With its start in Nigeria and its momentum gained at Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2011, Orange Culture has been creating bold designs for all genders for ten years. The brand’s founder and creative director Adebayo Oke-Lawal insists that Orange Culture is more than just a clothing brand, it is a movement covering universal silhouettes with an African touch.
Designing since he was 10 years old, Oke-Lawal breathes complex stories and life into his designs. He has since gone on to receive international recognition in publications such as Vogue, Huffington Post, The New York Times and Elle. He has catered to a socially and environmentally conscious consumer base which has welcomed all of his designs no matter the gender, or lack thereof.
Distinct patterns fashioned into unique silhouettes make up the Orange Culture collections and many pieces can be worn as statement pieces or can complete an everyday look. All pieces are made from ethically-sourced and locally made fabrics and are created by artisans who have undergone rigorous training processes in order to achieve the upstanding quality of Orange Culture. While it was intentionally created as a menswear brand, the influence of many female designers has set up Orange Culture for a greater outreach. The combination of Nigerian craftsmanship and contemporary streetwear has elevated the brand’s designs and opened doors for clothing brands of the same nature to follow suit.
In this episode of ‘Our Folklore’, we sat down with Adebayo Oke-Lawal at his home in Lagos, Nigeria to learn more about his work, creative inspirations, and the journey to being fearless and unapologetic. Watch the video and read excerpts from our interview below.
“I’ve always loved fashion. I started interning when I was 15, 16. I’ve always had a passion for fashion. I wanted to create a brand and I didn’t just want to create any brand. I wanted to create a brand that was more than just clothing or just shirts and pants. I wanted to create something that told a story and felt like me, something that I was passionate about.”
“When I launched Orange Culture, it was really from a space of things that I felt needed to be discussed and stories I felt needed to be told. Orange Culture was a brand that, for me, felt like a movement… I wanted it to have impact emotionally, in a social space and even in the community.”
“I had written a story called ‘The Orange Boy’, which was basically about my story growing up, and being an outlier… It was loved by my teacher at the time and he said, ‘let’s get this article into a paper or magazine.’ The article was then sent to a magazine and it was published. I got a lot of interaction from that; people were writing to me as ‘the orange boy’, and I’d write these stories and reply. It was so interesting that people would relate to my story and tell me how, maybe, they were being bullied at school, or they were feeling like they didn’t belong, or their parents didn’t think that their careers were valid, so it became a space for people to feel at home.”
“Our spring/summer collection is called ‘Faces In The Cloud’, which is inspired by a famous artist, or in this case a witch doctor turned artist, called Area Scatter, who used to isolate for a couple of months and then reappear in clothing that people would say was female clothing. Even at the time he was already breaking gender norms around clothing and breaking gender narratives and how people were represented.”
“The collection was inspired by people who had come before us, and to break the narrative and push for progressive thoughts and progressive creativity when it came to fashion, people like Charly Boy, Denrele [Edun] and all the different guys who have come before us and broke those stereotypes with fashion. It’s an ode to those people; it’s an ode to Area Scatter and many creative people who have been activists in fashion, even before our time.”
“The way we tell our stories, I think that’s real evolution. The strength and the fearlessness in the way we tell our stories…I don’t think we’re apologetic about anything anymore. I think when we started off we were a bit hesitant about how brazen we had to be about telling our stories but now it’s really just doing us and I think that’s the evolution that we really needed. That freedom to just be and to just do as we please… It’s really been a progressive journey and watching it evolve has been something really special.”