Indie Interview: Ibi Oluwole of I.B.I Couture and I.B.I. Boutique

ibi couture.jpgIt’s been a while since our last indie interview, so SF Indie Fashion was amped when Ibi Oluwole – the designer behind I.B.I. Couture – agreed to answer our questions just as she was preparing to open her latest project, the newly opened flagship I.B.I. Boutique in Santa Clara, Calif.

If you attend San Francisco Bay Area indie fashion shopping events, trunk shows or shop in indie-friendly stores like R.A.G. and Porcelynne, you’ve probably already run into Ibi and her fab jewelry and apparel designs. Not only does she participate in tons of the events throughout the year, she has been the marketing and pr arm behind events like the Boutique Bonanza and Vestiti Roupa.

But you don’t want to listen to me crow about her. You want to listen to her wax philosophic about life as a designer and the challenges of opening an indie fashion outpost. So without further ado….

Tell us a little about yourself. Your vital stats, if you will. Where do you live, how long have you been a designer, etc?

Hi Lorraine! Well, I just graduated from Santa Clara University where I majored in marketing, but I’ve worked as a designer for the past three years. I still live nearby, and I’m opening the store very close by, too.

Does I.B.I. stand for anything?

I.B.I. is actually just my name, but I thought I’d make it look more like an acronym than a first name. No real reason, I was just playing with a bunch of fonts in Word one day, and it worked.

How long have you been planning the I.B.I Boutique?

The boutique was always the goal for my line, then Ibi Couture. It was supposed to serve as sort of the flagship store where my line could be found, but it evolved quite a bit to accommodate a wider range of products, and include other local designer lines.

What independent labels will be available at the boutique?

Some of the independent designers include: Mison, Sindy Collection, Donna Lou Clothing, Squink Industries and Porcelynne. There are many more to name, and they make really beautiful goods.

How did you decide what to carry?

Whatever I loved. Some of the designers are friends I made over the years from RAG, and the other designers were also recruited from there.

What was the biggest challenge in opening your own store?

The amount of physical labor that has been involved. I usually have to be coerced (read suckered) into going to the gym. So, handling a hack-saw and a hammer drill was not something I expected to handle very well.

What’s your favorite part of the store?

I am obsessed with all of the jewelry displays. There is jewelry everywhere and all of it is beautifully displayed using everything from large coral branches to antique picture frames.

What advice would you give others who want to start boutiques in Santa Clara?

I would recommend that anyone opening a boutique should choose location very carefully, but not expect the location to market itself. South Bay shoppers tend to be mall shoppers, so it’s got to be a unique idea and/or offer a unique selection.

Tell me about your involvement with fashion shopping events like Vestiti Roupa and the Boutique Bonanza. What role did you play in those events?

I was the lead marketing/pr person for Boutique Bonanza, which was a May event by the producer of Vestiti Roupa trunk shows. It was a fantastic experience, and I got a great chance to talk with some very savvy boutique owners. In fact, the above advice was something that was mentioned by one of the ladies of Chrissy Bee (who did a great interview, by the way).

As a designer, how effective were shopping events in building your business?

Incredibly effective! The store wouldn’t have happened without Boutique Bonanza for one. Also, all of the working capital for the store came from the plethora of trunk shows that I’ve done since the beginning of the year. I think they’re also a great way to meet other designers – I plan to do more recruiting at such events.

What’s your favorite thing about the Bay Area’s independent design landscape?

I like that it is unpretentious and original. There is a lot of talent up here, and I wish more of them would be recognized for it. SF bay area designers make things that are very wearable without being predictable.

What would you like to see change?

The amount of attention people pay to what’s in their own backyards. It would be great if more locals shopped their own local design businesses, just as they would LA or NY designers.

Give us your thoughts on the independent design scene specific to Santa Clara.

(There isn’t really one here, I went up to SF for all of it)

Where do you shop for clothing?

My friends stores: RAG, Backspace, Hayes Street,, and Ebay!

What item in your closet have you owned the longest?

A black Louis Vuitton turtleneck. I don’t wear it anymore, but can’t bring myself to part with it.

Pets? Kids? Crazy hobbies?

I wish! No!! Does being crazy in general count? 🙂

What’s on the horizon for I.B.I. Couture in 2007 and 2008?

I.B.I Couture will become BYIBI in 2008. The boutique will take up most of my time in 2007, but I’d love to go to London Fashion Week to see the Spring shows. Still trying to convince myself it could be a business investment.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your line?

Honestly, I’d love be able to say a BIG thank you to everyone who has supported me and my line! I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do this in the amount of time I have, and I am so thankful for all of the tremendous support!

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