My name is Nina Ribena, and I’m a fashion designer, art director, filmmaker and stylist based in London, England. My shop is called Bombe Surprise.
I studied film at university, but I found the course really uninspiring, which put me off the industry as a whole. Meanwhile, I was spending a lot of time going to music festivals and dressing up in flamboyant catsuits; when I couldn’t find catsuits that were interesting enough for my taste, I decided to try making them myself.
I learned the basics of a sewing machine from my mom. She also taught me how to make patterns by tracing around pieces of clothing I liked. From there, I started creating a whole range of catsuits. As word got around, I ended up getting commissions for costumes and other outfits. That’s how my first line – We Are All In One – got started.
After a few years, I decided to branch out and broaden my sewing skills, so I moved on to making jackets, trousers and tops. At the time, I had just stumbled upon the amazing prints of wax Hollandais and kente cloth, which I started using in my designs. That work developed into my current fashion label, Bombe Surprise.
When I produce a collection, I usually start by making a quick sketch before jumping right into cutting and sewing. Bombe Surprise is an outlet for me to express whatever I’m inspired by, be that ’90s fashion editorials, old glamour photos, multicultural London, dance, drag queens, girl gangs, and more – my collections are usually quite varied and far-reaching.
Being a self-taught fashion designer and seamstress has been hard at times; I’ve definitely learned a lot in seven years. I enjoy being able to turn the ideas I have in my head into a reality, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Etsy has played a huge part in getting my label noticed. The majority of my sales come from Etsy, so it’s been vital in helping me grow my business. In the future, I plan to focus more on commissions and collaborations, and to make more one-off, individual pieces.
All photographs by Bombe Surprise.