Orange Culture doesn’t have so much clothing to identify as a brand of men's clothing. In the label's studio in prestigious Lagos – traditionally feminine details – silk ruffles and pink fuchsias.
The brand is part of a new generation of continent-based designers who challenge outdated ideas about gender in the context of identity, culture, and race.
“I found myself growing up, people were told that they needed to be tough. They must be such that they are perceived as men.
Orange culture behind the scenes at Fashion Week in Lagos. The line aims to question gender norms. Credit: courtesy of Adesua Okosun
“And it was so embedded in our culture, and I really just wanted to defy this conversation,” said CNN's Oke-Laval about the goal behind the gender fluid label.
“It was important for people to think outside of a certain type of African man, but believing that men can be very different things. We can be emotional, we can be vulnerable, and we can express ourselves as we want, without being seen as anything less than African. "
Ake Laval – a quiet 28-year-old native of Lagos – has been a favorite of the international men's wear market since he launched his label in 2011.
“I found myself growing up, people were told that they needed to be firm. They must be such that they are perceived as people. And it was so deep in our culture. ”
Adebayo Ake Laval, Orange Culture
His specific mission statement earned his projects to a dedicated global audience. He was a finalist for the LVMH award, became the first Nigerian brand to be presented at the London Collections Men exhibition in 2016, and his collaboration with Nigerian musician Davido was immediately broken by Selfridges in London.
One post on Instagram has generated over 600 responses. “I received so many hateful comments,” Oyemi said.
But – “their youth is more progressive,” he added. "Even if he does not speak his native language, they understand, and they appreciate it, and they will not distinguish it."
Maxivive's androgynous label often shared Nigerians, despite its international recognition. Credit: courtesy of Kosol Onwudinjor / Maxivive
The label's inspiration comes from Paris Burning, a 90s documentary dedicated to the vibrant, stylish subculture of transvestites living in New York.
But for Oyemi, this is a more nuanced conversation about inconsistency: “It's about trying something new. Let's move away from the ideology that this should be, ”he explained.
"In the past, I had conversations about religion, sexuality, human development …
“Tomorrow I can decide to create a line of women's clothing, but I will still name it for men, and anyone can wear it. I don't want to be restricted. ”
Papa Oyemi was photographed in the Ikeja area, in Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Nosmot Gbadamosi
“In the end, gender fluidity is not related to sexuality. This is more so that people can communicate with their male and female side, ”noted Oke-Laval.
"There can be no single type of Nigerian man or woman, there should be a place for other definitions that do not necessarily correspond to this opinion," Richard Acuson, the editor of CNN, told earlier.
"If people do not understand that such a person can exist, then I need to insist more on such men's clothes."
Adebayo Ake Laval, Orange Culture
Cape Town photographer Per-Anders Pettersson spent five years documenting fashion communities all over Africa for his new book, The African Podium. Covering over 40 fashion weeks and 15 countries, his series provides an intimate look at the expanding industry. In this photo, African-American model Diandra Forrest does make-up and hairstyle before showing during the Fashion Week in South Africa. Credit: Per-Anders Pettersson
"Moving with the outside world"
“When we started creating plays with gender fluidity, we simply moved with what we saw in the outside world,” said Mindi in a telephone interview.
“The reality is that I was in the company of incredible people who defined what masculinity is for myself, and it also allowed me to evaluate and define what it means for me and how it developed in my Cape Town space.”
The views of a 25-year-old teenager on a changing “cross-cultural” environment fit into the overall look of his latest collection, entitled “Soulful II,” which draws replicas from Japanese finishes.
Others adopted a gender neutral cut for more pragmatic reasons.
The AKJP South African label's idea was to create finished products combining flowing silhouettes with artful prints. Credit: Courtesy Neil Roberts / AKJP
“At first, it was an easy way to start making women's clothes,” Paulson said via e-mail. "Women's clothing was based on the ideas we created in our collections of men's clothing."
“When I grew up with two brothers, I took some of their T-shirts and jackets and wore them, but they could not do the same with my things,” said the 29-year-old boy. “The idea of my unisex jackets was accessible to everyone.
"Zimbabwe is ideal for a gender-changing fashion because of the current financial climate, in which we find ourselves with high unemployment, minimal disposable income and limited resources."
Rooted in heritage
Together with the fashion designer and playwright father, the 31-year-old twin sister Silvia Enekwe and Olivia Enekwe-Okoji founded the label in 2012 to reflect their childhood in Enugu in eastern Nigeria.
Gozel Green presentation at Arise 2018 Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Nosmot Gbadamosi
“Our late father wrote many poems in his life, so for each collection we create, we interpret his stories in our design aesthetics,” said Enekwe-Okoji.
But what do local consumers make of inconsistency? Zimbabwean Mushayi recognizes that most of its customers are from the United States.
“The response was good” for AKJP South Africa.
But 67 percent of South Africans, according to the same report, agree with this statement: “It's disgusting when men dress like women and women dress like men.”
A male model is preparing for a photo shoot at the Orange Culture studio in Lagos, Nigeria. Credit: Nosmot Gbadamosi
“Many men's clothing brands that appeared at that time were very sleek suits, it was very manly, and we came with this brand that was in the opposite direction,” recalls Oka-Lawal about the launch of Orange Culture.
"So people just weren’t accepted by this.
"I saw that if people do not understand that such a person can exist, then I need to insist more on such men's clothes."
Attitude is changing. “Now people are not in a hurry to understand what we are doing and why we get such a big loan outside Nigeria,” said Oke-Laval.
"It really helped us find a stronger voice in our locality."