Busayo: The “Addition to Joy” Your Closet Craves and Your Spirit Needs
Michelle Olupona, aka Busayo, did not always vigorously feel she needed to be involved in fashion as the tale often goes, but the moment she felt the urge to express herself creatively rather than continuing her career in law, she immersed herself into a world of colors, shapes, and prints flowing across the body and found love in it. As she recreated the mold of her own life, delving into such a different line of work, the clothing she created sought to recreate the mold in fashion and bring a fresh look to the table: African prints as the foundation of the brand, rather than as an element to incorporate when convenient, like when a more notable haus decides that what has been deemed “Global” or “Tribal” print fits with their brand that season. The result has been beautiful works of art that stand out due to their intricacy, created in the most flattering of silhouettes for all women to find an “addition to joy,” or Busayo, in their wardrobe.
Sensible Reason had the opportunity to talk with Busayo about the origins of the brand, the fashion (and social) statement it makes, and what is ahead for Busayo. We also had Sensible Reason’s very own Kristen Grennan (pictured right) appearing in the annual Touro Law Center fashion show as a model, where Busayo pieces were showcased and all the net proceeds for the event went to the Tender Loving Care Community Fund to help Touro Law students in great financial need.
Sensible Reason: What is your story on finding fashion? What drove you to design?
Busayo: I had been practicing law for almost 6 years when the nuggets of the idea for the business began to form. However, there was a call on my spirit to start expressing myself creatively, and rather than consuming information and content, I was pushed to become a creator rather than just a consumer. I have had a deep love for textiles for a long time and knew that I wanted to curate and create beautiful pieces with these pieces. I was compelled by the voice within that really wanted to do it and decided to pull the trigger. It really was the first time that I had an abstract creative idea and took the steps to actualize it. That was very powerful for me. I think we are here to create, and I finally decided to heed that call.
Busayo: I absolutely believe that these prints go beyond trend; I am attempting to export culture, which is pretty impossible and not everyone is going to get it. I hate the word “Tribal”, and I understand that actually, most people don’t, and that’s okay. However, these prints are beautiful, complex, and present stylistic possibilities. I also use a lot of batik and hand-dyeing, which provides infinite, creative possibilities– and how many ways could one possibly do stripes and florals? African culture has always been a source for western fashion, and it is time that Africans and its diaspora begin to explore and benefit from our cultural offerings.
Busayo: I travel throughout Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana looking for fabrics that speak to me. It’s hard to describe what attracts me to a specific print. Typically I like geometric fabrics, with contrasting colors but that are not too busy. Sometimes the fabrics can be too busy so I try to edit those prints out as a rule. I typically know when I see it. I can typically know within a second whether this fabric would work for the line or not.
Busayo: No. I make what I like. I love the wide-leg pant. I love the geometric cut-outs. I do pay attention to the shapes that I am seeing around me and the shapes that the women in my life are wearing, and all of that seeps into the work.
Busayo: I am really loving the jackets right now; the blazers are a lot of fun to wear and I love the structure of the jackets. The vibrancy of the prints together creates a really great look. The jackets also use all hand-dyed prints, which are currently my passion.
Busayo: It took me forever to decide on a name for the line. I kept going back and forth, partially because I wanted to have some space between myself and the line. But after considering a series of names, I decided to go with Busayo, as it is relatively easy to pronounce once you see it, and it means “addition to joy.” And once I made the decision, I was off and running.
Busayo: Of course. Initially, the line was simply about me expressing the dual identities that constitute my own identity and have shaped my life experience. It was really about creating these pieces for myself. However, as the line began taking off and growing, I recognized that the stakes were much bigger than that. Folks are interested in the history and sources of the pieces that they wear, and it was a unique opportunity to share information without being preachy. And I appreciate the specificity of your question. I personally only feel like I can be an expert on Nigeria. Africa is too diverse with too many cultures for me to speak on the entire continent. However, people are interested in the story behind of the fabrics, and the stories of the people who make the fabrics and dye the pieces.
Busayo: That fashion is a very tough business and that you will have some down moments, but just remember to put one foot in front of the other. You just have to keep going.
Busayo: I love reading and am inspired by Wayne Dyer, and a lot of other spiritual texts. I love listening to podcasts (public radio mostly) and visiting museums. I get inspired by all sorts of things.
Busayo: 1. Getting into at least 25 stores.2. Continue to grow my private clientele.3. Get the pieces into more magazine editorials.