After starting Orange Culture in 2011, creative director and designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal has constantly been working to create universal and androgynous garments that combine traditional Nigerian patterns and modern styles that give the wearer the freedom to tell the story they choose to the world. With his designs, Oke-Lawal hopes to advocate for and provide representation and visibility to anyone who feels that their voice isn’t being heard.
His collection for SS21, “The Faces in the Cloud”, was inspired by stories that reflect the harsh history of the oppression of androgynous individuals, wit the aim of disrupting societal norms and providing people with the courage to be who they want to be and who they feel they are.
To celebrate Pride month, The Folklore spoke with Orange Culture designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal about the significance of the movement and the impact that the fashion industry can have on breaking stereotypes.
What does Pride month and LGTBQ+ advocacy mean to you and your brand?
Pride month to me means freedom. Freedom to be, to choose, to live and to love. It is very important to us as you can tell from the way we present the brand, especially coming from a country where you are antagonized as a form of distraction from the corruption that our leaders have drenched themselves in. It is important because people need to see the LGBTQ+ community humanized and not just talked about in conversations about AIDS and about sin. It is important for stories to be told and for voices to speak loudly and beautifully. Advocacy is important because how else will change come.
In your work, you stress androgyny and breaking gender stereotypes. Why do you think it’s important to fight for gender fluidity within fashion?
It is important because there are many people who feel a lack of representation and who feel like they don’t matter just because they couldn’t find a voice within fashion’s varying expressions, so doing this gives us a voice.
Do you think that fashion design provides a good platform for you to speak out about the issues that you care about?
It is difficult to promote androgyny in Nigerian, especially when I started 10 years ago. But look at where we are now and [you can see] the impact in just how many brands are following suit now.
Words by Claire Blaha