For Adebayo Okelawal, passion and resilience lead to growth which in turn lead to more knowledge and confidence in his work. Fashion stylist Anna Rykova chats to Adebayo about his growth, the hardest parts of fashion and the role of social media in business.
You are a self-taught designer who’s first profession had nothing to do with fashion and it wasn’t really your choice. Was it difficult to tell your family that fashion was what you want to dedicate your life to? What scared you the most when you worked on your first collection and how did you fight your fears?
It was difficult to tell my parents, especially my dad. In Nigeria, the generation before us had not seen a lot of fashion careers to use as yardsticks or examples to encourage their belief in us having such careers. So it took a lot, and a lot of sacrifice for me; I had to intern while I was in school and work on the side without their knowledge and learn on my own. My mum was easier to convince but my dad was very adamant about it because he didn’t believe I could survive financially on fashion.
That scared me and it also was one of my fears growing up, wondering if fashion could sustain the life I dreamed of.
When it came to my first collection, my biggest fear was that it would be hated and which it honestly was haha. I think what helped me defeat my fear was the realisation that I doing it with fear! I learnt to just go for it no matter what.
Fast forward to 2020 my parents are now so supportive because they’ve seen how resilient I am and they’ve seen growth. I am still designing every collection afraid but with a little more knowledge of self and more confidence!
When I first interviewed you in 2013, you were at the early stage of your career, you were very excited and “hungry”. Did anything change about how you feel for fashion now?
I am still very excited and even more hungry. I’d say more hungry than excited lol.
I work with a lot of aspiring designers and for many of them, fashion seems to be easy. A lot of them are misguided by Instagram success stories of other designers and brands and look at the fashion industry as a happy place which is not always as such. What did you have to sacrifice on your journey? What sides (moments) are the most challenging?
The hardest parts of fashion for me are the business side, manufacturing locally and understanding the ever-changing customer.
Fashion is one of the most difficult businesses in the world and it requires a lot of passion for it to stay running for years!
Speaking of social media. You seem to enjoy blogging. You are more than a designer but also an influencer. Do you think being active on Instagram (and I am speaking about your personal account) helps the business?
It does! I wear a lot of Orange Culture and so people who love my style, shop what I’ve worn. Also, I find a lot of customers want to know the face behind the brand and once they buy into the person behind the brand, they also sometimes buy into the brand.
Do you try to make your Instagram life look prettier than it actually is? What do you like to blog about the most?
To be very honest – I just post what I feel. I think with social media, you post what makes you happy and moments you don’t want to forget! Which is why I rarely post really sad moments.
I do not post anything fake or pretentious though.
You follow more than 4000 people on Instagram. Who are they?
Editors, stylists, style connoisseurs, artists in general, flower shops, foodies, animal lovers ( especially cats ) and Instagram crushes.
At your most challenging times, what makes you go on? What motivates you?
Family, close friends and prayers!
A couple of years ago I met participants of one design project in Nairobi. What surprised me was that none of them wore their own designs! You, on the other hand, always wear your stuff. Which is the right thing to do if you ask an editor. Apart from Orange Culture, what are your other top 3 brands to wear?
Thank you so much! Wow, my top 3 brands that I wear aside from Orange Culture!
If you were offered the job of a creative director at one of the big international brands but you would have to give up your own brand, would you take it?
I would not give up my brand, we would have to negotiate better haha. I would love to be the creative director of a big brand though.
If you had a chance to have an internship or be an assistant of any fashion designer dead or alive who would it be? And in fact, do you believe nowadays, when everything changes so fast, it’s still necessary to assist for few years before you start your own thing?
I agree you should most definitely intern! I’d assist Kim Jones.
What does your regular day look like?
No day is regular haha.
PHOTOGRAPHER: JOLAOSO ADEBAYO @ADEBAYOPHOTOGRAPHER
FASHION EDITOR, STYLIST: ANNA RYKOVA @MUDFISH77 @ANNARYKOVASTYLE
FASHION EDITOR ASSISTANT: MOSES EBITE @MOSESEBITE
ART DIRECTOR: KWEN MAYE @KWENMAYE
DAPO @DARKPRINCE_M @FUSEMODELS
LOLADE @LOLADEMANUEL @FUSEMODELS
CHUKA @ICHUKA_ @MY_BOOKER_MODELS
DOLAPO @DOLAPO.CRA @BETHMODELAFRICA