If you haven’t heard of Orange Culture yet, now would be a good time to get acquainted. The menswear label, spearheaded by 23-year-old Adebayo Oke-Lawal, has made it to the semifinals for LVMH’s Young Fashion Designer prize, and will be heading to Paris in a few weeks to compete against 29 brands for a chance to make it into the final 10 eligible for one of three packages that include 300,000 Euros (or $409,750) and a year-long mentorship to help develop the line.
Oke-Lawal has been designing since the age of 10, and since officially entering the fashion industry, he’s dabbled in writing and styling, working with African pop stars like Tiwa Savage and Mochedda. But design is his greatest passion, and since starting the label in 2011, he’s been hard at work trying to bring Orange Culture to the world. It’s hard to believe, with all he’s accomplished, that he hasn’t even lived a quarter century.
Oke-Lawal describes Orange Culture as a “movement” more than a clothing line, for a creative class of men who he describes as “self aware , expressive, explorative, art-loving nomad[s].” The label previously produced womenswear options, but Oke-Lawal says he’s since decided to focus on the fellas. Combining classic and contemporary western silhouettes (like collared button-ups and lapel-less blazers) with African sensibilities, Oke-Lawal creates offerings for modern men who like a little flair, and of course: color. It’s certainly hip, as anything coming from a 23-year-old might be. Who but a youngster would whip up asymmetric hems on printed collared tops, or pair a suit with Nike sneakers?
But even with his credentials and apparent talent on his side, Oke-Lawal admits he was a bit nervous about participating in the Young Designers contest to begin with. He says he got the idea to enter the contest from a few of his colleagues and supporters, namely Hautefashionafrica.com‘s Wadami and an organizer of GTB Lagos’s fashion and design week. “I read through it frightened, but with the support of family and good friends, I just decided to try out – I had nothing to lose,” he told us. “I just believed in the story that orange culture had to tell and hoped they’d see it too.”
And they did. Adebayo is gearing up to present a collection to a preliminary judging panel that includes Pat McGrath, 10 Corso Como founder Carla Sozzani, Carine Roitfeld, Patrick Demarchelier, and more, fighting for one of 10 spots in the finals, where he will show his line to Marc Jacobs, Raf Simons, Phoebe Philo, and Karl Lagerfeld, to name a few. “It’s not been an easy 2 years plus doing this,” Adebayo said. “[I'm] just thankful that a global brand (that I’ve dreamt about) saw something special in my brand. 30 out of 1221 [applicants, I'm] thankful – praying to get to the top. That mentorship program would be a privilege.”
We’ll definitely be watching Orange Culture’s next move, and wish Adebayo luck.
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