Never diss or look down at small beginnings as it is all part of the process. Success does not come easy, dues have to be paid, effort hs to be expended as is the case with Nigerian designer Taofeek Abijako.
The19-year-old Nigerian designer has become the youngest designer ever to present a full collection at the New York Fashion Week. This occurred at the 2018 international fashion runway event tagged ‘New York Fashion Week: Men’s this year’, which ran a few days ago.
His collection ‘Genesis’, self-described as a “minimalist streetwear approach with social and political commentary”, according to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), “pays homage to his past by celebrating his West African culture through a contemporary perspective.
This historic moment is a culmination of years of hard work, belief and perseverance. It is another milestone but very far from the days when Abijako worked from his bedroom, screenprinting on t-shirts.
In 2016, Abijako founded the clothing brand Head Of State – a unisex line which features a combination of printed t-shirts and some hand-painted numbers.
According to him, the concept derives from Fela Kuti’s song “Coffin for Head of State”, which touches on the corruption. He has always wanted to use his designs as vehicles for inspiration and to portray “the vibrancy of West African youth culture in the ‘70s and Fela Kuti”.
“The new collection is guaranteed to be groundbreaking in design and social impact,” he added in an interview with CFDA.
“Genesis is the translation of Afro-futurism portrayed by the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic and Sun Ra through the lens of West African youth – while at the same time celebrating the vibrancy of West African youth culture in the ‘70s and drawing parallels to modern time. The continuous homage to Fela Kuti is also portrayed,” Abijako shared.
He credits his father for his interest in the arts.
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“My dad was a trained fashion designer while living in Nigeria and dealt mostly with local traditional garments.
“Growing up in an environment like that sparked my curiosity in design,” he said.
Speaking to Konbini in an interview months before his historic showcase about the brand’s position in the fashion industry, Taofeek said:
“I’m not necessarily focused on filling a gap in the industry, for me it’s more of focusing on the storytelling the brand is about: presentation of ideas without constraint.
My work is a reflection of who I am and that’s interwoven with my cultural upbringing.”
Taofeek also has a penchant for painting which he weaves into his fashion design. The 19-year-old raised funds for his fashion projects by hand painting sneakers and selling them online. His sneakers rose to prominence when The Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg posted a pair of Taofeek’s custom Vans on Instagram.
In line with his rebel outlook, Taofeek is showing how young designers can bypass the fashion industry’s hierarchy and establish a solid brand with minimal financial backing or formal training.