From AY to Broda Shaggi, Nigerian celebrity stylist, Balepo Oscar and his styling agency, La’baleo Collection, has been responsible for the glamorous look and impeccable style of most of Nigeria’s celebrities. He explains the concept of celebrity styling to ROSEMARY NWOSU in this interview while recounting his journey to becoming one of the nation’s most respected styling voices. Excerpts…
Describe your journey of becoming a celebrity stylist to me.
It hasn’t been a smooth one but things are gradually falling in place. It all started when we thought about how to make the brand La’baleo different from other brands and also a medium to reach out to more people. Through the help of our brand influencer, Afor Ifeoma, more better known as Loloiffy, we were able to meet most of these celebs; the likes of the famous Nigerian footballer, Peter Odemwingie during an interview with the BBC and later went to on to style Broda Shaggi when he actually started out as an Instagram celebrity and then went on to style Mr. AY Makun for his December 2018 London Merry Men Movie premiere and he’s now the face of our latest collection.
What exactly makes La’baleo unique from other celebrity stylists?
Labaleo is quite different from other stylists as we create from abstract with the infusion of art into fashion just like our “Asa” Collection and the 2018 Agbada Dubois Collection which carries a digitalized face of the wearer at the back. This helped us to win the hearts of the celebrities knowing the fact that the African culture can be infused into their present day way of style and also helps to promote our heritage. An example is when Mr. AY Makun first saw the illustration of the Agbada Dubois collection we made for him. It blew him away because to him, it has never been done before and it is something different from the usual.
What’s the inspiration behind the name, La’baleo?
La’baleo is a combination my names, Balepo Oscar in a French mannerism. This is the best I can tell you; French mannerism, because I studied French for a year and lived in Cotonou, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire for close to four years and their way of living made me see things differently which I then applied to the name and fashion. Having been known as a celebrity
stylist, what is the most challenging phase in your career?
The most challenging phase in my career… This question is tricky because after all said and done some clients just feel like they can’t afford us especially those who started with us. You know that Nigerian mentality. Please for your information the market is open for all because we also put in place what you call marketing segmentation.
Which celebrity client contract was a breakthrough in your career?
That would be Mr. Ayodeji Makun, the popular comedian, actor and movie producer who launched our Agbada Dubois with the digitalized face in 2018 at his London Merry Men movie premiere as it was a big sell out because a whole lot of people liked the idea of their faces or initials being customized on their wears which gives it that real bespoke feel. You know, na me get am, person no fit borrow am.
What inspired the name of your collection theme ‘black and white?’
The theme ‘black and white’ was chosen for that collection to support the black lives matter movement; meaning being white or black we are still the same and one family, and also to support the consent movement against rape. It is actually ‘Consent: The Black and White Collection.’ White meaning yes and black meaning no and as you can see this particular word matters a lot before any action which were basically part of the issues faced during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Based on research, Ayodeji Richard Makun who is popularly known as A.Y is the face of your collection. Why is that so?
As I said earlier, AY was our celebrity breakthrough. Despite the fact his brother is also a stylist, he went ahead to give us the great opportunity of working with him and not to forget he is a people’s man. A lot of people regard him for his hard work and consistency in the industry and this to us is inspiring and a lead to follow for greater things come from following your dreams.
What comes first for you while styling a celebrity?
To be honest, in styling any one including celebrities the first thing that comes to mind is detailing; ma k i n g sure the idea proposed comes out as good as it should be in reality. Remember they are stars; you can’t just make the usual for them. It has to be never seen before, classy new and epic.
Which of the celebrities you’ve styled has been the toughest to please?
Well, I have styled a handful of celebrities mainly males but I can’t categorically say if any one of them was difficult to please as we always make proper research about the individual before proceeding. Afterwards, we make out a sketch to show him or her before the actual tailoring.
Have your collection won any fashion award?
Not yet, hopefully this year we would be going all out regardless of the Covid-19 restrain.
Has this year favored your business in any way?
In a way, this year has being good regardless of the lockdown and all. It gave us at La’baleo more time to go back to our drawing board to re-stragetize on new designs and new ways to enter the market, hence the birth of a new collection “Black and White”
What’s your plan for La’baleo in the next 4 years?
In the next 4 years, we at La’Baleo plan to be a household name and be in everyone’s wardrobe.
What is your advice to young stylists?
I would advise any young stylists the way I advised myself to keep pushing, be original, be disciplined and never give up.