Founder and creative designer of Ahme Couture, Amen Bazunu, speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba on the roots of her creativity and what to expect in her coming collection
What stoked your interest in fashion?
Well, I established Ahme Couture in 2009 and went into the production of leather goods out of my love and passion for creating beautiful clutch bags. This eventually led me to follow my vision and expand my products and sales to the global market and build a brand that will be known internationally. That is what interests me in fashion.
Why did you diversify into accessories making? You used to make clothes, is that right?
Yes, I used to design and make clothing for a niche clientele. However, it became too demanding and was getting in the way of my desire to strike a balance between being a wife, a mother and my career. So I thought of something else to do along the line of fashion, because that is what I love to do and I like to think I am good at it. I prayed about it and finally by chance I got introduced to some craftsmen that make bags by a friend of mine. I was impressed with their work and most importantly their finishing. So I went on to sketch some ideas I had in mind and gave them specifications on how I would like the leather to be treated and finishing to look like. I also chose all raw materials that I needed to be used in the bags, and with my supervision, they produced the bags to my specifications. So that’s was how it all started for me, and for me, it is a good aspect of fashion to go into because just a few people were making accessories at the time.
What do you hope to achieve in fashion?
I hope to be recognised as one of the best - not just in Nigeria. On the internationally front, my dream is for celebrities like Beyonce to carry my bags.
What’s your design philosophy?
I believe simplicity is key as it always gives you that understated elegance and that is what I incorporate in all my designs.
What kind of materials dominate your designs?
My specialty is in designing envelope clutch purses in genuine calf and snake skin leather even though I use other animal skin.
How are your designs influenced by your cultural roots compared to inspirations further afield and international fashion trends?
All my bags are handmade in Nigeria by professional craftsmen. I pride myself in designing purses to the highest standards and so my designs will only naturally be influenced by my surrounding. I tend to use a lot of African prints fused with some international trends. I get inspiration from things I come in contact with daily.
Can you tell us about any new collection you may be working on?
I just launched a new season collection last December tagged “Meyin”. This collection combines great value and fabulous style. I am, however, working on some new designs for my next collection in March, which will mostly be made from real crocodile leather and a few in beaded and embellished Ankara print. I am also producing an exclusive line of ipad cases too.
What should we expect - shapes, themes, colours etc?
There will definitely be lots of African materials in it, bright colours and embellishments that a classy woman of today will be happy to carry during the day or at night.
How would you describe your personal style?
I love everything simple; so my personal style is very simple, classy and elegant. I believe in the saying “simplicity speaks volume”.
How old are you?
I’m in my mid-thirties.
What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
I have done a lot of fun things. I think I am a bit adventurous so it’s sort of hard for me to pick a particular one.
What’s the wildest fashion item you ever wore?
There was a time I was in university and wore this pair of ripped jeans with the tearing going all the way just below my bum and it was held together with safety pins.
What’s the most fun place to go?
I adore vintage shopping and there is nothing more interesting than going to Portobello market in London and other open markets with a lot of vintage or treasured nick-knacks.
How do you relax?
People might find this a bit boring, but I love to relax in my bedroom with a nice bottle of wine, eating barbeque chicken and watching a nice movie.
Where is the best place to shop and why?
Well, for accessories and handbags, definitely Ahme Couture. I design most of my clothes too and hardly buy clothes anywhere else.
What has been you greatest challenge so far?
My greatest challenge has been having good and loyal workers that can align with my vision.
Who has been supportive of your projects so far?
My husband, sister and friends. They have all held my back firmly.
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
Growing up I always wanted to practice law, funny how things turned out for good.
What is your greatest food indulgence?
I love rice but try to take it in small dozes at a time.
Are you confident about your body? Tell us how either way.
Yes, I am. I have been blessed with a good body.
If you could change something about your body, what will it be?
I wish I could firm up my stomach, but like my hubby will say: “don’t wish, hit the gym and that stomach will firm up”.
What is your take on cosmetic surgery?
I don’t have anything against it. If anyone thinks they really need it and it will make them feel better about themselves, then that’s fine.
What attracted you to your husband?
I am married to Oti Bazunu and we are blessed with two boys. And the attraction to my husband is is the fact that there was something different about him, differently nice. And he is extremely intelligent. He seeks to improve those that come his way, and he has a high level of integrity, qualities most people lack these days.
What is the nicest compliment from your husband that remains memorable?
Some years back, we were discussing about something and he looked at me and said “you never cease to amaze me” in a good way, smiling. Those words and that moment remain vivid in my head.
In your opinion, what attributes does one need to succeed in business?
Passion, drive and belief in oneself.
If you could raid anyone’s closet, who’s would it be?
Kim Kardashian, of course.
Given an opportunity, which celebrity would you like to dine with?
Nelson Mandela, just a moment to listen to some life lessons and wisdom will be divine. Also, Michelle Obama is inspiring to me.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life?
Growing up, my mum. Since I have been married, my husband. He just won’t let go until he sees the best of me coming out.
If you were to be the first lady of Nigeria tomorrow what would you do to assist women and children in the country?
If I were in a position of authority, I will strive to assist women and children in the country. I would empower them financially, mentally and psychologically. Most of the problems women face is not just financial but more of psychological defeat.
Wildest fashion item ever worn As an undergraduate, wore a pair of ripped jeans with the tearing going all the way just below her bum and held together with safety pins!
Greatest challenge so far Having good and loyal workers that can align with vision.