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Bazaaaaar Pop-Up Interview: Bombe Surprise


(Photos via Stephanie Sian Smith)

Bombe Surprise is a London-based fashion label run by Nina Ribena, and it is currently featured at our Bazaaaaar store pop-ups. We recently spoke to Nina about the story behind her brand.



Can you give our readers a little background on yourself?

I’m Nina, and I’m from London and still live here. I did a film degree at the London College of Communication but hated it so I decided to teach myself how to sew and here I am, five years later!

Where does the name “Bombe Surprise” come from?
I spent ages trying to think of a name for my label but everything I was coming up with didn’t really work. My friend used to run a club night called Bombe Surprise and as soon as I heard the name it just made sense. I think Bombe Surprise is actually a French dessert but I take it to mean a collection of different types of weird and wonderful ideas!

How long have you been designing clothes?
I made my first outfit for myself five years ago. It was a blue catsuit with red strawberries on it. People liked what I was doing so I started a label for one-pieces called We Are All in One. As I started to get better at designing and making clothes I ventured into the world of separates and that’s when I started Bombe Surprise.



Your line can be found on Etsy. How do you think Etsy has changed fashion?
It has definitely made my designs a lot more internationally accessible. Most of my orders are from customers in the U.S. If you don’t look at fashion blogs or have your designs stocked in other shops, then I’m not sure how people would find my label without the help of Etsy!

What made you decide to start using the patterns that you do? Where did they originate? Are they traditional African patterns?
I used to work solely with jersey and stretch materials and it’s quite hard to find good patterns in those fabrics. When I found the wax fabric that I use now, I jumped on it straight away because it’s what I’d always been looking for! When I decided I wanted to make a whole collection out of it I looked into the history of it and found that the prints actually originated in Indonesia. They weren’t very popular there and were copied and imported by mostly Dutch tradesmen and shipped over to their posts in Africa where they really took off and became part of, and widely associated with, African fashion and culture. I wanted to connect that to the multicultural identity of my own background, and to how London is this great big melting pot of different cultures. There’s an artist called Yinka Shonibare that does a lot of work around the same subject.


Where do the materials you use for your clothing come from?
I buy all my fabrics from Petticoat Lane, East London.

Do you get your inspiration from London, or do you find yourself traveling a lot and getting inspiration from other places?
I travel a lot as I also dance in a band called Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs—but my big inspiration is London. I’ve yet to find somewhere so culturally diverse that isn’t completely segregated.



Who are some designers that you look up to?
Nasir Mazhar, Agi & Sam, Wanda Nylon, Moonspoon Saloon, Kit Neale, Katie Eary, Christopher Kane, House of Holland, Gareth Pugh.

What do you hope people take away from your line?
Confidence to wear bold patterns!



Where do you see your line heading in the next five years?
I’m turning the label into an online shop and who knows, maybe a real life shop. I want to design whatever I feel like and not feel like I’m constricted to a particular season or style.

What are you excited to see with the UO pop-up?
People being introduced to an array of patterns and styles they might not necessarily be familiar with.

Bombe Surprise