Fashion designer, Makioba Bob-Manuel Olugbile has perfected her craft of designing for plus size women over the years.
Created in 2012, as a fashion-forward brand that caters to women of every size and shape, the brand known for its intricate use of embellishments and luxurious fabrics, officially forayed into the plus-size market after a successful debut of her plus size collection at the Lagos Fashion and Design Week in 2016. With a vision to creating the right attitude and confidence in women, Maki O as she’s simply called, dedicates her design process to making pieces that drape, frame, and flatter the fuller figure.
As she clocks 43 this May, and about 10 years in the industry, the graduate of Economics from the University of Port-Harcourt, who left her oil company job to focus on fashion designing, talks to Allure about her much-loved career amongst other issues.
How did fashion designing begin for you?
It began as the result of a hunger to be an entrepreneur. I had to look for the best and easiest thing I could do because I didn’t want to do the regular buying and selling. Being a creative person, fashion is something that comes naturally. I wasn’t so inclined towards buying and selling because I am not so good at the whole convincing thing and going back and forth with customers and all that.
As a creative person, I had to create something I could showcase for people to see. That was why I chose fashion.
How long have you been in the fashion industry? What initial ideas did you have coming into the industry?
Right from my learning days till now, which is about 12years now, my ideas had been couture glam wears, ready-to-wear outfits and anything that would make one look comfortable, classic and timeless. Which is what I still do today.
What was the first piece you ever designed?
A green skirt I made with needle and thread, just because I could not operate the sewing machine.
You left a well-paying job in the oil sector to pursue a career in fashion. Was it hard to give up a life you knew for the unexpected?
Of course, it was; because you know that at the end of the month, you have something to collect for your efforts. So, leaving that for something that isn’t really certain, took a lot of determination.The truth is, you can’t wait for the right moment forever.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
Ha! When I look back at my early works, I laugh a lot and still get inspired by them. Finding my bearing and which way to go in the fashion industry, took me about 3-5years. It started off with me just making regular dresses in regular sizes, smaller sizes. But I came to find out that when I put them on the mannequin, they weren’t what I had envisioned. So, I began using myself as the muse for my designs. With that, I began getting calls and orders from plus size women, which I believe, is the usual African body anyway. That was how I got labelled a plus-size designer which I still am till date.
Your brand is renowned for intricate use of embellishments. What inspired the aesthetic?
I have always been a bling-bling lover. I love flowers, trinkets, bling and all that. So, as a fashion designer, I would definitely want to display that part of me.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
I get fascinated by designs. I am a freak for designs. Even in the middle of the night, once inspired, I am always awake designing something. I just get fascinated by seeing my designs being brought to life.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?
I have learned that in dealing with different kinds of people, you need to have a whole lot of patience.
How do you walk the line between being unique and having commercial appeal?
You know how society believes that the plus-size women’s dresses would be boubous, big dresses and dresses with little or no fitting? So, what I did was to tell the plus-sized women that you could be in those dresses you pictured yourselves in and look as nice as you would look if you were slimmer. The idea is to tell them that they can be bold, elegant and classic just the way they are.
To achieve that, I was able to develop my own size chart for the African body which I use for all my outfits. That is why they fit so good.
What is your most proud accomplishment as a plus-size designer to date?
My most proud accomplishment, that would be my size chart that I developed for the African body type. It is about 90% accurate, and anytime I use it for my customers, they are always very happy and impressed with the result because it always fits perfectly. So, I am very proud of it.
What does the word “fashion” mean to you?
To me, fashion is style. Fashion is all about style and poise.
You exude so much confidence. Do you have any advice for plus size women on how to be more confident in their skin?
Everyone has what makes them happy. I know that some people feel because they are plus sized, they are limited to looking certain kind of way. I want to say they should firstly, accept the body they are in and every other thing would follow. If they accept the body they find themselves in, then, they would know the right dressing, the curves, shape and cut that would bring out that confidence, the classic look, and glam they are looking for.
What are some fashion pieces every plus-size woman should have in her wardrobe?
What every plus-size woman should have in her wardrobe; number one is spandex.The second one is a well-supported bra, these two items are definitely a must have for every plus-size woman.
Where do you draw inspiration from when creating a new collection?
I draw inspiration from everywhere. From the smallest to the biggest things in life. From children’s animation to what the local groundnut seller is hawking. Everybody around me is an inspiration to me. I am a very imaginative person, so when I see things, I get inspired by them. When I see peoples’ colour combinations or their dress patterns, I get inspired by them. The whole world is my inspiration.
Describe a typical day in your life.
A typical day in my life: I wake up, dress up for work with my hair woven all back, and with no make-up. I take two small packs of cracker biscuits, drink a lot of water, spend a lot of time standing, making pattern drafting and cutting, supervising my staff, and taking a break after about five hours. I get back to work, get the job done for the day and come back to my family.
Where do you see fashion heading in the next 5 years?
Fashion has always evolved and it is always evolving. So, there is no telling where we would find ourselves fashion-wise. But the fashion calendar is always an interesting one to see.
As a designer, how has COVID-19 impacted or affected your business and how did you manage the period?
In the first place, COVID-19 affected everybody. For me, I actually went paranoid because of the panic and I closed shop even before the general lockdown. This was something that happened during the time I was working on a particular collection. And because of the pandemic, I was unable to complete the collection at that time.; I incurred a lot of losses because it cost a lot of money to kick-off and I never got to showcase those outfits from that collection to make back the money spent.
Also, my dresses are mostly outing dresses, glam wears and all that. So due to the pandemic; no parties, no weddings and all. It really affected sales. I needed to be able to manage staff and sustain the business. Based on sales at the time, it was really a trying period. But thank God, things are coming back on track with the lifting of the lockdown and now, we are able to successfully manage the virus.
What would you like to achieve before the end of the year?
Usually, each year at Makioba, we bring out 4-5 collections, lookbooks and several side designs that don’t even make it to any collection. So, for 2021, we would like to achieve that feat of bringing out a minimum of four collections and lookbooks.
Look out for the ‘May by Makioba’ collection that’ll be dropping this month of May.
What would your advice be for aspiring young designers, unsure of how to take the first step to achieving their dreams?
Like I said, it took me about three to four years to find my bearing and carve out a niche for my brand. Therefore, all I have to advise is that you make sure you have a passion for designing, and also, have patience and resilience in order to make a name for you and your brand.
What’s next for the brand?
For Makioba, the vision has always been to be better than how we used to be. So we are all about taking the next steps to becoming better than we were.
Trends come and go but they can also be a lot of fun. When should ladies weigh in on the trends and when should they stick to the classics?
I would say, for the high-end glam dresses, they should stick to the classics. While for the easy wears, summer dresses and casuals, they could hop on the trends.