Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .Bukola Are, Founder & Head Designer/Creative Director House of Versatile Styles

“Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .” is a feature on Ladybrille® Magazine that is focused on entrepreneurs in Africa’s fashion industry, with a heavy emphasis on fashion designers. There is simply too much empty hypes, overwhelming and redundant fashion weeks with such overlaps of collections shown; and a BIG need to edit out the noise so the industry can focus on building a proper business foundation for African fashion and African fashion designers to thrive and increase their bottom line. This feature highlights business principles, business practices, follows the money, discusses the challenges faced by fashion startups as well as offers pragmatic tips that should help stir the Ladybrille fashion entrepreneur towards success. If you would like to be featured, send an email to (, indicate the kind of fashion business you operate and what you intend to share with our audience that you feel will be beneficial to them. Tell us, briefly, how and why you decided to strike out on your own as a fashion entrepreneur?
It is funny because from the moment I started looking into the business of fashion as a career, I never for one moment considered working under someone else’s leadership. I consider myself a leader so I guess that’s why I am confident about being (a fashion entrepreneur). Describe the exact goods and services you provide?
I have been working professionally in fashion for about four years now.Somewhere over the course of this time I discovered other aspects of the industry that I enjoy such as styling, art direction & branding. About 2 years ago I opened a small boutique company “The Fashion & Style Company”. Through Fashion & Style Company I work with a team of fashion professionals to build what I call the “Fun Stuff”! We style and direct Ad Campaigns/ Publicity Shoots, Music Videos, Red Carpet, Produce shows and more. What is the core mission of your business?
Any business I am affiliated with or head, I aim to inspire and create opportunity for those behind me. What clearly defined business goals do you have for your brand within the next two years?
For HVS, I am looking forward to expanding the brand by making our product more accessible worldwide.At The Fashion & Style Company I look forward to TV and Movie projects. I have this fascination with film right now so I would love the opportunity to style a series or movie.Building Characters is always fun so I look forward to that someday soon, I would love the experience. For your products/services, what is the distribution system you have in place to make sure customers get your products when and where they want it?
We are currently working on the very first HVS On line store which launches (soon). Customers will be able to shop all HVS Brands. The website will have a page dedicated to answering all FAQs. This should aid customers and explain which shipping services are available and how shipping and handling works. Customer Service is also available 24hours via email. What has been your biggest business success to date?
I am humbled by every opportunity. Being able to be pursuing my aspirations in fashion is already a blessing. It’s been a very highly favored journey this far. If I must recall one precious moment, it has to be the day I was featured on I appreciate everything the Ladybrille brand stands for so it was very humbling and a huge pat on the back. What has been your biggest fashion business mistake so far?
I was about 18 and I had this love affair with fashion. So I gathered all my friends in my apartment and gave everyone a position in my company. I assigned a photographer, Marketing Rep, Publicist and I had 2 main models. In my head I was in business (laughs). While I love my friends dearly I am very sure they will agree that had to be my biggest mistake in fashion this far. The rest are my lessons because I have learnt from them. (Laughs) What have you learnt from that mistake?
Bukola : I don’t know how I could have missed this, I learnt from the show The Apprentice that Friends or not, It’s never personal, it’s just business. In any business relationship all parties must understand common principles. However I have been able to work with some friends and family and it’s a beautiful blessing. As a business, what is the customer experience you want each customer to take away every time they experience your fashion brand?
I would love people to come to HVS and be able to define their own style. The plan has always been for customers to experience the HVS Lifestyle. What are your plans for expansion?
In the near future I look forward to expanding the brand internationally.I would like to be in a position where I can create opportunity in arts, especially in Africa. Be it fashion production, styling, advertisement, Art Direction, PR and Marketing and more. What do you believe are the key qualities of a brilliant (Ladybrille)
Realistic enough to be honest with yourself and humble but aggressive enough to get the job done successfully. Can you share with our audience some few tips on financial management of a fashion business?
Always edit out the unnecessary! Back when I had a 9-5, my boss would always monitor supplies and marketing materials excessively. At the time I didn’t get the big deal ..after all the company provided us with a decent budget for us to indulge. Now that I am the boss, I sure do get it. I am more disciplined when the marketing companies bring all the “Latest Cool Stuff” they tell you need.I know it is attractive and it can be tough resisting. All those things you think you need but can do without it, do just that “do without it”. It becomes about needs and not wants. How have you been able to integrate new technologies into your business to make it successful?
Film is really catching on right now in fashion .I was able to direct a fashion film for HVS Last year, it was published on youtube and many other fashion,entertainment and lifestyle websites. As an independent designer I realize that I have to continue to come up with interesting and productive ways of reaching customers. The success of that film has brought new customers and business opportunities.I look forward to doing more of fashion films and videos this year. Tell us the three ways you have used social media to increase brand awareness and gain recognition for your brand?
“Give Away” partnerships have been productive and have helped raise the numbers. Twitter, my favorite! I can’t count the amount of fruitful business relationships that has come from twitter, especially last year. Funny enough it was that last trend everyone was intrigued by that I counted off but once I got on the network and hang of it, it’s been a fruitful marriage. Recently I discovered Tumblr, I had no idea that HVS had quite a popular presence there. I did a search and to my surprise I found HVS Ad Campaign photos with 100’s of notes.Social Media will continue to grow and every business should have strong online presence. If you don’t have online presence chances are you’re missing out on some business. In your opinion, why do fashion businesses, especially African fashion businesses, fail?
From my experience of working in that part of the industry, I find that often times we fail to focus on what’s important.As a fashion professional I believe we should always work towards perfecting our craft and focus on staying in business. Exceptions only if it’s a hobby but then Fashion is a profession and not a joke. I am talking sales! That is number 1 priority at all times. I have had to learn and revaluate on some things on my own. If I am not done moving sales from Spring Collection, as an independent designer I feel I have no business launching a resort, fall, holiday collection and so on. First I need to find out why Spring was not successful and come up with a better plan and strategy after all it’s a business.

I have realized that you don’t always have to do what the masses want to become successful. We need to do more of what will equal to sales. This is where creative direction, research and strategizing come into play. It’s not first to do, it’s how well we do it, that’s the original success story.If we don’t get this right, I worry about our businesses and the people behind us. What do you look for when you hire employees?
I look for passion and drive. I don’t want to ever work with someone who is not as passionate about his/her craft as I am. I need my employees to love what they do and see the bigger picture of what could become our future. What drives you as a business owner?
Apart from believing in myself, I would have to say it’s the support. It’s every RT on twitter, to like on Facebook, well wishes, invitations, reviews. I recognize that social media has contributed to my business tremendously.The support contributes to my drive and lets me know something is being done right. It’s flattering to have orders coming from places like Ireland where we don’t even advertise and that’s the power of social media . What makes you get up to do what you do every day instead of throwing in the towel and getting a 9-5?
(Laughs) I don’t have a 9-5, I have a 24/7 .I love and enjoy what I do, that’s my motivation.

Thank you Ladybrille!

Copyright © 2012  Ladybrille® Magazine. All rights reserved.


Art Direction & Styling: Bukola Are
Contributing Stylist: Crystal Deroche (UK), Henry Uchay (UK)
Models: Jordan Lillian (U.S) & Olivia Jani (UK)
Make Up: Samantha Peters (UK), Monica Mao (UK)& Tina Janel (U.S)
Hair: Samantha Peters (UK), Mo Ross (U.S)
Art Work : Olugbenga Jimoh (Nigeria)

Film Credits
Directed: Corey Reese
Styling & Art Direction: Bukola Are
Make Up & Hair : Nrala Janvier

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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