In response to COVID-19’s devastating global impact on retailers and small businesses, The Folklore gathered some of fashion’s top voices to aid in international relief efforts. By partnering with fashion editors, designers, and stylists alike, The Folklore orchestrated a two-day virtual fashion and design summit dubbed, ‘The Drawing Board’.
The event took place on April 24th and 25th from the morning to afternoon, with over 240 participants tuned in and engaged on computer screens around the world. The Drawing Board brought together several voices from Africa and the diaspora with the collective purpose of sharing knowledge while digitally connecting with one another, at a time where social activity must be turned on its head and reinvented.
With the help of sponsored partners including Parsons School of Design, NAATAL Media, Tokyo James, I.AM.ISIGO, Pichulik, Orange Culture, Tastemakers Africa, Black Women Talk Tech, Eastern Cape Fashion and Design Council, Manju Journal, and Every Stylish Girl, The Folklore created a bridge between top industry experts and design students and aspiring fashion professionals. The proceeds from ticket sales and donations went towards supporting African-based brands, workers, and operational costs during Africa’s widespread temporary national lockdowns.
Each speaker held a 35-minute masterclass session moderated by Vogue Beauty Editorial Assistant Akili King, Essence Assistant Fashion Features Editor Nandi Howard, and The Folklore’s Founder and CEO Amira Rasool. During the sessions, guests had the opportunity to engage in live discussions in the chat room and also directly ask the speakers questions.
In between sessions, DJ duo Pilot Jones turned tables and played music from past and current artists - transforming the digital space into a dance party with viewers from their remote locations. While some were dancing, others were having one to one networking meetings with other attendees as well as exploring the expo booths with brands found online at The Folklore.
The summit consisted of an impressive roster of stylists and designers including Nigerian stylist and creative director Daniel Obasi, Lagos-based designer Bubu Ogisi, Cape-town based menswear designer Laduma Ngxokolo, South African jewelry designer Katherine-Mary Pichulik, Orange Culture’s creative director Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Lagos-based menswear Designer Tokyo James, creative executive and social activist Ugo Mozie, sustainable fashion journalist, Alden Wicker, GQ fashion director Mobolaji Dawodu, Allure’s fashion director and creative lead Rajni Jacques, Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist Ade Samuel, and GQ deputy fashion director Nikki Ogunnaike.
The themes discussed during The Drawing Board sessions drew upon issues concerning all aspects of the fashion industry. From business to creative headlines, viewers got an inside scope into the fashion world. Some of the major topics included production strategy, navigating press marketing, fashion journalism today, building a sustainable fashion brand, and developing a career as an international stylist.
Download each session from our April 2020 Drawing Board summit here on our website. The proceeds from digital download sales will go towards supporting designer brands from Africa and the diaspora. Check out some of our favorite quotes below:
"I think that as a fashion stylist or creative in the fashion industry, you are as strong as your individuality. If you are delivering the same kind of work that I can get from ten other people, I can go to the cheapest person and get it from them for the least price. It is really about starting from within. Once you define your own aesthetic and what your work looks like, then you can start identifying what that world is and who belongs in that world and build that way out. All I was doing was really fun and creative but if it is not making an impact, it's almost like I'm doing it in vain. After my trips to Africa, I realized I had to start incorporating the continent into my narrative and my story. So I started a non-profit. The non-profit is my first step into social activism. I incorporate the non-profit into most of my jobs and always find ways to bridge the two worlds, and somehow tell a positive story and make a positive impact." –Ugo Mozie
"When entering the fashion world, it is important to develop your own niche and voice. Fashion is such a huge space and it is easy to get lost when you do not exactly have a voice of your own. Be very confident with that voice. And find your own audience, your work will not be for everyone. When you find your niche and your audience, always try to engage with them. Make sure all of your work or styling you are doing resonates with that audience and makes a difference. Lastly, research as much as you can and make sure you are very grounded in the work you are doing." –Daniel Obasi
"When it comes to sustainability, I ask the question 'If you left this space of creation, how do you think you would be able to create these pieces somewhere else?' And that is why I take myself to different parts of Africa to explore different fabrics and explore techniques that are also applicable to different parts of the continent. When I am making a piece, I often think about what question it is answering. For me, part of sustainability is also making sure you do not overproduce. I help my consumer understand that they are buying into wearable art that applies to a certain part of history. Making a piece that refers to the past is also a part of sustainability. We also apply the use of plastic in our pieces. As a brand, we decided to rethink the situation with plastic, an item that you see in the streets every day. Wearing plastic is a way of sustaining the ecosystem and finding a new way to use it. Ultimately, sustainability is about understanding who you are and finding new ways to accommodate the environment that you find yourself in and doing things at a pace that applies to you and the people around you." –Bubu Ogusi
"What I took to heart and what I think anyone should take to heart is to create a brand story and aesthetic that is personable. For me, I find that when you are passionate about what you are creating, and the aesthetic you are pushing, and the story you are telling, it makes it easier for you to translate it into your visuals, storylines, and collections. Most of the time people approach an idea of just wanting to create clothing without considering why they want to create it. For me, I was telling a narrative about Nigeria from my own perspective of Nigeria. It was not a narrative that people were saying Nigeria was at that time. At the end of the day, I am very much concerned with creating my own prints and telling my own story in a non-cliche way. I wanted to put out a narrative that is ours, organic, and original and relatable to me as a designer. So when I built the brand, I tied in the aesthetic I particularly am passionate about." –Adebayo Oke-Lawal
