Although the Nigerian womenswear industry has been able to grow and evolve into an industry with its own inherent vibrancy and colorfulness, the same cannot fully be said for its menswear counterpart. With Nigerian menswear almost becoming monolithic, discovering and spotlighting Nigerian menswear brands that deviate from the tired and fast becoming boring path that other Nigerian menswear brands seem to take in recent times has become a necessity.
While many menswear designers will rather stick to what is known and popular (think: agbadas, kaftans, and the works) a few, however, have decided to step aside from the norm, challenge gendered fashion and our society’s rather rigid view of masculinity, earning our hearts as well as deserved accolades.
Here are six menswear brands who are changing the menswear industry with their unique pieces, collections, and stories:
When Adebayo Oke-Lawal, creative director of Orange Culture, started his brand in 2011, there wasn’t a brand like it. There still isn’t. Over the past few years, the brand has created and upheld a standard of simultaneously subverting gender roles and norms while telling a cohesive and emotionally stirring story with every collection, lookbook, and piece the brand creates. Orange Culture’s determination to create authentic and norms shattering work and designs has solidified its place as one of Nigeria’s (and the African continent as a whole) favorite androgynous brands. With pieces that are eerily beautiful expressions of gender non-conformity which have become a go-to for the fashionably daring, the gender non-conforming and basically anyone who wants to feel like a part of something bigger than yourself, Orange Culture is more than a brand. It is, in fact, movement.
Both Kenneth Ize’s multicultural background and his talent as a gifted creator and storyteller come to play when he designs. With unique pieces that reflect the changing and evolving space of the Nigerian fashion industry, Kenneth Ize has earned the hearts of many including fashion veterans and consumers alike. Kenneth Ize – the brand and the person behind the brand – serves as major contributor and key player within the Nigerian fashion industry and beyond especially with its role as a powerhouse that changes and challenges how we (critics and consumers) view and consume menswear as well as how they (other menswear designers and creators) create them.
Mai Atafo’s more than a decade reign as one of Nigeria’s leading menswear brands is not coming to an end any time soon. The brand’s consistent push at what defines and makes a menswear brand married with their seamless integration of gender politics and fashion has turned this brand into nothing short of revolutionary and iconic. Mai Atafo has definitely weaned itself off the need for 24/7 spotlight and has ascended into brand that it’s iconic position isn’t debatable and won’t be debatable if they don’t release a collection for five years – reminiscent of Beyoncé and Rihanna as neither have released a new body of work since 2016 yet their positions as icons are not debatable.
When menswear brand Emmy Kasbit bagged the elusive Fashion Focus Fund during its first edition, it did not come as quite the shocker to anyone who has ever seen the brand’s pieces. Eclectic, colorful, beautiful and undeniably African are words that come to mind to describe the designs and pieces from the brand. When you see an Emmy Kasbit piece, you know it is an Emmy Kasbit piece. From the Prime Minister of Britain,Theresa May being spotted in pieces from the brand during her visit to Nigeria to eliciting a standing ovation after a phenomenal presentation where he showcased what is arguably one of the best collections of 2018 at the Lagos Fashion Week 2019, Emmy Kasbit is the Nigerian menswear brand that just keeps winning.
With Tokyo James’ global appeal and a knack for creating uncommon post-modern pieces that remind you that fashion is first and foremost an art, it is no surprise the British-Nigerian brand has risen to the heights it has. The pieces that Tokyo James creates brings to the fore of mind youthfulness but not in a way that could come of as ageist or restricted to a certain age bracket but rather reminds everyone – regardless of age – of their inner youth.
Ugo Monye’s re-imagination of the traditional agbada is almost unparalleled. The brand’s game-changing take on menswear designs and pieces has placed it firmly on the fashion map but most importantly it has secured the brand’s place as a pillar in the Nigerian fashion industry. Ugo Monye, the brand’s creative director and obvious inspiration behind its name, has used his unique ability to design pieces that managed to walk the thin line between being classic pieces while also treading a new and unexpected path.
Menswear in Nigeria could admittedly do with more eccentricity as well as more players determined and willing to move out of the status quo but at least, one can go to bed in peace knowing that brands like these six are switching things up in the best way possible.