Binta Shuaibu is the Creative Director of Vintage Colette (VC), a Kano based fashion house. She believes a woman can be conservative yet stylish, beautiful and very fashionable. Shuaibu won the MTN/British Council Young Designer Award for 2011 at the recently held MTN Lagos Fashion and Design Week in November last year. In this interview she shares her passion for fashion and other things. (Excerpt)

What does the word fashion mean to you?
Fashion means three basic things to me; comfortable, artistic and stylish. Fashion is a personal self expression that reflects the radiance from within one’s individuality.
How would you describe the Nigerian fashion industry as it is today?
The Nigerian fashion industry has really improved over the decades and is still on the verge for more improvement. Nigeria is a country with a lot of talented and creative minds. The last decade has unveiled a lot of potentials from the Nigerian fashion industry featuring in the most famous fashion shows in the world.

What are the kinds of fabrics you work with?

Most times I work with silk, cotton and some other fabrics but usually Nigerian, African and western fabrics.
What is your personal style?
My personal style is simple and artistic.
Tell us a little about your background, education, career and how your fashion career started?
I am an indigene of Gombe state but was born and raised in Kano State. I attended St. Louis primary and secondary schools in Kano. I studied Biochemistry and also had my Cisco certified networking academy course from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. After serving in FCT I got married and moved back to Kano where I enrolled at Alliance francaise and obtained an equivalent degree certificate in French language. I then enrolled for a Masters course in International Affairs and Diplomacy (MIAD) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria which I completed earlier last year that is 2011.
My fashion career was something that started as a hobby from the age of eight when I watched the late Maryam Babangida on television. I began sketching and my fashionable parents also helped me with styling my wardrobe and dressing smartly from a tender age. At the age of 13, my mum sent me to a tailoring school at the women’s centre in FCT for a three month course. I didn’t like the classes because I preferred the cookery classes and also because I was the youngest in the class and was constantly teased by the other women that my parents sent me there because they had plans of marrying me off as soon as I completed my secondary school. They teased me and said I was going to be a tailor in the future. I hated going for the classes.
I eventually continued to sketch as a hobby for myself, family and friends but stopped after a while because people thought my designs were too eccentric. Later on, after having a baby I decided to continue without worrying so much about what others thought. I simply focused on what I felt from the inside and put it down on a piece of paper.
Asides fashion and designing what are your other interest?
Before auditioning for the MTN LFDW, I only worked as an event planner and also did some creative writing. I was asked at the audition how I joggle all that up with family life and my designs too. It is quite simple actually for me because everything I do is creative and I get inspirations from all over. Life itself is also creative from my own perspective. Fashion design is something I have always done effortlessly but I now intend to take it up as a full career and give it my best shot.
What would you say inspires your work, that is, your designs?
I derive my inspiration from the simplest things to the most complicated. It could be architectural, nature based, art or lifestyle.
How do you keep fit?
My personal regimen for keeping fit is dieting and a high metabolic rate which by the way I think is genetic. The combination of these two things helps me keep in shape.
What is your area of specialisation in fashion designing and why do you focus on that aspect of designing?
My area of specialisation at the moment is haute couture. It a bit complex while putting together because of the amount of detailing involved in creating one dress but it’s something I am passionate about and well worth it at the end. I absolutely love it.
Why do you feel you can make success out of a career in fashion and just how confident are you about this?
I am very confident that I would make a wonderful career out of the fashion industry because I am hardworking, and also a perfectionist. From the age of 8, my primary school teacher thought me a poem by Mamman J. Vasta that ended with the words ‘from beginning to end must leave nothing pending’. I have always entwined these words into my daily life and career as a human being, the results have always left me with a smile on my face.
Vintage Colette is the name of your fashion label, when and how did you come about the name?
Vintage Colette is the brand name I came up with for my design house which infuses the use of Vintage designs with contemporary concepts to make any woman between the ages of 19-55 feeling comfortable, stylish and sexy without revealing too much. A woman can be conservative yet stylish, sexy and fashionable without indecent exposure.
What is your take on love, marriage and relationship?
I think it’s best to be married to your friend and someone who deeply understands you. Love is an important ingredient in the equation but in the long run it’s those two things that keep a relation or marriage going.
Locally and internationally, who are some of the people you consider your role models?
Late Maryam Babangida, my parents, Ituen Basi, Coco Chanel, Balenciaga, John Galliano, Elie Saab, Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta.
How do you unwind?
I hang out with my close friends and family. Sometimes we go to the movies but generally I enjoy hang outs with my family and close friends.
How do you balance your personal life, home and family with your job?
The same with every woman with an ambitious drive, it’s hectic, but I’m neither the first nor the only woman in this position. I enjoy the full support of my family on this job, adjusting might be tough initially. If there’s anything I’ve come to learn in my few years of experience is that eventually things work out and you’ll reap the fruit of your labour.
What are your dreams and aspirations for Vintage Colette?
You can bet I’m already dreaming big because the journey towards a wonderful career has just begun. My vision is that in a few years from now Vintage Colette would be on all the continents in the world and it all started from the MTN Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2011 competition.

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