“Bursting with a get-rich spirit that has made Nigeria’s economy the continent’s largest, Lagos is Africa’s First City.”
So read an article in the National Geographic’s January 2015 edition, highlighting Nigeria’s economic growth and looking at its middle class, who live in gated residential communities, schlurp Moët et Chandon at trendy bars and spur growth as they go along. We read about this all the time and, without a doubt, there is certainly something very exciting happening in Nigeria. Never mind all the other stuff we read about government corruption and failing infrastructure, blah, blah, blah. Nigerians are soldiering on regardless. Makes me want to shout like a friend of mine once did: “Naija boy. Gimme Naira!” Ok. Maybe not…
One of the most exciting things happening in Africa’s largest economy has to be Orange Culture, the boundary pushing fashion brand founded by 25-year-old Adebayo Oke-Lawal. I’m pretty sure many of you have seen the inspired lookbooks from Orange Culture and, really, when we say we salivate just looking at them, we mean it! That is why we can’t wait to see his latest collection going down the runway at South African Menswear Week next month.
“Orange Culture is ready to take over the world, as cheeky as it sounds,” Adebayo tells Skattie from Lagos, where I suppose he is busy making sure that all is good and ready for their first show in South Africa. “I want the world to hear our story and to be a part of it as they wear it everywhere.”
Can’t see how that won’t be possible! Definitely in our fashion loving circles, I can see Orange Culture becoming a firm fav. Considering the juxtaposition of masculine and feminine lines that tip towards the now trendy genderless fashion vibe, I had to ask Adebayo how this was received in his native Nigeria where the crackdown on LGBT rights suggests a country that is not very open to the challenging of gender stereotypes.
“Orange Culture does not come across as something one would expect to typically come out of Nigeria,” I say. He laughs: “A lot of people say that, but Nigerian culture is highly rich in inspiration. Orange Culture’s uniqueness is actually quite Nigerian. It’s just from a different perspective – the orange perspective.”
I ask him what the ‘orange perspective’ is. “It refers to the ideology that there is beauty in individuality and being different. It’s a perspective that is more open minded and chooses to see things beyond the box. No boxes lines or cages exist in our world.”
“It’s been tricky, but we are thankful because we have finally started breaking in. A lot of men were scared of just how bold and different a brand it was, but with this new age Africa creating a desire for individuality, Orange Culture has definitely found a space within the market.”
The brand has received quite a lot of attention globally with Italian Vogue calling Adebayo Nigeria’s “go-to man” when it comes to contemporary menswear design. A quick look at news stories in publications as broad as CNN and Business of Fashion will tell you that the focus on Africa as the next frontier for global fashion is intensifying. This, I suggest to Adebayo, is something we need to be ready for in order not to lose out to established international brands at the detriment of small local labels. His response is that we can avoid losing out by creating quality. “It seems our flaw has always been quality. It’s time to correct that notion.”
Adebayo adds that we need to make it harder for those who aren’t African to tell our stories by being owning the narrative. And Skattie, we agree!