As part of our Behind The Seams series, we catch up with the creative mind behind Nigerian fashion label, Orange Culture.
Nigerian fashion designers might not be on your radar yet, but Adebayo Oke-Lawal, the founder and creative director of Orange Culture, is making sure that changes. Fast. Adebayo launched the label in April 2011, and posits that Orange Culture is more of a movement than a clothing line, speaking to men who are “self aware , expressive, explorative, art-loving nomad[s].” The label mixes avant-garde knits and bright colours, drawing on a mix of streetwear and traditional Nigerian silhouettes to create an aesthetic that is unique. We caught up with Adebayo to talk us through the perfect cultural date and being a fashion designer at ten years old.
Why did you decide to launch a label?
I’ve loved fashion since I was a shy 10-year-old. All my family, classmates and teachers knew. I illustrated on everything possible, and it became my mode of communication. I felt confident and happy every time I sketched, and I knew I wanted that happiness to be a part of my future, even at that young age.
You started by doing both womenswear and menswear, what was it about the latter that you came to prefer?
I was trying to figure out my voice and it became more apparent in menswear. I found there was a gap I needed to fill in the menswear industry and in Nigeria we needed to have a voice and be promoted globally.
How have you found the process of launching an international label from Nigeria?
It’s been a challenge. Getting a global customer to buy into the idea of a locally produced menswear brand has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s tough but I’ve had great support from platforms like Lagos fashion and design week, NEPC, and our amazing European PR, May concepts – and consultant Arieta Mujay, family and great friends. This has helped keep me stay sane in the hardest of periods. I am telling our story with quality and introducing people to my beautiful culture.
How has Nigeria inspired your designs?
It’s been my home since I was a kid. My collections are very introspective and I am Nigerian, so therefore everything I draw out of me is inspired by the country. Shapes and prints are all inspired by emotions and conversations I’ve experienced growing up here.
What were your inspirations and influences for this collection?
Fighting imposed stereotypes and growing up as an outsider.
In general, what are your favourite materials to work with?
Organza, chiffon, silk and cotton. I like the basics, but then combinations of fabrics are super exciting too.
What have been the biggest challenges of launching Orange Culture?
Funding. I’m completely self-funded so that has always been a tough journey, and of course getting buyers to take a risk. There’s always a resistance when you say your pieces are produced locally.
Where do you want to take Orange Culture over the next year?
Everywhere! We showed at the Designer Showrooms in London back in June which really helped us position a presence in the European market.
If Culture Trip spent a day with Orange Culture, what would do and what pieces from the collection would we get to wear?
We would spend time with my nieces and family, sit on the beach, grab a quick meal at Nok. Then we would play dress up at Alara and you’d spend every hour changing and wearing pieces from a range of our collections.