British designer Xaverie Bakemhe is the creative brains behind Bot i Lam; a fashion label that fuses traditional African wear with modern contemporary styles. We spoke to Ms. Bakembe to learn more about the Bot i Lam brand and her thoughts on the future of African fashion.
Explain the concept for the Bot i Lam brand
The concept is that of self help. As an African, I design clothes and have them made in Africa so the African tailors can benefit, since it is African print I am using. So instead of charity, I utilise the skills of the Africans – that’s why I described it as self help.
Why the name ‘Bot i Lam’?
To vary from the English or French names we often see. It’s an African brand so an African name was chosen. It’s Bassa, my tribe in Cameroon. It means Beautiful fashion. However, the exact translation is beautiful clothes.
How important is ethical manufacturing to Bot i Lam and how do you infuse it into your business practices?
I source independent tailors to whom I pay a fair wage. They work under their own conditions and that’s as far as I can control the ethical aspect to it.
Do you have a background in Fashion?
Not at all – I am self taught. Although artistic. I did do a clothe making course, however not a degree in fashion. My background is in fact legal.
What is your bestseller? Which item would you say best represents the brand?
I say the best seller and also the item which represents the brand well is the Kaba. This is the traditional wear of Cameroon, where each designers do the top differently. Mine is 50’s influenced. It’s therefore a classic. I make them in a variety of prints and they always seem to sell out. In fact I will end up just specializing in Kabas.
What have you done to update the Kaba?
First of all, I shortened it slighlty – showing a bit more leg… lol. Then I tailored the silhouette. I also kept the top collar very simple yet very different from the norm.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs.
To be honest inspiration comes from everyday living. It may be from a film you watch (old movies) or from just walking on the road. It doesn’t lie in the art galleries…lol – not necessarily. In fact for me it’s also the classic traditional African clothing which I tend to modernise whilst attempting to let them remain classic in shape.
What are your hopes for the future of African fashion?
To be honest, I hope our governments could appreciate the arts more and facilitate artistic individuals within the continent to develop their skills. There are many, they just don’t have the opportunities we have in Europe unfortunately. It would be great to have African brands within Africa and not just Eurocentric stores. It would be great if Africans started idolizing their own self and understanding their own worth. More African brand stores in Africa would be great.
Today, there seems to be an influx of African print all over the place. what makes Bot i Lam stand out?
I believe Bot i Lam stands out as it doesn’t try to follow the trend. It remains classic in it’s designs. Oh and also very reasonable in price.
Is there anybody that you’d love to see wearing your designs?
Yes – everybody lol. The classic and cliche Michelle Obama of course,but also would love to see Usher, Puff Daddy and Eto’o representing. To think I have had close calls with the latter three which I didn’t follow through.
Where do you see Bot i Lam in 5 years time?
Oooh it’s difficult to say to be honest. Hopefully making more money anyway loool!
How can our readers learn more about Bot i Lam?
Go to www.botilam.com They can send an email through our contact us page if they have any specific questions or feedback. Someone will be sure to get back to them.