Exploring inclusivity with Bolupe Adebiyi, Cotton Loops
We loved meeting Bolupe at Pure London back in July 2019 for the SS20 season. During this difficult and ever-changing period, we’ve been in touch with Bolupe to find out how she’s been navigating the current circumstances, as well as to revisit her time with us at Pure London.
Cotton Loops is an ethical and sustainable black and white fashion lifestyle brand. They are the No. 1 black and white fashion lifestyle brand in Africa and have designed and produced hundreds of bestselling products from their own factory in Lagos, Nigeria since inception in June 2018. Cotton Loops currently ship to over 20 countries mostly in Africa, Europe and America and around the world.
How do your Nigerian roots influence your designs?
There has been a huge multi-national and cultural infusion and diffusion and an intertwining of fashion, culture and social life in Nigeria for as long as I can remember. There are over 200 tribes in Nigeria with a population of over 190 million people, to give you an idea of just how vast it is!
"The landscape within which I had my formative years was very colourful, rich, diverse and multifarious."
Growing up in post-colonial Nigeria was interesting as a young fashion enthusiast. There was the fashion from all 200 tribes in Nigeria and then the undeniable infusion of the European colonial influences which was seen in the architecture, language and of course fashion so the landscape within which I had my formative years was very colourful, rich, diverse and multifarious.
Also, sustainability has been the framework against which I was raised. Back in the day, everything was made by hand and there was no waste. Upcycling and recycling have been practised here in Africa before it went mainstream in the West which is why it is second nature to us now at Cotton Loops; we were raised on ethical and sustainable practices! We are communal by culture and everyone is considered family whether they’re employee or blood kin and are treated as such.
Now going into fashion in my later years, after over 15 years in luxury event design and planning in over 12 countries around the world and locally against the rich cultural background and my personal style, I have brought these to bear in the myriad of design expressions in Cotton Loops.
How are you navigating the current conversations around race and equality?
To put this in context, I grew up in Africa, but have since travelled to over 15 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and America, so would say I have experienced a myriad of ethnicities, nationalities, races in my lifetime.
However, I admit to being part of a cocooned or privileged few black people (something that seems ridiculous to consider in the world we live in at the moment) who have only experienced racism marginally and have enough of a voice at those times to immediately correct those situations as deemed necessary; I am able to and can afford to remove myself or be removed from these situations without repercussions.
"At Cotton Loops, we believe in equality – be it race, gender, sexuality, pay etc. We believe all human beings are entitled to the same opportunities, but we also do not believe in tokenism – you only get what you have worked for."
I however have children whose paths are different from mine, who are not growing up in Africa, as well as family living in and across Europe and America. I have a brand with footprints across the globe, and employees, partners and vendors that are as diverse in ethnicities as can be, and so for the first time and much later in life than most, this is a conversation I am not only lending my voice and resources to but am now a huge part of even though it is new to me.
At Cotton Loops, we believe in equality – be it race, gender, sexuality, pay etc. We believe all human beings are entitled to the same opportunities, but we also do not believe in tokenism – you only get what you have worked for, so we are comfortable with any colour or representation as long as they’re a human being; black, white, brown, male or female, everyone has done what they should to get to where they are. This is what we have and will continue to believe here.
"Inclusivity to me means freedom! Freedom to ‘be’ without judgement – also to ‘allow to be’ without barriers. It is non-discriminatory creativity and representation in any space, sphere or industry."
What does inclusivity in the fashion industry mean to you?
Inclusivity to me means freedom! Freedom to ‘be’ without judgement – also to ‘allow to be’ without barriers. It is non-discriminatory creativity and representation in any space, sphere or industry.
Discover the Cotton Loops story here: