Who is Bukky Baldwin?

Bukky Baldwin is a brand born out of the need to create with a purpose and to create change in society more than anything else. Their first full collection breathes new life into a fast fashion chasm of landfill styles. They bring together PET fabrics, sustainably made and sourced right here in the city, Altrincham to be exact! With vibrant colours, materials, patterns and sewing techniques, it’s the perfect collection to sum up 2020, comfy and fabulous.

With a range of tops, dresses, pants, hats and masks at a really good price, it is already a collection that has got across the country, with comedian Sophie Duker, singer LayFullStop, DJ Tracy (Abena) and writer Brit Seaton donning the collection throughout the summer and autumn.

The brands founder is Ibukun Jesusanmi Baldwin, she describes herself as a social practitioner, but to me, she seems so much more. She has worked tirelessly in so many different settings for charity, running classes to teach people how to make ceramics and teaching convicts how to approach art. All this comes alongside founding Bukky Baldwin and having a residency shop in The Whitworth Art Gallery, where she could run her own workshops teaching minority communities how to create together. This is a truly wonderful story about how one person can make a huge difference to a community and leave a long lasting impression on generations.

She came out of University after studying Textiles and in her own words

“It was a long process from graduating to starting a business. Very early on I really felt passionate about people who had been left behind in society. Where their needs aren’t met by the government and are left in this cycle without the opportunity to develop their skills”

With this visible gap in the community she wanted to do everything that she could!

“After I graduated I did an apprenticeship at a local church where I worked with loads of different people, underprivileged children, refugees and parts of the old age community. But after doing all that work I really missed my practise! I really wanted to make something for me, but also something that gave back to the community. Businesses make money and profit, so… If I can make a fashion company, -which is an area that has insane profit margins- and then give that money to people that need it, then that’s the route I want to go down.”

So the idea is there and now she strived to make it become real. It started with the first fashion collection, which had a wonderful show at The Whitworth. This fashion range was all in unison with a Homelessness charity and it was to help train people in the process of making these items. Then everyone that was there had all food and care provided.

After the success of this show, Ibukun was then invited to have a shop and workshop with The Whitworth Art Gallery, specifically to work with refugees to give with them workplace experience and train them in artistic practises.

“When people come to this country from abroad as refugees all their previous experience is wiped clean, so we gave them the opportunity! We also gave them necessary English skills and a job reference for the future. So we did small scale collaborations in areas like ceramics, painting and jewellery making. So once we have finished the workshops they then have the skills to do that themselves, which is priceless. The stuff that they made here was then what was sold in the shop!

It them became more of an interactive space where they could host way more things than just that. It was so important for me to really develop myself and what I want to do with myself. And it really helped me establish my own business, but then Covid came, meh.

Since March of this year I have now moved location to The Yard near Strangeways, so I have my own personal space away from the public, which is lovely. I hope to do more product with The Whitworth, but now I have my home.”

So the business has built up with massive experience with working within the community and making a difference really gave Ibukun a new way of thinking. Then as we all know, Covid came along and really made everyone's life a bit more interesting. Ibukun describes it as “a blessing in disguise”.

“I never know what I’m going to do, but I always wanted to make a fashion collection. Now my practise has to go online I have to really specialise my work. I also can no longer run my workshops, so I instead want to hire a refugee and that is my really goal. So I made my fashion range.

The range is all made in Manchester, besides some treatments. But everything is spun here and printed here. I wanted the collection to be sustainable, eco friendly, made locally and cheap to the consumer, so it took a while to research!

All I really wanted to do with the collection was to make clothes that are comfy. Seen as we are all in lockdown I wanted comfort to be important, but I didn’t want to look like I’d let go! Clothes that were really easy to wear, but easy to use and stylish. I also wanted the items to be easy enough to train someone else to make, that’s what I’m always considering in my work.

The prints were some of my classic designs, I have quite a good story about the slugs.

I was on a walk at night and there were loads of stars in the sky, so I was admiring the stars thinking, wow, they’re so beautiful and I looked down on the pavement and saw all these beautiful sparkly trails. They were slug trails! They were reflecting the beautiful lights and the stars. It was that time that there were loads of slugs out and I looked down and thought, this is really pretty goo. I kinda saw slugs as people in terms of easy to judge and easy to be looked down on, without slugs realising it they are creating these beautiful trails. So I went on a bit of a beautiful slug appreciation thing and here we are. “

Both the classic designs of the faces and the slugs Ibukun describes as being a celebration of how amazing people are and the potential they have to produce beautiful things.

“Everyone has the potential to do good and has something they are good at.”

Ibukun still works as freelance artists to actually fund these other products. She also works as a workshop programmer to still offer the same sort of opportunities in the community, whilst no longer having the home of The Whitworth. Giving voices to people and places to be able share stories, using creativity as a way to start conversations. Letting people know they are still cared for.

They have worked closely with The Turnpike Gallery in Leigh in the last year.

“They are a group of great people, who are totally community focused. We have been working on a project with Everything Human Rights, trying to equip the group with brand skills so they can apply them in their work.”

Ibukun apply themselves in this way in loads of different ways through their freelance work, meeting lots of different people through working within the arts community. Once they did one, they get more and more.

As we do with everyone we talk to, we asked them to recommend us 3 great people/business or group.

“Sarah Fraser is a wonderful ceramicist from Manchester who works with Clay Studio. She ran some workshops in collaboration with us to teach refugees and myself how to do ceramics!

Clay Studio is a community based studio in Hulme that run great workshops for people in the community, which is where Sarah Fraser is based.

Small Fry Collective, which is a collective of illustrators who have done some amazing events! I just love their ethos and how they work, they all look like such cool people.

Visions Of The Future is a cool project which is an open discussion looking at art in lockdown. Ran by Jessica El Mal it originally started years ago hoping to insight social change through looking at how we view the future. ”

Our very own Hannah Whitlow has been a contributor of that project so it’s well worth a look at!

Visit the Bukky Baldwin site here

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