You see gorgeous editorials, fresh new content, exciting TV and film shows, but you rarely get to peek behind the curtain where the magic happens. In this new series, we join young, talented creatives in a short fun interview series, learn about their work, how they got their start and what new exciting projects are to come. We spotlight industry creatives, celebrate their wins, and inspire upcoming creatives to seize the day. Every week, we’ll learn from individuals who conquered their doubts and fears and made moves to follow their creative dreams.
So anyone who knows me well knows I detest the very Nigerian obsession with ‘humility’ – there’s nothing wrong with being humble obviously, but sometimes the undue emphasis on it (reserved only for people doing well) can feel like a ridiculously forced pantomime, one which we are easily hoodwinked by – but I digress.
Adebayo Oke Lawal is considered one of the major contributors to the menswear renaissance in Nigeria – this wunderkind and social media influencer established his business in 2011 and his label, following a sharp pivot to menswear, has grown in leaps and bounds. His label is known for blurring the lines between masculine and feminine and he is well loved by both local and international press. He deftly switches between cultural codes in his collections and juxtaposes seemingly unrelated motifs with a practiced ease. who is the man behind the brand?
Why do I mention this? As much as I hate the overuse of the word, it’s one of the first to come to mind, humble= Adebayo Oke–Lawal. He is one of the most humble, positive, talented and just plain nice individuals I’ve ever met, and this is someone who is BFFs with many a happy unicorn (hey Nicole!). Oke-Lawal is complex and layered in a real way – he’s super nice but also an incorrigible member of the Shady Bunch and he will read. you. to. filth; he’s open and willing to listen but very stubborn about the things he believes in. This uncompromising realness coupled with his drive and talent, has led him to stratospheric heights.
About that humility – Adebayo is an LVMH Prize finalist and just debuted a collection in collaboration with Davido, facilitated by LFDW and sold at Selfridges. And yet. He doesn’t lead with this when asked to name the highlights of his career so far. Speaking to Bayo is not only fun, it is often illuminating – you understand why he is almost universally loved. He spends a lot of his time now giving back and sharing his experience so far, with young creatives who he says ‘weren’t so different from him when he first started out’. That’s the kind of unstudied humility and self awareness I can get behind.
Your last three jobs/roles:
CEO Orange Culture ( for life ).
Worked as Fashion Editor for WOW! Magazine.
Worked at Harvey Nichols and Liberty while I was doing my Masters as a style assistant.
What inspires you on a day to day basis:
Family and remembering where I’ve come from.
Your Personal Style in One Word
It’s never enough, keep going.
Don’t be ashamed of your differences
At BNStyle we don’t believe in failure – you either win or you learn, can you tell us about some highlights and lowlights in your current career?
Highlights include showing at Lagos Fashion & Design Week, SA Men’s Fashion Week and London Collections:Men and all my press features which I’ll forever be thankful for .Getting Stockists for the brand in different parts of the world – we are super thankful to all our stylists.
Low points – staffing and funding the brand in earlier years, dealing with unskilled labour and trying to make them understand the idea of the brand . All of which I’ve been able to surpass and have become highlights
Advice To Your Younger Self:
Don’t be ashamed of your differences
One thing the world doesn’t know about you
I have the worst eyesight , considering LASIK.
Your favourite person to work with/you have ever worked with and why?
I love working with Daniel Obasi – he has such a fresh take on things and is very diligent.
Talk me through your work. What does it entail?
No day is the same to be honest – it’s very much clients, supervision, clients , deliveries and working on other projects I’ve taken on. We have a consistent inflow of clients now from different parts of the world. We are also working on our e-commerce space and physical space so prepping for that has joined my schedule.
What’s your career backstory? When did you realise your interest in fashion was leading to a career?
When I was in secondary school and fashion was my tool for self expression – I knew for sure it was the direction I wanted to go in!
I studied finance in UNILAG and International Business Management in Northumbria University. I’m a self taught designer with a lot of interning experience in Nigeria under brands like Zebra Living as Kiki Kamanu and in London under Harvey Nichols and Liberty.
What major industry changes have affected your working life and what changes do you think will affect it in the next 3-5 years?
Lagos Fashion & Design Week giving us a structure for showing in the year – so you know you have to have collections prepped twice a year. Global recognition – the world is watching us now, so we can’t rest , we’ve got to keep going and more stockists which means we have to keep producing.
Digital media, technology and globalisation play a major role in all our lives now, varying by degree from industry to industry. How do you a) rise to these challenges when the change is disruptive b) on professional and personal levels how have you leveraged these changes to improve your personal or professional brand.
I think brands have to be progressive and understand the volatility of the creative industry . If a brand plans to survive it needs to continuously strategise and not rest on one strategy at all.
[the Orange Culture man] is intelligent , progressive , liberated, expressive and a definite art lover
How do you curate your Instagram to maintain a dialogue with your increasingly globalised audience?
We curate our Instagram to tell our story and thankfully it connects with our consumers.
Describe the Orange Culture man
He is intelligent , progressive , liberated, expressive and a definite art lover
Is it possible for a stylist or fashion entrepreneur to get ahead in the world today without using social media?
To a very limited extent . A lot of buyers , press et al have discovered our work through social media . It opens you up to a wider/ vast consumer space – by not being on it , you are only limiting your connectivity
What are your thoughts on work-life balance. Is it a concern, and if it is and do you think it is attainable?
It is attainable and of no concern to me
Tell us the best thing and worst thing about working in Nigeria
Nigeria is foundation-ally not built to harbour us – worst
That everyday there’s something new to discover – best
Lastly, what are the most crucial factors anyone, wishing to build a successful career in fashion should know?
It’s not easy – so please intern and experience it first .