Talented, young and brilliantly expressive, Tobi Ogundipe is the very modern Creative Director of forward-thinking plus fashion house and style agency, TOSFA. In celebration of the brand’s first anniversary. Latasha Ngwube, Founder of Aboutthatcurvylife.com had a gab session at ATCL’s HQ (in the heart of Lekki, Lagos) with the Lady-of-the-Label to talk about everything from job hunting in Lagos to twinning with her sister as kids!
Tobi on the Hows and Whys of Creating TOSFA
I moved back to Nigeria towards the end of 2014, a hundred percent certain I would get a job upon return. I called up family who had given their word, promising a good job was a phone conversation away but instead received the shock of my life when it was time to come through for me. No one showed up and that was to be the first lesson. The situation stayed the same for three months and the offers I got were for jobs that I couldn’t imagine myself doing. One day I was complaining about not being able to get clothes my size in Nigeria and then it hit me.
I’d always liked fashion in an enthusiast’s sense but never tried a handing at designing or tailoring so I decided a collaboration would be the perfect angle. I hit up a designer I knew with the hopes of making a collection with her, for curvy women, and she was sold. So we started talking and we started sketching and then in the middle of the whole thing, I knew that I might as well do this by myself. It wasn’t a move I’m proud of but the ideas coming to me had surpassed this intended collaboration and I knew this was exactly what the curvy community needed. I told the designer I wanted to break out and that is how TOSFA was born on the 16th of July 2015!
On fear at the very beginning
I was scared and confused because this was something I had never done before. I had passion in great abundance but I now had to learn the rudiments of design on my own. I studied online the basics and secondary levels of different processes- learning how to sketch, tailoring, pattern, fabrics and fabrication techniques but in all this the fear never went away, instead it got bigger with each passing day. Soon enough I realized I was getting better and little by little my doubts started to melt away. With each satisfied customer I grew more confident about my decisions and I got better. I literally allowed the work speak for itself. Although I still get scared from time to time, the difference now is I allow myself look back and then I take stock of how far I’ve come and that helps me move forward no matter what.
On inspiration and other designers
My mum was my very first inspiration, not only because she is on the curvy side but also because growing up with from my childhood days with a much slimmer sister, mum would always style both of us in the same clothes. The message I got from this was I could wear whatever I wanted in my size and even put my spin on it because it was okay to not look like everyone else. Of course with that kind of powerful message my confidence could not be questioned and I’m grateful for that from my mom.
I love Pintrest I go there to draw inspiration for different looks and generally spend a lot of time honing my creative side. Coincidentally and for the longest time, you have always inspired me! I would go on BellaNaija while I lived in the States and I would see “Latasha” and really vibe with your style. Your outfits gave me life on all angles, the way you carry yourself, your sense of colour – yeah I’m going to stop talking now (laughter). I like and respect other designers like Wana Sambo, Toju Foyeh, Re Bahia, Orange Culture, Ejiro Emos Tafiri and Lisa Folawiyo.
On the Brand’s growth, turning one, looking back and reflecting over the last year
If I could speak to me exactly a year ago, I will tell that Tobi that it’s okay to fall down as long you pick yourself back up again. I know that really sounds like a cliché but considering the disappointments I had, I can’t think of a better way to put it. Now that we are one, I’m getting everything I’ve wanted. From media interviews to new customers calling for this and that to great reviews. I’m excited for what the future holds because I can see there’s a lot of potential for the plus size industry in Nigeria and it’s just amazing how people are starting to see this and appreciating the effort.
What have been your bestselling pieces so far?
The Latasha skirt (no jokes), The Kiki Cape Dress, Olivia Pant Set and also the Balenciaga Skirt inspired by the aforementioned brand.
Are you into any fashion TV shows?
I honestly do not watch a lot of TV but I caught an episode of Project Runway the other day and totally started questioning my goals as to why I’d never sat and watched it before. Like just from that one episode I was already inspired seven ways from Sunday. I need to step up my TV game for sure and catch more inspiring programs.
What are your hopes for the Curvy Fashion Community in Nigeria and the continent at large?
I can see that right now, the plus size fashion industry leaders including Makioba, Ma’Bello, myself and Aboutthatcurvylife.com – as the forefront of the curvy life media space – are changing the game. The Curvy Conversation is changing and we are in the mix. We have a long way to go but I love how we stick together and are pushing the change along. We are almost there and we dare not stop now.
Curvy Conversations is a newly created series of interviews carried out by Africa’s leading curvy lifestyle website, Aboutthatcurvylife.com featuring key players within the industry, captains of industry, talking heads and stakeholders of the Plus fashion and Lifestyle world. We aim to promote growth in a fiscal and truly beneficial way to the world at large starting one conversation at a time!