Meet the game changing fashion icon behind Orange Culture
The conversation surrounding men’s fashion in Nigeria would be obsolete were it not to include the name Adebayo Oke-Lawal. A trailblazer in every sense of the word, Oke-Lawal has lit his path to icon status with many outfits that have disrupted everything we thought we knew about men’s fashion. The Creative Director of high fashion label Orange Culture, a line that constantly challenges heteronormative ideals of menswear, Bayo always puts his money (and clothes) where his mouth is.
Speaking at Design Indaba 2019, a Cape Town festival dedicated to all things design Bayo shared his story with the crowd saying, “I went to an all-boys school and experienced a lot of aggravation because of how I represented myself. People told me I was too soft; I needed to be harder to be a man.”
His experiences at school made him think more profoundly about masculinity as a construct and how the concept was often at odds with his own personal sense of identity that didn’t fit into one box. “Whatever society wanted me to be wasn’t what I had to be,” he says.
From his teenage years, Bayo got his start in fashion, interning whilst maintaining a corporate job. However, his passion prevailed and at the tender age of 20, Bayo launched Orange Culture. “My first collection got the worst reviews ever,” he says. “Someone said I should kill myself for showing a man wearing a red suit! But I also got a DM from a person who said my brand really inspired them.” Luckily, Bayo prevailed and Orange Culture has risen to become one of the most important fashion brands in Africa, sparking a much-needed conversation about male identity and how fashion and gender collide.
Speaking to Vogue magazine about his career trajectory and standing his truth has often put a target on his back, Bayo says, “We had, and still have, some problems. The way society is in Lagos…we’re used to very specific ways of seeing things. Gender is an exact way of thinking back home and has been for a very long time. Things have been written in the press that say Orange Culture is ‘feminizing our men’ and that we’re going to hell because of it. Now it’s just, like, I don’t care, you can write it. I’ve been doing this for years, and it is working, and it is still growing. If you have a problem with a man wearing jewelry or an oversize blouse or painting his nails, that’s your problem. It’s not Orange Culture’s!”
Bayo himself has reached icon status. Having amassed quite the following on social media, warmth and authenticity oozes through the screen as Bayo teaches us all what it means to live unapologetically in one’s truth. His charisma is palpable and for a man that has spent the better part of a decade, single handedly challenging entrenched ideas surround gender and identity, and his humility is refreshing.
The self-confessed ‘nerd’ has grown into a visionary.
Orange Culture Images