Founded in 2017 by former economist Aisha Babayo Shehu, Babayo is a Nigerian fashion brand, one that is deeply inspired by the Fulani culture—an African ethnic group found mainly across West Africa. Named for Shehu’s late father from whom she inherited the Fulani name, the ready-to-wear womenswear label offers distinctly modern designs at the intersection of style and comfort, their prioritization of ease of wear evident through laidback silhouettes and flowing fits.
Through Babayo, Shehu is focused on telling tales of culture and heritage, merging the old with the new, and appealing to the sophisticated, confident, and graceful woman. Featuring intricate and vibrantly hued hand embroidery applied by locally employed artisans upon shirts, blouses, crop tops, kaftans, and more in solid colors, Babayo's collections are brought to life through exquisite craftsmanship and innovative takes on classic styles. With exclusivity and tradition at its core, Babayo offers a perfectly modern aesthetic with a Fulani twist.
Sustainability is also a primary element of Babayo’s ethos. By using locally sourced and produced fabrics like Aso Oke, Mudukare, cotton from Northern Nigeria, and hand-dyed adire fabrics, the brand aims for a zero waste process by upcycling leftover fabrics and repurposing outfits that aren’t sold to make newer designs.
Promoting local artisanship is another firm priority for Shehu, who deeply understands the importance of supporting those who work with their hands and conserving the centuries-old customs and techniques they practice. "These practices will simply fade away if we don't find ways to preserve them," she told Industrie Africa. The brand’s embroidery and tailoring team comprises local Nigerian craftspeople, as well as staff from Guinea, Benin and Togo. Highly skilled at creatively translating ideas and manipulating fabric, together, they and Shehu are keeping traditional craftsmanship alive and partnering as custodians of culture.
In 2021, Babayo made its debut appearance at Lagos Fashion Week. There the brand unveiled its Fulani Tribe collection, and its innovative takes on classic styles like shirts, blouses, crop tops, kaftans, and more was met with solid acclaim.