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Bwoywonder: The man behind the Lego mask

TURNING LEGO INTO A LIFESTYLE: Entrepreneur Bwoywonder

BWOYWONDER BY name and a 'boy wonder' by design is an apt way to describe the UK-based creative, whose custom pieces are made exclusively from children's favourite LEGO.

His unusual pieces, worn by names including US stars Russell Simmons, Pharrell Williams, Ludacris and Kanye West, are made from the famed building blocks, which have been named 'Toy of the Century' by both Fortune Magazine in the US and the Association of British Toy Dealers.

And though the LEGO brand celebrates its 66th birthday this year, it remains a must-have in child-friendly homes around the world. Not a bad choice when considering a financially viable business venture.

Tapping into the childhood of fashionistas around the world, Bwoywonder has created timeless pieces inspired by his favourite toy.

“I started using LEGO initially as a mock-up for real jewellery but I felt it looked more fun as plastic instead of converting it into metal,” the award-winning designer explains. “Plastic jewellery soon turned into clothing incorporating LEGO, which eventually turned into LEGO sculptures. It was a natural growth.”

Nicknamed Bwoywonder by his musician twin brother, the north London designer, real name Paul Allimadi, says he always knew his future would be in fashion.

“From a young age I was always good at art and I was that kid in school that was always doing homework for my siblings and friends.

“I just love designing whatever it may be. It can be cars, sketching clothing ideas or even the interior for how I wanted my bedroom to look. Ideas come into my head and I need to birth them on paper,” laughs the bachelor who says he can't have kids yet because they may compete with him for his beloved LEGO.

Graduating from the University of Hertfordshire with a BA hons in product design, the 34-year-old pursued passion for fashion after watching music videos and admiring the outfits worn by his favourite musical icons.

Initially starting out creating simple heart and star shapes, over time, the Ugandan-born star, who moved to the UK when he was three, has gone on to create more intricate pieces, which now fetch between £40-£700. He explains this process has been a humbling one.

“The transition from designing as a hobby to designing for icons like P Diddy and Will.i.Am is very surreal, overwhelming, yet also humbling. I'm still in awe that some of the musicians I grew up listening to want to wear my work.”

Last year, he won the 2014 Creative Pioneers Heads challenge set up by advertising agency IPA and the Metro newspaper, which he says has taken his business to the next level.

“I now had to take my craft 10 times more seriously. Having celebrity clients puts you in another league because the world is watching.”

Explaining the story behind his star-studded clientele, he says: “A friend of mine Jules Zambon, knew P Diddy and his UK associates so I knocked up a LEGO pendant within an hour and a few days later, it was round the neck of one of the men I used to look up to when growing up.

“I also heard that Will.i.Am had a love for LEGO and a fashion boutique called Year Zero London. He wanted something theatrical to wear at his promo run for The Black Eyed Peas album so I collaborated with Year Zero London and we designed and made a LEGO shoulder pad jacket and LEGO pendant with an image of his face.”

REVEALED: Bwoywonder, real name Paul Allimadi

Will.i.Am wore the pendant during a live final of the X Factor and the jacket was worn on a red carpet. Bwoywonder says it was a very proud moment for all involved in creating the outfit and accessories.
“It's an amazing feeling when people can see past the fact you're using a toy like LEGO and see you're creating art and turning fashion on its head. I always appreciate it when people 'get it'.”

However, despite designing amazing avant garde pieces, his original creation is his first love.

“I wouldn't say I have a design I consider to be my greatest treasure, but my favourite is the first LEGO piece I made, which was Super Mario. I was always a fan of 8-bit pixel computer games and Mario was my favourite. It didn't take long to construct, about an hour to build it perfectly and it still brings me joy to this day.”

Crediting his father and businessmen Russell Simmons and P Diddy for his entrepreneurial flair, Bwoywonder says it's important to tap into your vision when you have a dream and find different perspectives to sell your ideas.

“I found my greatest challenge launching my LEGO building business was identifying what else I was going to be offering aside from LEGO jewellery,” he says. “I had to develop my craft, which meant creating more intricate pieces and bigger in scale. Going bigger meant I could attract more eyes and attention, which eventually meant I managed to catch the attention of corporate clients such as MTV, Nokia, Converse and Puma.”

Bwoywonder is currently working on a secret piece for David Beckham, but refuses to divulge any further.

“Mum’s the word,” he laughs.

Advocating the motto, ‘Don't speak about it, be about it,’ the fashion entrepreneur is more than happy to discuss the reason behind his most recent pseudonym, 'plastic surgeon'.

Chuckling he explains: “I coined and gave myself the title The Plastic Surgeon because it is a play on words. Just like a real surgeon, I put plastic on your chest but instead of silicone I do it with my LEGO pendants.”

He adds: “I believe LEGO is a great educational tool. I am developing a way LEGO building can work to help autistic children hone their interaction skills with their surroundings. LEGO is also a fairly cheap but massively creative toy. Donating unused LEGO to remote primary schools, especially in Africa, and Eastern Europe that lack basic play things would be beneficial for the children's social development.”

Bwoywonder recently ran a LEGO workshop in London to help young people “squeeze out the creative juices”.

“It was in conjunction with IITS (Industry In The Streets), The Creative Process & DV8 Training to help squeeze out the creative juices of their young learners and apprentices,” he said. “I would also like to continue this for more young creative people in the educational but also correctional and rehabilitation sector. I truly believe that LEGO can change the world!”

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