"South Africa, like many African countries, does not have an industrial manufacturing infrastructure. I decided with the sales that I accumulated over the years, that I would rather reinvest that income into a production facility that would meet the capacity that I need and also be able to control all the other problems that I experienced with outsourcing. Because I came from a hand-knitting background, at the new factory I make sure to implement my own experiences into how to finish luxury quality knitwear. I also had to be innovative because our knitwear is more complex to create compared to plain knitwear. We are playing in a costly way of manufacturing. And as a brand, we limit our exports. The factory does not operate at high speeds. We lowered the speed to make sure a lot of mistakes do not happen during the process. What you find in South Africa that is quite rare to find in other African countries is that we have several huge retail chain brands. Those companies actually dictate the manufacturing industry. I made sure that we manufacture 100% so that we do not need to take business from them as well because they are in the low margin business." –Laduma Ngxokolo
"When I grew up with a single mom and fierce female figures, I always felt a requirement to establish a business that focused on the incredible connection and circle of the feminine. How could something as ancient as jewelry, from the neolithic periods, bring women together and bring them agency? I wanted to create a business that gave agency not only to women who wear it but also gave agency to women who made it. My founding principle has always been to use jewelry to tell stories and tell empowering narratives and to bring women together from different backgrounds and create links." –Katherine-Mary Pichulik
"Sustainable fashion technically is aspirational. It is something we are driving towards, we are not there yet. And it would be a fashion that is not a drag on resources and the environment. That definition does not always include people but it should include people in a way that benefits people as opposed to exploiting them. Most company’s right now is focused on ‘less bad’. They are trying to use recycled polyester and nylon because it is less harmful to the environment than virgin polyester and nylon which are made from petroleum products. There are brands that are going beyond that like Patagonia, who are doing something that is regenerative. They are concerned with how they can emit less carbon while drawing carbon back down. They do things like sourcing from wool farms and sheep farms that are putting in regenerative practices such as storing carbon in the soil. The first step that brands should know but generally skip is to look at their supply chain and know what is in their supply chain." –Alden Wicker
"I like to think of Tokyo James as a brand where Europe and Africa come to play. The brand in its aesthetic is European but at the same time is quite African because it shows two parts of me. I fell in love with fashion from a European standpoint and point of view. You can see that in the aesthetics of my work. But I am also inspired by Africa because Africa is raw. There is no place like Africa on earth. The energy, people, food, there is inspiration everywhere. Sometimes it can be overwhelming but it is absolutely amazing. Lagos especially has influenced the brand quite a lot. I look at what the men would wear here and try to modernize it and give it a different twist." –Tokyo James
"When working with a celebrity, to me, it is still research. It is like taking on an account as an accountant. My beginning method of styling is to take every individual client and take what they have done in the past, dig into what they like and do not like, and take note of who they are. After that, I do research on the different brands that exist and start to envision what would work for the client based on my expertise in knowing the silhouette of the body. I try to insight some new ideas based on their way of dressing. A lot of times, people dress based on comfort. My job as a stylist is to really introduce the client to new designs and show them how they can dress based on their silhouette." –Ade Samuel
"It is easier for more diverse stories to be told when the decision-makers are of color. Consumers are also much savvier these days. They will not stand for the whitewashing of magazines or ad campaigns because they do not have to. They can get media that reflects them from anywhere these days. Why would you give your money to a magazine or brand that is not supporting you or reflecting you? As a consumer, you can be savvier with your dollar. I think that holds publishers and ad agencies to the fire to do better because consumers can take their money elsewhere. If you want to talk about colors and what people are seeing, they are seeing green. At the end of the day, that is what is driving change." –Nikki Ogunnaike
"When it comes to digital and print, digital is quicker than print. Our mental capacity today wants to receive information quickly. But there is something beautiful about a long written piece. It takes you in and slowly pulls you into the story. You daydream about it and wonder when the writer is describing something. As a reader, you translate the story in your mind. And I do not think that will ever die. Those pieces are being written for the digital space today. When people ask me about this topic of print vs digital, I tell them not to place them against each other and to just think about writing a story. And yes, maybe a story has to be short and maybe there is a story that has to be lengthy. You have to look at it as what it is that you are trying to get out of this story. A lot of things that are happening in the media are going to end. We have already been going through changes, but now especially because of COVID-19, the changes are being accelerated." –Rajni Jacques
"Street casting and styling is not so conceptual. The concept is your instinct. For me, it is really about a feeling. You have to go with what you are attracted to. Street casting wise, if there is a person who stands out to me, my energy gravitates towards that person. Go with what you like and do what you want to do, as long as you are not hurting anyone. Be honest when approaching people, you cannot be a creep. Let people know what you are doing and prepare how you are going to approach beforehand because you only have a small window of time before people are going to left or right on you. In the process, it makes you realize that everyone likes to be acknowledged. As long as you can tap into that, you have a good chance." –Mobolaji Dawodu
Written by Gelina Dames