Earlier this month, the 20th annual Dakar Fashion Week took place, and among the twenty designers that participated, one of them was Adebayo Oke-Lawal, the founder of the highly regarded brand Orange Culture. Gorée Island, the historic site that previously housed the largest slave trading center along the West African coastline, served as the backdrop for the final fashion show, which took place on the island. Oke-Lawal, who is from Nigeria, stated that he had never conducted a program that included such a significant amount of historical detail. He was in awe of the meticulous care with which this history had been kept and the show’s commitment to honoring its origins.
“It was a show (with) African designers, and it wasn’t a show where they brought white designers to come show on Gorée island without acknowledging the fact that it was colonized,” Oke-Lawal told Okay Africa. “It was a show (with) African designers.” “It was people from the continent, whose histories are connected to that island, who were responsible for it. I believe it in and of itself recognises how far we’ve gone in recognizing our history and celebrating where we’re going as well as where we’ve been.”
Oke-Lawal visited Dakar for the very first time during Fashion Week. He learned about the history and legacy of Gorée Island thanks to this exhibition, which demonstrates the power that fashion has to connect people to history that should never be forgotten.
“It was almost like a tourism experience in itself tied to fashion week, giving people access to that knowledge,” he added. “It was held in conjunction with fashion week.” “I thought that it was absolutely stunning.”
The history of Oke-Lawal’s culture significantly impacts his creative process, which is reflected in his work. In this year’s edition of the Business of Fashion 500, Oke-Lawal was recognized for his ability to create collections that “blur the boundaries across both culture and gender” and for having an eye that “interrogates the cues that masculine dress broadcasts to society.” Oke-Lawal was also praised for having an eye that “interrogates the cues that masculine dress broadcasts to society.” According to Oke-Lawal, the blurring of binaries is not independent of the history of men wearing the boubou, as they have done for millennia. Despite this, he stated that he was met with a great deal of “negative response” when he started.
According to what he shared, “We were getting a lot of malicious feedback…and threatening messages and what have you.” “I believe that it has improved with time. That is not to suggest that ignorance does not still exist because people are fearful of change and also because people are afraid of what they do not know. Sometimes, people take offense at the concept of masculinity as something that can be frightening to them.
Oke-Lawal advocates for more variety in men’s fashion and has stated that he believes there has been a movement in the public discourse on toxic masculinity. He has also observed that other designers in the industry are providing a wider variety of items for men to purchase in their stores. After all, he argued, fashion forces you to challenge both what you know and what is expected of you.
“There needs to be diverse representation in men’s fashion, masculinity, and how people express themselves,” he added. “[Men’s fashion] reflects society,” he said. Understandably, not everyone will aspire to have the appearance of a normal GQ man. Some people want to wear something that is colored, some people want to wear something that is frilly, and some want to wear a skirt. And Orange Culture allows for space for that.”
During an interview with OkayAfrica, Oke-Lawal discussed the music that inspires his creativity, the direction in which he plans to take Orange Culture in 2023, and the five things that are necessary for him to be able to operate the company.
5. His JBL Over-Ear Headphones
The JBL headphones that belong to Oke-Lawal had “deteriorated horribly” in his possession. But he won’t give them up, even if other people have urged him to replace them with something else—at least not while they are still functional.
He stated, “So, I’m a creature of habit,” and continued his thought. When I utilize anything, I use it to the point where it no longer functions.
The process that Oke-Lawal goes through often involves music. It serves as a source of motivation for him, provides him happiness, and keeps him companion on his journeys. While in Dakar, he played Ravyn Lenae quite a bit, and right now, he is listening to the new album that SZA just released called SOS.
4. His MacBook
Oke-Lawal is constantly on the move. Therefore, his laptop serves as his office wherever he goes. It is how he deals with orders, emails, and meetings. On it, he also watches television. “I have to travel with it no matter where I go,” he stated. “There is no getting around it.” Even on vacation, I never leave home without my laptop.
It seems likely that Oke-Lawal will spend significant time working on his MacBook in the coming year. This is because he will concentrate on what he considers a vital step for Orange Culture, ensuring that it will continue to exist long after he is gone.
“At the end of the day, I want to create a brand that supersedes me,” he added. “That’s the goal.” “When you look at the history of many African fashion labels, one of the sad things is that these brands are so beautiful, but when the designer dies, the brand dies as well. This is one of the most unfortunate things. This is constantly on my mind because it means there is no structure for longevity in African brands—they are not created to outlive their owners. This is always on my mind because it means there is no structure for longevity when it comes to African brands.
But as a Nigerian, he said, the infrastructure for what he wants to develop doesn’t exist: there is a sense of “lack” when it comes to resources, financial backing, labor, and education. He added that there is a “lack” of opportunities.
“I think that just shows you the resilience of a Nigerian designer,” Oke-Lawal stated in response to the statement. “Because although we don’t have much, a lot of us are having such a significant influence in the fashion industry on a global scale,”
3. His Sketchbook
Whenever Oke-Lawal experiences a fleeting jolt of inspiration from something, he makes it a point to record it as soon as possible. Because of this, his sketchbook is never too far away from him at any given time.
He explained, “I don’t want to wait until I get back because there’s a chance that things will be gone.” “So when that time comes, all I need is the ability to jot it down, draw it out, or store it away somewhere. Consequently, I always have my sketchbook, even without drawing.
2. His Sunscreen
Oke-Lawal’s skin shows signs of the toll his travel takes on it. Therefore, the sunscreen provides some measure of protection—albeit marginal—for the several hours he will be active outside in the sun.
1. Portable scale
Oke-Lawal’s feelings for airports have not improved, no matter how much she has traveled. Using this scale at the airport eliminates the need for unnecessary commotion, conversation, or repacking.
“When you’re a designer, you travel with a lot of luggage,” he remarked. “It’s just part of the job.” “I don’t like the tension that comes with being at the airport. I have anxiety about airports since I despise them so much. Because of this, I always check my bags’ weight before heading to the airport.