From its inception, Orange Culture has set itself aside from the rest of the crowd. Orange Culture is so much more than a label, its a movement. Creative Director Adebayo Oke-Lawal has always driven home the idea that Orange Culture wants to redefine our attitudes, not only towards menswear but towards masculinity as a social construct. At Day 2 of Lagos Fashion Week he presented Raindrops and Tears and showed how the label is breaking down toxic masculinity, one collection at a time.
The aisles were cleared and the stage was set as Orange Culture, the final presentation of the night prepared to show. The crowd was packed and the excitement was palpabale. Colourful umbrellas hung from the rafters and the stage was set with furniture/ props from minimalist furniture designer, The Aga Concept.
The label had provided some context to the show and explained that this season Orange Culture was 'exploring the rain and its relationship with humanity'.
A voice rang out through the speakers, it filled every nook and crevice of the room:
The beautiful release you get when you allow your problems flow from your eyes.
As a child, I'd sit by the window and stare at the raindrops fall from the sky. It always felt so surreal to me. It always made me feel like it was here to wash things away and by standing under it, I'd feel a sense of freedom, newness or liberty.
I can't cry for some reason, cause growing up I would get told off by teachers if I cried. MEN DON'T CRY! Suck it up and be a man. So I thought by not crying, I was strong, I could finally fit in with the GUYS! I wouldn't be such a sore thumb after all.
Not being able to cry at least sometimes damages you, you hold things inside and the day you finally get to cry, it's for the most ridiculous of reasons and you feel guilty about it.
I look out at the clouds constantly tearing up. If God didn't want us to cry once in a while, why would the clouds cry sometimes. Even the clouds need to cry.
So, every-time I see the rain now, I remember it's okay to cry sometimes, all nature take its course, be vulnerable and be as beautiful as the clouds. Even the clouds cry seasonally.
The models filed out and the presentation began. Orange Culture played with very soft to seemingly very hard fabrics in this collection. The choice of fabrics was a metaphor which portrayed the struggle between vulnerability and caged emotionalism. The fabrics ranged from cotton, velvet, satin, wool and leather and each was an intricate part of the story.
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The custom printed pieces which flowed beautifully as the models walked was inspired by 'Lagos chaos' during adverse weather.
Each piece, each button, every facet of the collection told a story. It spoke about the constraints of masculinity and how to very idea of 'being a man' ends up doing more harm than good. The clothes, modelled by both male and female models, played to the androgyny of Orange Culture and blurred the lines between menswear and womenswear, it was an atmosphere of oneness and togetherness.
Speaking to I-D magazine, Adebayo said:
The story behind the brand was the issue of hyper-masculinity and how it affects man-to-man relationships, which is something I found challenging growing up. I wanted to create a brand that wasn’t just making clothes but that was starting conversations and making people question their preconceived ideas about what a man was, what a man should wear or how a man should be seen. This was a brand designed to create an impact.
The way I tried to do that was by pushing boundaries. Not just in terms of shape and cut but in terms of mental processing and emotional intelligence. I wanted men, especially Nigerian men, to feel more when they saw the clothes. I wanted them to think more. That is why I think it is a movement. When you see the brand you should see that there is something we are trying to say. There is always a what, why, and how. There is an attempt to move people in the way they see Nigerian men, and to move how Nigerian men see themselves. I want men to emote in a new way and to be vulnerable.
Judging by the reaction of the crowd as the last model left the stage and the rousing applause as Adebayo took his final bow, Orange Culture is well on its way to achieving it's goal. Everybody in the audience was captivated, not just by the fashion, but by the message.
In a country like Nigeria, where we are so bound by our perceived roles, society and tradition, for a brand like Orange Culture to cut through that learnt behaviourand allow us to think beyond that is nothing short of revolutionary.