Ayobami Oladapo only found out about the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards fashion competition two days before the deadline. Luckily, that was still enough time to throw her hat into the ring. “I [got] an email a few weeks later that said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected.’ Oladapo’s last-minute move resulted in her winning the second-ever edition of the AMVCA Design For The Stars Runway competition–providing a much-needed boost for her burgeoning fashion label, Statement by Bami. “It’s amazing,” she tells OkayAfrica. “I know for sure that winning this is going to set me up how I want [it] to.”
Created in 2014, the AMVCAs recognize and celebrate the ardent work of TV personalities and content creators across the Nigerian entertainment industry. Through its channel Africa Magic, founding parent company Multichoice has continued to build structures that uplift the industry, including introducing new categories to showcase Nigerian talent, such as the fashion competition, which it established last year.
The ninth edition of the AMVCAs culminated in a glitzy weekend affair over the 20th of May in Lagos. Among the big winners included Tobi Bakre taking Best Actor in a Drama, for Brotherhood; Osas Ighodaro taking Best Actress in a Drama, for Man of God, and Adeola Art-Alade taking Best Costume Designer, for The Real Housewives of Lagos (Reunion Episode).
Fashion has always played a role in the awards, and this year was no different. Celebrities dressed up in both regal and minimalist designs, showcasing their elaborate personalities in the process. Hosting a runway competition only further entrenches its significance at the AMVCAs. The maiden edition, which took place last year, saw Nigerian designers Obinna Omeruo, Sophie Chamberlain, and Felix Asuquo emerge as the winners. This year, Oladapo, who is known by her nickname of Bami, beat contestants like Emerie Udiahgebi of UDIAHGEBI, Emmanuel Goodnews of Just Icon, and Funmibi Olayinka. Last year’s competition was judged by a panel of high-profile fashion personalities, while this year’s was decided upon by public voting.
“I am still in shock, and honestly grateful to God for this win,” she says. “I think that what set me apart from my competitors and caught the eye of the audience was that my designs were simple, and at the same time exaggerated and making a statement. So, simple pieces, but exaggerated designs.”
StatementByBami creates womenswear pieces that juxtapose her brand’s style — easy silhouettes and fitted garments — with the personality of the clients she’s designing for. To that end, she creates highly fitted dresses, onesies and two-pieces, all made from vibrant colors and bold patterns. “My audience [is] women who are super stylists and know what they want. I mostly use silk, lace and a little bit of organza to design for my clients,” she says.
It’s no secret that one of the major challenges faced by fashion brands in Nigeria is access to funding, especially for young brands. This is why platforms like the AMVCAs are important in the grander scheme of things. Their impact allows designers to be expressive, with support as they progress in their journey. Coached by one of Nigeria’s most prolific designers, Ohimai Atafo of Atafo, the designers were tasked with producing a two-look collection consisting of one piece inspired by sponsor Pepsi’s official colors and one piece created for the AMVCA red carpet.
Another challenge facing young fashion brands is the issue of visibility and clientele recognition. With the AMVCAs being such a highly-anticipated event broadcast across a major channel, young designers taking part in the runway competition stand the chance to gain significant exposure. “My hope is that [this win] brings my brand out there, so that people can see me more, and see how creative I am,” Bami says. Although she has been building Statement By Bami for less than three years, she feels people are less willing to associate with brands of her size: “I do think there’s kind of discrimination against small brands but I’m grateful to platforms like this, since they also help us elevate our brands.”
Winning this competition doesn’t mean the difficulties of running a fashion label disappear. But for designers like Bami, it does provide more reason to continue to push on. “I would always advise people to put themselves and their brands out there. There are loads of challenges that come with it, but doing the work, improving oneself, and getting knowledge about the industry is one way to overcome such [things],” she says. And she’s only just beginning. Bami plans to release her first collection on the back of this win.