From the racks of Tokyo retailers to the showrooms of Pitti Uomo, African menswear brands are enjoying both critical and commercial acclaim.
LAGOS, Nigeria — “The local backlash was insane at first,” says Adebayo Oke-Lawal, the creative director behind Nigerian menswear label Orange Culture. “[But] I honestly think being received positively internationally helped change the view of the brand [back on the African continent].”
Three years ago, Oke-Lawal was showered with attention after he was named a semifinalist for the first ever LVMH Prize. The avant-garde designer says he chooses to create clothes for “the new age man, one who thinks differently, feels differently and allows himself to be vulnerable.” The result is a brand that he admits was initially not well received, as he chose to challenge conventional aesthetics and notions of masculinity.
But thanks to the spotlight of LVMH and the global network of influential industry leaders like Omoyemi Akerele, he can now afford to be ironic. So much so that he called the latest Orange Culture collection ‘The School of Rejects’ when he showed at Lagos Fashion and Design Week in October. Next season, Oke-Lawal says, there will be a show during London Fashion Week Men’s in June.
African menswear designers like Oke-Lawal are increasingly visible on the global fashion calendar and in demand from international retailers. Take South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo, whose brand MaXhosa by Laduma was exhibited for a third time at this month’s Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence, or the Côte d’Ivoire-raised Alexis Temomanin, whose label Dent De Man is sold as far afield as Barneys New York, American Rag in Tokyo and Joyce in Hong Kong. For its part, Orange Culture is available in Church Boutique in Los Angeles and Utter Couture in London.
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