Luxury brands are usually synonymous with craftsmanship, exclusivity and premium products which are intended for discerning clientele. Stating that Nigerian born designer and artist Buki Akib is operating within the core of this paradigm, would be by no means overreaching.
FELA Collection 2011
A graduate of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins, Akib draws inspiration from her childhood, growing up in the hustle of Lagos. The vibrant life of the city markets, the rich and colourful ensembles of the local belles & dandies and above all, the historical and traditional heirloom of her native country of Nigeria, all served as catalysts for her vocation towards fashion.
With her eponymous Menswear label, Buki Akib captures the essence and cultural complexity of this microcosm by crafting outlandish silhouettes that seem to embody the spirit of modern Africanism.
Intricately ornate monochromatic knitwear, metallic leather panels, high waist quilted pants, augmented patchwork fur coats and oversized boxing shorts are all part of Akib’s idiosyncratic signature style.
The work of Buki Akib is an art form; unearthing highly covetable designs that confer the incomparable sensation of taking part to in a genuine luxury experience.
Fusing traditional methods of weaving fabrics like the hand woven Yoruba’s Aso Oke cloth, she creates fresh and unconventionally sumptuous garments with a radical touch of modern cosmopolitanism.
Since launching in 2010, the brand has been receiving critical acclaim from international industry experts and leading fashion editorials including ID, Dazed & Confused and The Guardian.
Music, art and culture play an integral role in Akib’s creative process. Eloquently dubbed “Fela”, her graduate collection was inspired by Nigerian music icon Fela Kuti and the Afro Beat movement that dominated the West and Pan African musical scene in the 1970’s.
Earlier this year, Buki Akib unveiled her “Gentleman” and “Wives” range of bags & accessories; a sequel to the previous “Fela” collection inspired by Kuti’s twenty-seven wives. Displaying an eclectic mix of textures, patterns and colours, the collection is a vibrant opus to the sensuality and individuality inherent to Fela’s lustrous shrine.
“Fela Kuti and his twenty-seven wives were a controversial subject during the 1970’s in Nigeria. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll was Fela’s distinctive style and manner against the backdrop of the heat and sweat of the Lagos music scene that he’d created. His wives were an integral part of this and their beauty and sexuality a form of empowerment. There was more to Fela than just having twenty-seven wives; he gave them a sense of identity in a society that made them invisible” says Buki Akib.
Gold silk yarns, dusty lurex, tasselled fringes of sandy gold, each bag, realised by skillful Nigerian based artisan weavers, is an authentic collectors’ item that will have any self-proclaimed fashionista weep with envy.
The “Wives” bags collection was instantly picked up by Rhonda Drakeford and Lulu Roper-Caldbeck of London’s uber “Shangri la” concept-store Darkroom, which dedicated an entire window display to the range between last May 24th and June 7th 2012.
WIVES Collection | Darkroom London
Throughout the years, Africana has continuously remained an incredible well of inspiration for the fashion industry, at times with great results but all to often with a -shall we say- redundant range of stereotypes. In the past 20 years alone, an impressive number of fashion houses have thrived on this fruitfully. Still very few brands are actually able to address the difficult paradox of combining exclusivity and availability in order to appeal to many while appearing to be right for only a special few.
Obviously the journey that leads a designer label to the antipode of mass market production is not necessarily the same that brings it closer to the archetype of an authentic luxury brand. In this modern day & age, the very notion of luxury often means no more or no less, depending on your side of the spectrum than abiding by the unwavering diktats of “prestige” conglomerates.
Sold at increasingly higher prices, products aim to reinforce a brand’s capacity to further capitalise on the illusion of luxury itself rather than upholding the high quality standards implied by their monetary value. For the corporate goliaths of mass consumerism, the prospects of harvesting incommensurable profits seems indeed worth all the sacrifices, even if it means blurring further the borders that separate substantiated ethos based on heritage and tradition or plain right faking them.
So at this present stage, it is up to “Cheetahs” to take matters into their own hands. Individuals like Nduka Obaigbena (publisher of Nigerian Arise Magazine and funder of Lagos Fashion Week), should be saluted for their courageous purpose to reinstating Africa’s rightful position on the fashion map. Having shown her latest collection this past March 2012 at the Arise Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, Buki Akib shared this reflection.
Being an African designer should simply be about where you’re from. Anyone can copy African design, but hopefully platforms like this will show the industry that African designers can fit in internationally without having to be a separate entity.
BUKI AKIB | A|W 2012 Collection | Arise Magazine Fashion Week
At a time where people look more and more towards synthetic values, the work by designers such as Buki Akib is a resounding slap in the face of mass consumerism. More so, it represents a beacon of hope for a new generation of designers and artists from Africa and the world over, aspiring to breakthrough the overpowering supremacy of big conglomerates in order to get a seat at the table of capital expansion.
Written by Joyce Bidouzo-Coudray.
As a pluridisciplinary artist, Buki Akib has just begun a residency in Frankfurt at the Weltkuturen Museum. Taking part in an exhibition entitled Trading Styles – The Global Streets which aims to initiate a unique dialogue between fashion and world cultures. Opening on 7th of November 2012.
The “GENTLEMAN” collection will be available at 123 Store, Bethnal Green Road, E2, London from this autumn.
The “WIVES” collection is available at Darkroom, 52 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3LL, London and soon on Buki Akib new online store!
For more insight, visit | bukiakib.com
Images courtesy of Buki Akib and Darkroom London.