Meet the official trailblazer of the Nigerian Fashion Industry, Adebayo Oke-Lawal.
Fashion, in Nigeria, is largely focused on the aesthetically creative and not so much on the thought process of the designer. Our MCM for this week defied the odds and made his thoughts known to the fashion scene –locally and globally.
Adebayo Oke-Lawal had a problem with the gender stereotype in the Nigerian society, long before it became a popular social media discussion.
At the age of 17, he wrote an essay entitled ‘An Orange Boy’ talking about the hyper-masculinity and gender definition in his society. It gained popularity after publication and spurred the young man, who had been designing since the age of 10, to pursue a career in fashion, despite his training as a banker.
It took guts and a heart made of fierce passion for this creative to set out into an industry where he had no formal education and was largely self-taught. However, his hard work paid off and after years of internships with several designers, he launched his fashion line in 2011.
Orange Culture debuted at the 2011 Lagos Fashion & Design Week, with his inaugural collection of androgynous wears that were centered on displaying the sensitivity of the African man. The designs sparked a collective interest with the refreshing approach to design with liberal pieces that featured traditional materials.
Oke-Lawal’s designs have gained international recognition featuring collaborations with various brands including Dennis Osadebe, Rokus London, and Maxivive. In 2014, Orange Culture was a finalist for the LVMH Prize and recently, Oke-Lawal partnered with Nigerian artist Davido to design a limited-edition collection ‘IF’ which was sold exclusively at Selfridges.
The creative designer’s personal style reflects the Orange Culture brand in its entirety — eclectic, fluid, heterogeneous and diverse.
Oke-Lawal was awarded The Future Africa Awards prize for fashion and designing in 2016.
It is not an easy feat to bring up male sensitivity and gender-fluidness in a country as patriarchal and anti-liberal as Nigeria, much more infuse this perspective of androgyny into urban street fashion and universal wears.
But Adebayo Oke-Lawal has done it, and excellently too!
In an interview with Tia Muhammad of ONCHEK, he described his design process,
When I’m designing I like to make clothes that show concern for a person’s body.
How does it feel against your skin, does it make you feel creative, beautiful and sensual?
That space of thought made way for me to create clothes for both genders. At first it wasn’t intentional but when women started asking to buy my clothes then it became intentional.
Now I think about how do I translate the clothes from a man’s closet to a woman’s closet and ensure the pieces are transferable!ADEBAYO OKE-LAWAL, ONCHEK