“CREATIVITY NEVER STOPS IN ONE PLACE…”
-THE OKUNOREN TWINS
As most people have come to realise, fashion is a notoriously tough nut to crack, mens fashion is another ball game all together especially on this side of the planet with very few successful designers standing out.
Many fashion experts have said that to make it in this industry one must join forces. Editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour said it once: you ain’t gonna do this on your own- not seen too many successful designers whove managed alone, without a business partner, she said.
Even though they are such young men still very much in their prime, you really cant speak about the history of bespoke fashion in Nigeria without mentioning The Okunoren Twins , ?(guess they knew the importance of convergence long before Wintour made it a quotable quote.)
The Okunoren Twins are clothing icons and their name is synonymous with Bespoke Tailoring in Nigeria since set up in 2002 – theyve gone on to win awards, dress some of the most influential men in the world and inspired the emergence of African menswear designers since then while re-inventing themselves ahead of the game at the same time.
This interview is for the business minded and fashion design aspirants, because if there was a way to measure excellence and consistency in business, Taiwo Omobolanle and Kehinde Omolola Okunoren have set the standards high on the direction menswear should take.
How did they get there? What did they do?Where does your artistic influence come from and when did you both start making cloths?
We started in May 2002. Our artistic influence comes from our early encounter with tailored suits from Greece, Italy and the UK. Our father wore a lot of tailored suits which we admired so I guess this influenced our creativity. The masterpieces we experienced at a tender age contributed to how we design till date.
Being twins, do you both seem to be on the same artistic space or are you both quite different?
I think we are on the same artistic space at least when it comes to creating. We both have slightly different styles in our look and aesthetic, but generally we belong in the same artistic realm.
What colours should we be wearing right now?
That is a tough one, because we have never been one of those creators that would tell people what to wear and what not to. Life is about experimenting and taking risk and doing what you believe is right, same goes for fashion. Having said that, as influencers we always recommend earth colours for men, no gentleman ever goes wrong with that.
Is less truly more or more is more?
Less will always be more. There’s never been a debate about that and off course we as minimalists will always support and agree to that.
There’s a lot of substance in minimalism which we think should be
prominent in a man’s style.
“Know that competition is tough and capital is scarce. Let planning be your watchword”
What’s the top jacket for spring? Loose fit linen jacket and off course it should be a natural colour.
You have been in the business going to 13 years plus, and you both must have seen it all by this time, who and what excites you about fashion in Nigeria?
In the creative world, you never see it all because creativity never stops in one place or with one creator and it never ends. Unfortunately, the menswear designers in Nigeria seems to me are afraid to kick the door open, every label is in one very small clustered room especially the suit makers. I think creativity is about originality and not giving a damn about what any other creator does, but paying attention to what you can do differently as opposed to what you met in the field.
The Orange culture brand catches our attention and I like the fact that he is in his own creative realm and not stuck with what he met on ground, having said that the fashion sphere in Nigeria is a very interesting one and its growing faster than ever.
Brands like Toju Foyeh, Lisa Folawiyo, Bridget Awosika and Lanre Dasilva Ajayi are very captivating and in the men’s department Mc Meka is very cool, Mai Atafo is doing very well and Kimono is building a brand.
We started when local brands wasn’t very much accepted in Nigeria so seeing so many interesting brand is quite refreshing.
What has been the true struggle for the brand and how can the Government help?Committed and skilled artisans. Government can support by trying to help put a proper structure in place with financial institutions.
Why is the Nigerian fashion Industry so divided and what can be done to solve this?
An accepted and well structured council would help with that issue. This council must support and lay down set rules and standards.
In your opinions why is the standard of creative output not meeting the standard of the rest of the world? As I said skill and professionalism matched with inadequate funding.
Should we expect more store opening from the brand soon? Absolutely!That is in the pipeline God willing.
So do we need to take a loan to afford one of your amazing suit Creations?
LOL. Definitely not, Okunoren is a very affordable brand with different lines.
We have noticed a lot of your attention is going to supporting the next generation, like with the Taiwo O. Okunoren Prize is a N5 million reward for innovation in fashion & design, why such a move?
Because there are lot of wasted talents and lack of training and exposure for them.
You two must have good taste in music too! Please tell us what song are you’re both currently listening to?
Kehinde: I have quite a few on my playlist, but my top 5 will be Bob Marley-Sun is shining, Jhene Aiko Ft. Kendrick Lamar, Lenny Kravizt-Fly away, Jill Scott-Its love and Seal-Prayer for the dying.
What should we men be buying right now, today?
Sanity and Happiness if you can.
What fashion store are you both totally obsessed with right now?
The Kilgour store, its has a very modern and exotic feel, it’s just unbelievable and off course the Gieves and Hawkes store also on Savile Row.
Can you tell us what to expect from your new collection?
Expect a WOW!
“The Kilgour store, its has a very modern and exotic feel, its just unbelievable and off course the Gieves and Hawkes store also on Savile Row”
So what advice would you give someone just planning to start their fashion label?
Be original, be focused and set goals.
Go into the business knowing the business side of things and not just creativity because being creative or skilled without knowing how to turn your skill into money means you have failed. Know that competition is tough and capital is scarce. Let planning be your watchword.