‘Shout-out to my Alte girls and my Alte boys too‘ has got to be my favorite line from Odunsi’s smash single Alte Cruise essentially because it acknowledges and validates individualism. Indeed, it propagates an idea that espouses the acceptance of singular idiosyncrasies in the race for self-discovery and growth especially in a community with an ingrained culture for blatantly disregarding ideals outside the social norm – well, at least that’s how it plays out in my head.
While watching the music video [of Alte Cruise] with friends at the Baroque Age Studio, one of the many peculiarities that struck me was its seemingly unfiltered essence, portraying the video as a compilation of raw clips with folks simply existing, presumably in their most natural disposition. Midway into its greatness, I clocked an apparent pattern; staple clothes donned by individuals mirrored a certain similarity. They were particularly garbed in a style of street fashion know as streetwear and at that moment saw past the cultural relevance of ‘Alte Cruise’. Personally, I believe its significance rests on the seamless integration of music, youth culture and how this relationship can unconsciously create untold stories of a fast-growing fashion scene.
For a liberal self-expressive demographic, the idea of streetwear isn’t bizarre, at the very least, streetwear is a noteworthy element of fashion style and taste. In a previous article, I wrote on the idea of streetwear coexisting regardless of contrasting social strata and how fundamental its influence runs deep in the on-going fashion exchange here in Nigeria. The article also underscores the global paradigm shift in fashion’s evolution that places streetwear at equals to high fashion.
Streetwear as a fashion statement was originally labeled staid by fashions elite; little by little, it garnered ubiquity in global fashion climate. Typically, apparel from fashion shows (NYFW PFW, LFW MFW) within the last few years has greatly been inspired by streetwear (even though they may not openly acknowledge this) and it is greatly evident in several elements of their design output. If you are in doubt, consider this: t-shirts literally became live fashion statements for Gucci’s cruise 2018 collection and Dior’s Summer/spring 2017 collection. Nevertheless, accrediting this revolution to storied fashion brands would, in fact, be fallacious as would it undermine the struggles of pioneers like STUSSY, SUPREME, OFF-WHITE, Kanye West and many more.
Over time, such brands have built their identity around a premise of inclusivity and exclusivity, appealing to a community of fashion consumers; primarily a youthful demographic (not fundamentally constrained by age but mindset) and have cultivated a crop of individuals repositioning the feel and spirit of fashion.
Likewise, fashion in Africa has a viable niche of Streetwear consumers seeking to explore more ideas of their fashion style. Crashing into shows like the 90’s Baby Kickback, Lemon Curd, OFF-BEAT LIVE, always sets the vibe for a jiggy streetwear mood-board. It is surreal to witness the cultural exchange between streetwear and music manifest in Nigeria and more so, it been acknowledged by a fashion-forward community. We would prefer to wear T’shirts and bleached denim to work all day because we are comfortable with them. We do not need your validation any longer because streetwear is high fashion and Virgil Abloh is the artistic director for LOUIS VUITTON; that is all the justification we need.
Alte Cruise buttresses my conviction, reinforcing an obligation to perpetually reflect this idea when representing Nigerian fashion particularly in contemporary fashion spaces. In this light, we spoke to SEVERE NATURE, an indigenous streetwear brand leading an evolution in Nigerian fashion among the youths and clothing a new generation of Africa with streetwear.
Would you say Severe Nature streetwear centric?
SEVERE NATURE (S.N): Severe Nature prides itself on providing a more modern streetwear approach in fashion. Using a mixture of both high fashion cut and sew elements with a direct mixture of core streetwear attributes. We tend to focus on creating quality to our consumer and still keeping the raw underground feel of fresh and exclusive.
You are creating a demographic clamoring for an identity whilst garnering household recognition in Lagos, Nigeria. How would you articulate the feedback of your brand ethos thus far here in Nigeria and the rest of Africa?
S.N: We recognize the strive for recognition by the youth in Nigeria and that’s why as an international brand we decided to fully support this movement and aid it in any way we can by mostly creating a voice for the youth. Severe Nature has always represented “taking your ideas and personalities to the extreme” and this is what we fully back for the youth.
The present fashion climate projects personalized experiences/individuality and inclusivity as integral elements of the design process. Are these being reflected in your clothes? How are they portrayed in your products especially when placing Nigeria in context relative to its multifarious realities/ subcultures?
S.N: Our design process is more centered around the brand objective rather than the environment. We tend to rather drive with our ideas to create a unique experience than adapting the situation of the environment into our designs creating a more comfortable area rather than an experimental and innovative one.
On establishing physical stores, does this translate into avenues for creating personalized experiences and adversely relevant conversations on streetwear culture in Lagos, Nigeria?
S.N: This is something we hugely plan to carry out in future. We plan to create unique experiences for consumers with the use of custom spaces and finally get a store which fully represents our brand image and gets people more connected to the brand physically.
As an emerging market what are the challenges you have been faced with building a third world country.
S.N: Our biggest challenge is acceptance. Getting the majority of the community to accept streetwear as an appropriate and forward driven aspect of fashion. Getting people to feel as important in streetwear in the same way as in formal suits and dresses. We want a general acceptance and appreciation of streetwear.
‘Garbing a new Africa’, a grand plan under your sleeves?
S.N: Not just our plan, but the plan of the youth in Africa and we hope it’s something we all can achieve together.
Could it be said that streetwear is poised to dominate the fashion scene here in Nigeria? I mean c’mon we wear tees every other day.
S.N: Yes, with the day to day adaptation of streetwear in the Nigerian community, it is only right that in future, there would be a time where streetwear would be taken as the cool and norm of Nigeria.