. I think it’s our responsibility even if we don’t identify as someone who has mental health concerns. It’s important to learn the full scope of what mental health is. A lot of damage can be done due to genuine ignorance. Even learning about trigger words/phrases and their effect on those struggling mentally could make a huge impact.
I’ve been blessed with a really loving husband. I have really great friends and family as well. I can be honest and say I struggle to slow down and listen to my body sometimes. This entrepreneurial life is unrelenting at times. But my tribe helps me see when I’m being unreasonable. I’m committed to listening to them, even if I won’t listen to myself. And I know they got me.
8. Is there anyone you’re honoring this month? Please tell us why.
I honestly didn’t think about it, but now that it’s been brought to my attention, I’d really like to honor my parents. They are the most hardworking people I know. Everything I do now is to make their retirement fulfilling. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and I just want to do everything in my power to make all the sacrifices they made for me more than worth it.
9. Where do you see opportunity to educate on Black history? In an ideal world, what does that look like?
I think black history should be discussed all year in schools. It can be incorporated into world history because it is the truth. Why is it two separate things? I think that’s a missed opportunity. I think we should even be intentional about teach non-blacks this history. And non-blacks should lean into the discomfort of confronting a lot of this history. There should be a lot of buy in from everyone concerning this. It shouldn’t just be a way for large corporations to appease the community for a month, not should it be a month where non-blacks “tap out” because they don’t see it as relevant to them. Black people have done a lot great things that benefit the entire world – not just black people. So that should be taught and highlighted for sure.
Additional questions for designers:
10. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I was born and raised in a traditional Nigerian working-class home. My parents believe in hard work and passed that down to me. I am the eldest of 4 children and that came with a lot of responsibility. This nurtured and shaped my entrepreneurial skills from an early age. Generally, I find that Nigerians are just very enterprising people - I’m not different in that respect. Back home in Nigeria, people hustle like you can’t believe. Seeing that and then coming here (US) and seeing the hustle in a different way – I just knew I wanted more and could have more.
My parents were passionate about me becoming a doctor or just having what they consider a “bonified career” in medicine. I tried it for a bit. But I ultimately decided to follow my passion. My desire for this work was just too strong to ignore. I would say design is in my blood as two of my aunts are fashion designers and I looked up to them both. They were my superheroes.
11. Where does your design inspiration come from?
My design inspiration comes from my heritage. BFyne is a love letter to Africa – it’s sunrises, fabrics and agricultural silhouettes will forever inspire my designs. Every pattern, print and snip have been meticulously thought out to ensure a fun, functional and flattering experience for you. These garments intentionally lift key areas and accentuate the most essential curves of your body. Quality and style are prioritized.
Every time I create a collection, it feels like I’m introducing a new part of Africa to the world. I like to hone in on my African experiences that were very sweet and carefree. I try to bring that whimsical - sometimes nomadic - feeling to life in my designs.
12. What do you find the most challenging about it? What is the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing for me is taking a break. It’s hard. Life moves so fast sometimes. It’s easy for me to feel like slowing down equates to me getting kicked out the game. I have to fight really hard against that mentality.
The most rewarding piece is when I see my designs being worn all over the world. Being tagged by real beauties on Instagram, getting email notifications when my pieces show up on film or any publication….that will never ever get old to me. I cherish my customers and everyone that supports BFyne.
13. Who are your style icons and why?
My style icon is the legendary Iman. As a super model Iman saw the lack of representation in the cosmetic industry and decided to do something about it. She created a line of foundation with shades for darker skin tones and solved a major
problem for black women. She opened a lot of doors for us. I remember when I started wearing makeup and her foundation was the only color that matched my skin perfectly. Her all-inclusive cosmetics line was launched in 1994, and features difficult-to-find shades suited for brown and black skin tones. I really admire it and so it was truly a rewarding moment for me when she wore Bfyne.