Ladies and gentlemen we are excited to introduce you to Mr. Yusuf Abubakar, he is the creator of Apparel Polo Designs, and ladies we can assure you that he is more than a handsome face, Mr Abubaka has designed costumes for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s drama series- Flex and Shanice, as well as the creative designer for the American international pop and R&B star Bobby Valentino’s fashion range, he is also the designer of the 2015 MTV MAMA Awards and he also consults for a few English Premier Leagues.
Q- Good evening, this is Madeena from Afrokanist Magazine, firstly we admire that you have accomplished so much at such a young age, we would like to know how and why you started your own designs?
A- My mum was a seamstress and in her spare time, while we were in primary she would amend the clothes that we had messed up, so fashion has always been a major focus in my family. The prime objective of how I started was when I was in University; it was in my second year, which was in year 2011, just before my final year, we came up with a company called Entrepreneurship Enterprise, the brand actually started before then.
But entrepreneurship and creativity pushed me forth because while I and others were coming up with software companies, I said wait a minute, why don’t I infuse the original purpose into it and just re brand the whole concept. So I started making shoes for myself actually but it wasn’t because I wanted to open a shop or anything, I started making shoes that I wanted to wear and jackets, the styles we wanted to wear and how we wanted them. We had a group of friends then, we were always suited, and if we were going to club or doing anything we would be in top down suits and people would always admire us.
From then on I got involved with events, I brought Mario down, Mario from b2k and we had a good party and then a footballer, he saw my stuff and gave me his card, I collected his card and we exchanged contacts. He called me the next day to his house and was like he wanted my stuff; I didn’t believe that a premiership player would actually call me. So I brought him some samples, and he said he liked them and he was going to give me money and I refused to accept his money and told him I was giving them to him for free. He said he loves to see guys doing stuff independently and he encouraged me. He then posted pictures on social media and people saw it, it went viral actually. So it was even better that people saw it first and were tagging me, People were messaging me saying Yusuf you have made it, and I would be like nah I am just trying. So yeah that’s how the whole thing went viral, so my motivation was based on the people around me.
Q- Tell us about your experience working for the American R&B super star Bobby Valentino?
A- My experience was live, and here is why, Bobby Valentino is an individual who is down to earth, he is more of the student and I am the teacher, because I created the looks he wanted, we do have our yes or no’s but he’s always ready to listen. His collection is going to be launched on the fourth floor here in The Capital Hub Abuja and Insha Allah we are going to have him down. He’s a very simple guy, we are more of business partners it’s not all just social media stuff, and we are actually business partners. In fact we are looking at bringing him down to Nigeria to launch his collection and if he comes to Nigeria it will probably be the first time he comes to an African country, and I want to make that happen.
Q- Is there anyone while you were growing up, either family or friends that have impacted on your creativity and ambition?
A- I have never met my granddad, but I have heard stories about him, apparently he came back as me according to our traditional believe. So I was named after granddad, whose name was Yusuf Tumi. By the way I originally came from Niger state, Nigeria. Also I look up to my father, like any other kid would look up to their father. Furthermore my environment and friends, as well as the people I work with have impacted a great deal in my life, so to conclude I would say my environment and family. However in terms of who inspires me outside of the environment I would say is Malcom X, simply because I love reading about Malcolm X, The Gandy style inspired me too. So it’s been family friends and even yourself right now.
Q- Are there any African designer you would like to work with in the future?
A- There are lots of African designers I would love to work with in the future, firstly Harold Bobla he is a Ghanaian designer, English Heritage he inspires me the way he came up and started everything. There are lots of African designers that I want to work with. Also there are a lot of African American designers that I feel we share the similar sense of style.
Q-Before we round up this interview, we want to know who Mr. Yusuf Tumi Abubakar is behind the scenes. How would you describe yourself in three words?
A- Anything but ordinary
Q- What advice would you give to the upcoming youngsters out there?
A-Like I always say, don’t be shy to ask, the least you can get is a no, and every no you get should not discourage you in anyway, I have been turned down a lot of times, those people who turned me down still came back because now they want to work, I just look at them like okay, but you know I can’t say no to them, I just make them look stupid. So yes, don’t let anybody’s no discourage you, keep doing it, always collaborate. If you’re an upcoming designer try and look for inspiration, don’t just do what everyone is doing. Do what you can actually personally wear outside, do what represents you, and when people see it they be like wow, and when they ask you where you got it from you proudly say oh yeah I designed it . That makes it easier for you to sell, so don’t just do anything, do something unique. Don’t just do T-shirts with prints or caps with prints because everyone is doing it, and anyone can do it. Be unique no matter how small you are going to be, I am still upcoming as well.
Q- How can our readers get in touch with you, or order some of your designs?
A- Well, I am very active on my social media platforms; I post day and night, so yes my Twitter is #MRAptumi, Facebook Mr. Yusuf Abubakar Tumi, Instagram is @iamuzayap. It is pretty much simple, I am very active and I am always ready to explore with other people. I believe that the only way we can gain more is by tolerating the collaboration. Our products are available at shop 365 Africa dot.com, they can order my products online or even reach out to me; I’d get it sent out to them, internationally or locally. I can even deliver them personally if they buy a lot, I will go the house and deliver it myself.
Watch out for the 1st edition of Afrokanist Magazine , the full interview will be published in our first edition.