Clothes of freedom: Style as a Method of Emancipation


In a group conversation with Bukunmi [co-founder of Baroque Age] and the rest of the team, I presented a question- why would you buy an Adidas gear or sneakers; Bukunmi replied, “I can identify with Adidas, sport & hip-hop. I can save up to buy original gear”.
I am hyped about his reply because it reflects a sense of inclusivity and individuality; his feeling that Adidas embodies a part of him, a part of him that loves sports and is enthusiastic about hip-hop, there was a connection.

Elleyiaa being her beautiful self is a fashion stylist from Nigeria, Africa.

Some might say ‘oh tokenism‘ but Adidas has always associated themselves with the black community and hip-hop, right from its affiliation with RUN-DMC, which Adidas established right after it gauged a symbolic relationship between Run-dmc and their fans in attribution to Adidas.
RUN-DMC favored clothes they spotted on the street in building their self Identity as a band. It was a reflection of their ‘truest’ self, no facade or what not and adidas happened on be a ubiquitous staple in the community. Going forward, Adidas has been able to remain relevant in the black community with collaborative collections with Kanye, Pharell, Miss Elliot, Snoop Dogg  and Ciara to name a few.

Pharrell Williams X Adidas.

When Kanye ended his contract with Nike on the grounds that they failed to offer him decent royalties, Adidas offered him a $10million deal. This alliance saw the birth of all YEEZY products and also the recent expansion plan providing retail stores that will serve as distinct hubs for Adidas and kanye developed YEEZY products. Coupled with the launch of the YEEZY BOOST 350 which witness unprecedented sales and went on the be named the 2015 shoe of the year.
Kanye might not be considered as the most innovative designer but he is certainly a curator of culture. He created things that sparked movements and inspire conversations aimed at pushing the culture forward and this was a relevant input in the success of the collaboration.

Yeezy Boost 350 V2 by Kanye West & Adidas.

Why am I bringing this up? You see Adidas invested a lot in telling their stories, it was about giving them a voice, a culture, a sense of communal struggle and belonging with the clothes.

Taking the narrative home to Nigeria, Africa, the fashion culture is relatively at it’s inception and we have witnessed the emergence of vanguard designers broadening the frontiers of this budding scene.

Going forward, I believe designers need to place Africa in context when curating collections for her.

What is our place in the world and how are we telling these stories with the clothes?
I have always insisted and I will continue to reiterate on the need for depth and ludic understanding of our environment while steering the boat of identity.
Presently, I believe the fashion scene is somewhat saturated with repeated themes and rhetorics revolving around similar narratives.

This certainly presents the question of authenticity; are our narratives built on the need to seek international acknowledgements and inclusivity?

Do we really embody the diversities of our environment?
Africa‘s fashion scene is known to be multifaceted, how is this diversity reflected with the clothes ? Especially for an increasing demographic searching for an identity with the clothes.

Maki Oh 2018 Spring Ready To Wear at New York Fashion Week.

In the heart of the culture, is a growing demographic susceptible to cultural and subcultural influences which somewhat mirrors a hybrid of minds with an acknowledgement of their primary identity (Nigerian, African tribe) coupled with a number of other identifiers (staking and surfing community, streetwear culture, sneaker culture, art, music, film) and are not necessarily swayed by an inherent need to embody our African ethos as a singular identifier but rather to explore the world with it in search for individuality.
This is largely a self-expressive demographic carving out elements of their culture by questioning intrinsic precepts in their environment.
They understand that we lack structures necessary to create sustainable industries across different mediums, but that’s not stopping them.
They visualize the arts as an escape from the reality presented and are focused on building a sustainable environment centered round appreciation of art expressed in different forms.

Consequently,a conscious effort should be exacted towards a holistic representation of this subculture through fashion.
They are not about to buy your brand simply because of your international accolades, from the ground up it should be about inclusivity and representation. Your brand’s identity should exemplify their innate ethos. It should subtly/conspicuously channel their very essence into each look made.

Pieces from WafflesNCreams Dry/Harmattan 17′ Drop.

Our fashion culture is small but it’s growing really fast, we need to push our narratives forward to clothe the New Age of Africa with authentic identifiers which embody original views, have broad conscious outlines and conceptual themes that genuinely garb and project the new set of thinkers, creators, innovators reshaping Africa as we know it.

Cosmas Akhere

You will find me at clothes, food and a clean environment.

1 Comment

  1. […] Perusing through the Dry/Harmattan ’17 collection, could not stop myself from falling in love with the minimalism and ‘rawness‘ of the collection both design wise and in its presentation. On deeper contemplation you will understand that this release is definitely more than just a collection celebrating the growing community of skaters and surfers in Nigeria but it has been able to articulate cultural disparities and a need for its fusion while aiming for inclusivity. […]

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