Interview with Bobby Kolade

Published at L'Officiel Italia on 15th May 2014

Limitation is a word that does not exist in Bobby Kolade’s vocabulary. The 27-year-old designer showed his second and first selling women’s wear collection in April using 56 different kinds of fabrics, including organic hand-woven Ethiopian cotton and a wool-nylon-taffeta-mix, which is reminiscent of rhino leather. “Everything is possible – you just have to find the right way”, the Nigerian-German tells me at his PR agency in Berlin Mitte. An attitude he developed along with his love for unusual fabric combinations while working half a year for Balenciaga in Paris, taking a break from his fashion design studies at the Weißensee School of Art in Berlin.

Kolade was born in Sudan, but grew up in Uganda where he attended an international school. “It was great, a real melting pot”, he says. After graduation, the decision to go abroad was self-evident. Originally, he planned to study Law and Business in Great Britain, however when he decided to move to Berlin nine years ago, without a word of German, he knew he wanted to pursue a carrier in design. With the same passion with which he learned the new language, he threw himself in his final collection and launched his eponymous label the same year.

“To translate and reinterpret impressions of everyday life into designs” distinguishes his work and is something he learned during his year at Maison Martin Margiela. “I love to observe people, especially women”, Kolade tells me. One of his greatest sources of inspiration is public transport, “it’s amazing how many different people come together in such a small place. I really hope I can take the train forever”, he admits. His other safe choice for creativity is the museum, the day after a party, “I get the best ideas when I’m hung-over”, claims the young designer.

For his latest collection he did not have one particular inspiration. It is “a pool of ideas which is constantly developing” and importantly embraces the input of his small team and friends. He explains, “it is crucial to be open minded, curious and as spontaneous as possible.” To show the results Kolade invited to the art gallery Patrick Ebensperger in the neighbourhood of his studio in Berlin Wedding. It was a conscious decision not to show during Berlin Fashion Week in January to avoid the break of the Christmas holidays. “I think an interruption really impairs the collection. It is important to work very, very intensely”, he says about the three months before each show.

His collection “39” included elegant pantsuits, sporty corsets and extravagant bag creations made of Ugandan bark, which were collaborative pieces created with his former fellow student Malin Bernreuther. The name derives from the number of pieces the designer used for each jacket – his favourite item due to its complexity and versatility. While personally he may not share the style of his label – “I’m not walking around elegantly dressed” – he certainly shares its values. “It’s not only important to me that many of the clothes are made of organic fabrics, but that our consumption is sustainable as well. To throw away a t-shirt just because it has a few holes is ridiculous”.

It is his focus on the essential combined with his ambition, cheerful nature and intrinsic talent that will ensure his continued success.