Gbemi Okunlola did not assume she would grow to be a marriage costume designer.
At age 11, Okunlola was a self-taught seamstress with desires of creating it within the trend business. Bridal apparel wasn’t on her radar.
“I used to be stitching common garments and upcycling something get my arms on,” Okunlola, now 27, instructed Insider over
However her profession pivoted into bridal after two of her shoppers approached her about designing marriage ceremony attire.
British dressmaker Gbemi Okunlola stumbled into the marriage world in what now looks as if a accident
When the shoppers approached her, Okunlola stated she hadn’t positioned herself as a marriage costume designer.
“Primarily based on what that they had seen of [my] eveningwear, I may make the marriage attire for them,” she stated of being propositioned by the shoppers. “Being that I really like a problem, I stated, ‘OK, let’s do it.'”
Just a few months later, Okunlola’s sister bought engaged, so she as soon as once more discovered herself making a marriage robe.
Throughout the design course of, Okunlola found she has a knack for creating bespoke marriage ceremony attire. She stated she additionally developed an actual ardour for the craft.
“A marriage costume is clearly a costume that is extra sentimental than every other costume that you simply ever put on,” she stated. Designing the robes, she added, felt particular.
Okunlola felt she may shift her enterprise into the marriage business, and based the London-based Alonuko in 2013, at age 19. She hosted her first trend present the next yr.
As we speak, Alonuko ships attire worldwide, and Okunlola has designed marriage ceremony attire for celebrities like Danielle Brooks. The model has greater than 200,000 followers on Instagram.
Okunlola expanded her model by cornering a distinct segment market: phantasm robes made particularly for Black ladies
Okunlola is especially recognized for her phantasm robes, a mode made with a sheer, tulle base and embroidered with crystals or lace. Whereas she is not the one designer working with phantasm robes, she’s one among few on the earth crafting them with Black ladies in thoughts.
The large distinction: most marriage ceremony robes in the marketplace function a nude cloth primarily based on a white pores and skin tone. That blends nicely for lighter-skinned brides however is not inclusive of the broad vary of pores and skin tones of girls.
“Once I was making my sister’s marriage ceremony costume, we discovered that the whole lot that had a nude underlay solely gave us the choice for a beige tone, versus what could be nude for the wearer,” she stated of taking a look at marriage ceremony robes at bridal salons.
Sheer robes are meant to mix in with the wearer’s pores and skin, so Okunlola stated she thought it was “bizarre” there have been no darker underlay choices.
“It might by no means occur the opposite method round and be seen as OK,” she stated.
Okunlola went into analysis and improvement mode to see if it had been potential to create a sheer tulle for Black ladies. The important thing was a skinny however robust tulle with some shininess to it that allowed it to mix in with pores and skin.
Okunlola stated it “took a whole lot of work” to create the specialty tulle, nevertheless it was price it as soon as clients began flocking to her robes. When fascinated with different choices in the marketplace, Okunlola stated she felt manufacturers weren’t even making an attempt to accommodate ladies with darker pores and skin.
“It is not nearly having a brown possibility; it is about having a brown possibility, a beige possibility, a darkish brown possibility,” she stated. “It doesn’t matter what shade pores and skin you might be, it’s best to really feel just like the costume is for you.”
Brides say Okunlola’s designs made them really feel seen
Kehinde Adekoya enlisted Okunlola to design her costume as a result of she had a really particular imaginative and prescient for her marriage ceremony day.
“I wasn’t keen to compromise as a result of I really like trend,” Adekoya stated. “I knew that she would be capable to ship, and she or he did.”
“The mesh matched my pores and skin tone completely,” Kehinde instructed Insider of her Alonuko costume. “As a result of I am dark-skinned, it is not simple for designers to get that sort of mesh to match somebody as darkish as I’m.”
Equally, Daisy Boateng selected to collaborate with Okunlola as a result of she thinks of her as among the best marriage ceremony costume designers within the UK.
Boateng provided Okunlola with an inspiration photograph, however stated that the ultimate costume was higher than she may have imagined. The phantasm cloth was notably significant to Boateng.
“On this planet, band-aids are beige. When you get tights, they’re beige. In these marriage ceremony costume retailers, the whole lot’s beige,” Boateng instructed Insider. “Nothing ever matches.”
Boateng defined that due to this, the skin-matching bodice was actually impactful to her as a Black girl.
“To have a costume that was made for Black pores and skin, make it look so lovely, and help you have that second that white ladies have had for years was actually essential,” Boateng stated, including that she was “grateful” to Okunlola.
Okunlola hopes she will make the method of discovering a marriage robe extra fulfilling for all sorts of brides
Okunlola expressed her disappointment to Insider that swaths of individuals aren’t “considered” within the trend world.
“Particularly for bridal, it is meant to be a very fulfilling, sentimental expertise that you’ve got from begin to end,” she stated.
Typically, she stated, that is not the expertise her brides have at costume salons. She shared that one among her shoppers went to 30 totally different bridal shops to seek out an phantasm costume that might work along with her pores and skin tone. Nobody had one.
Okunlola stated she is hopeful her work will change that.
Okunlola is at present increasing her model’s choices. Along with bespoke robes, Alonuko has made-to-order attire, equipment, and a brand new assortment of robes. Okunlola is planning to launch a ready-to-wear line on the finish of the yr.
“The model that we’re constructing does not finish with marriage ceremony attire,” Okunlola stated. “It is a international model that surprises, and that has longevity.”