Orange Culture, Adebayo Oke-Lawal - Nigerian News

Orange Culture brand is part of a new generation of designers based in Nigeria that are defying outdated ideas about gender within the context of identity, culture and race. Orange Culture‘s founder and designer, Adebayo Oke-Lawal, is adamant that he didn’t simply build a brand, but a movement that goes beyond stereotypes surrounding masculinity and African heritage. Born and raised in Nigeria, Oke-Lawal created the label to start a new dialogue rather than add to the noise. And, as he made clear at this year’s Design Indaba, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Fashion Runs In the Family
“My dad is really stylish. He kind of rebelled and left Nigeria with his friends and started traveling when he was 16. He used to wear berets and all of these strange things. He always says, ‘You know you got your fashion from me.’ I feel like the reason I was able to have a sense of style is because my parents were very open. I think they were also sort of adventurous in terms of style when they were growing up. I’ve had friends come to my house in the weirdest short-shorts, and my parents are like:

“Okay, interesting.” And they wouldn’t say anything about it, so I think that’s what allowed me to be expressive in terms of my style and experiment as much as I have. To be honest, when I was growing up, my parents’ friends would be like, ‘Why are you allowing him to wear this?’ I think it was just them knowing, Okay, this child is quite different from our other children, and if we force him to be this and that, it might not necessarily work out. But most parents aren’t like that.”

The Rise of the Colored Suit in Lagos
“I think now the modern man in Nigeria would have a colored suit, for example. A few years ago, to see a man in a colored suit was ridiculous. I know five years ago I made a suit that was red and I received a lot of backlash. But now I see men with a pink suit, a green suit, a yellow suit, and I’m like, whoa! I think men are open to color. I think that’s one of the strongest advances. It’s exciting.”

But Traditional Wear Always Wins Out
“The caftan is our luxury piece. In Nigeria, we’re not allowed to wear sandals or slippers when clubbing, but if you wear a caftan and slippers, you’d be allowed into a club. When they see you in a caftan, they think you’re wealthy. It’s a sign that you’re doing well, you’re a man of leisure. It’s a staple here.”

Fila Hat Game Is Strong
“We have different filas for different tribes—they are traditional caps and each tribe has various shapes. It’s a royal adornment in a sense. The Yoruba fila has a curve, and the Igbo fila is straight with a pin in it, and the Hausa is flat. I’m using Hausa flat filas for my Spring 2017 collection. Styles have now converged, so everyone wears whatever one they feel like. We have a huge wedding culture, so you find you’re buying all sorts of different types. Everyone wears the fila now—even women wear the filas now, and men’s caftans and heels. It is such a big trend!”

Nigerian Men Are Starting to Flex for the ’Gram
“This generation of men has changed so much—even our physical culture has changed! If you go on this bridge, on Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge, men are just jogging every day. Last year, that wasn’t even the case, but because of social media and the awareness and progression of the arts, we’re seeing new things and realizing that it’s not just up to the woman to take care of herself. You have to be well presented. And now everyone is showing off their bodies on Instagram! I think, because everyone is putting themselves out there, people are trying more.”

And They Aren’t Skimping on the Skincare
“I was doing an interview for a skin-care blog recently, and they asked me how men were dealing with their skin, and this year alone, a lot of men have been asking me about what to do for their skin. People used to just apply body lotion and that was that, or they wouldn’t use deodorant! Taking care of yourself was a sign of weakness or vulnerability. But it doesn’t mean anything now. It’s like, ‘Me and the wife can wear the same skin cream!’”

Nigerian Men Like It Custom Made
“I find that Nigerian men are very impulsive. If they like it, they buy it. We don’t necessarily have an e-commerce culture here, so they have to go the store or the designer directly. Nigerian men are also more open to buying Nigerian brands rather than those from abroad. They like the idea of custom tailoring. They’ll come with a bag of fabric to a designer, give them money, and have them make things for them. I remember this one customer came to me and wanted a wrap shirt I have in seven colors! They are very much like, ‘I want it! I like it! Make it for me!’ It’s more about investments.”

Fashion Tribes Taking Over Lagos
“There are the dapper guys, for sure. We fall into the quirky guys—the alté. It’s short for “alternative” and a huge trend for the younger generation. And then there are the guys who are just chill and like their chinos and loafers. They’re preppy. And then there is the traditional guy—he can wear a caftan every day!”

Is Androgyny Next?
“I find that women adopt men’s trends very easily here. I think it’s pretty universal, but when it’s men adopting women’s trends, it goes left quickly. A lot of people just don’t want to accept that—it’s a very thin line between menswear and womenswear right now, and the androgyny factor is very much becoming mainstream. If a man wore a buba, that would be considered ridiculous! It’s a tough progression.”