Can the power of design shape the world of tomorrow? We explore this postulation looking at Nigeria’s Orange Culture and its gender neutral accoutre.
by Rachel Ogbu
“Trendy brands” like H&M, Diesel, Zara have all entered into the space of gender-neutral fashion. So when Nigeria Orange Culture ‘s latest collaboration with singer, Davido title IF came to Selfridges London, I immediately understood the understated sexual fluidity of the capsule recently launched for the Abuja market.
Regardless of what side of the fence you are when it comes to sexuality in Nigeria, you can’t deny that personal freedom is expanding daily. The topic of gender neutrality doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore and daily it’s becoming less of a trend and more of the “new normal”.
Actually, forget what it’s called now, gender neutral, non-binary or un-gendered clothing existed since the 80s. Only then, we called it unisex clothes, however, the way we are consuming the term these days is what is changing fashion and style and maybe even the way we look at the world today.
But it gets tricky as well. Creating clothes to fit both men and women is not as easy as it looks. Creative director of Orange Culture Adebayo Oke-Lawal explained to me; “Orange Culture is a brand that is dynamic and thrives on continuously pushing its boundaries even with just the simple things,” he said.
Though Orange Culture is technically categorised as a menswear brand, they invite everyone to try their pieces individually or collectively. They are definitely leading the pack when it comes to fashion for all.
“We think of everyone when we make clothes. Of course, guys would wear it… we always want people to know women wear Orange Culture and that’s fine too. No one should stop a girl from wearing clothes,” he said in our interview last year.
Some critics hold that we still need to work more on clearly defining what gender neutrality in fashion really means. For them, many brands are still exploring political correctness when it comes to un-gendered clothing.
For instance, it is socially acceptable for women to wear men’s clothes in our society but not the reverse. Many brands who claim gender neutral still predominantly design outfits based on our overwhelming understanding of masculinity.
Speaking to I-D magazine, Oke-Lawal 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. 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.
Gender diversity should be a call to arms for vibrancy, for excitement, and for fashion to see the beauty of all genders and gender expressions in the hands of ALL consumers says The Fashion Law.