HOW ADEBAYO OKE-LAWAL IS CHALLENGING THE TRADITIONAL NOTION SURROUNDING GENDERED FASHION.
It’s no longer a secret that Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s style and clothing brand Orange Culture brings about discussion on androgyny, modernized African attires and general diversity in the fashion industry. Lately, his creative exploits have been making waves both locally and on the global scene for being able to create for an inclusive crowd that for a long time had been in dire need of representation. “Orange Culture is a brand that represents accepting individual expressions of self without limitations. Orange Culture is a brand that fights for individuality and celebrates a new age of liberation.”
A finance graduate from the University of Lagos, Bayo has always dreamed of designing clothes from as young as ten years old, but little did he know that there were a lot of obstacles he needed to deal with to attain his present status. “I had to intern a lot and watch a lot of videotapes to teach myself - I couldn’t afford or access fashion schools, and fashion wasn’t something Nigerian parents had experienced seeing success in, in their generation - so I could not convince them to believe in sending me to fashion school “, he says in an interview with Vogue Czechoslovakia. Fresh out of school, he started working in the capacity of styling with already established designers curating and at the same time learning the ropes to begin his brand “Orange Culture”, which he started in 2011.
Coming into the industry really strong, he flexed his muscles by using fabrics like organza for his first collection, which was strictly male at the time. This level of difference struck a chord with the public, causing reactions but not all were precisely positive. Not many people were open to the idea of androgynous fashion, so he was accused of trying to put feminine clothes on men. “We started a lot of conversations around masculinity and gender, vulnerability in men and a lot of conversations that people did not want to have around who the man is or is not supposed to be. So, it became a movement against stereotypical roles and the damage toxic masculinity plays in today’s relationships and emotionality of the man.” You would think that such reception would slow Adebayo down, but instead, that happened to be his driving force.”
Heavily encouraged by the responses of those who understood his vision of a more expressive approach to designing, he then spent an entire decade building a movement around his eclectic style, using art as an instrument for empowerment. Today the Orange Culture brand is known for exploring and experimenting with colours, fabrics and styles that cut across both genders, making it a poster brand for genderless fashion.
As a designer, Bayo was also one of the first to dabble in collaborations. “I think it’s important to collaborate across borders and exist in the minds of consumers from various spaces. “
In 2014, he was shortlisted among 29 of the most popular emerging designers worldwide for the LVMH Prize. Also, he was recently selected by BOF (Business of fashion) as one of the 500 most influential people in shaping the global fashion industry. ‘’When I saw my name on the BOF LIST I was honestly so speechless - I’m just fashioning my own journey and learning everyday - running a business isn’t easy and so being honored for the thing that I’ve joyfully and painfully sacrificed over a decade of my life for was honestly so emotional. I also had flashbacks of the first time I released a collection and looked back at over 20+ collections and it just made me smile I’m thankful for the opportunity to exist and do what I love and have a team of beautiful Nigerians who work with me to bring this to fruition . It’s also a constant reminder that what I do from my little space in Lagos is valid and important in the global scheme of things and a reminder to dream and dream big always.’’ he says of his achievements .
‘’My prayer is this opens doors always for more designers globally to hold spaces, create tables of importance and also exist at already made tables of importance.’’
These days, Bayo is giving back via the Orange Culture’s corporate social responsibility, The Orange Mentorship. Launching just before the pandemic broke out, the Orange Mentorshipwas launched to provide aspiring fashion entrepreneurs with the information and access to expertise from industry practitioners and role models.
“I’m very passionate about fixing the lack of proper knowledge transfer and fashion education, so I decided to play my own part, especially during the pandemic when so many aspiring designers felt so lost and confused.”
This is just the beginning for Adebayo Oke Lawal, as his antecedents clearly state that he’s set for global dominance. ‘’We have a lot planned in terms of expanding in manufacturing, education, and so much more.’’
It’s also a constant reminder that what I do from my little space in Lagos is valid and important in the global scheme of things and a reminder to dream and dream big always