Is there a market for dedicated men’s swimwear inspired by the African aesthetic?
Bola Marquis of the London based premium swimwear line, Okun Beachwear seems to think so.
Okun, the Yoruba word for Ocean is in its fourth year of business and has gained considerable traction boasting twenty stockists across Europe, the United States, Japan, Nigeria and the UAE. It has rolled out four successful collections with strong digital media campaigns built around its idea of Ankara board shorts for men and boys. The swimwear while vibrant, is rarely explorative of what swimwear could become, relying instead on exclusivity, themed collections and tailoring. This is part of the motto of the brand; to paraphrase its mission statement, ‘to occupy a space that is neither touristy, heritage-driven or avant-garde’.
The Okun brand in some ways has come home, stocking with Lagos luxury retailer Temple Muse, pushing its 2013 collection as well as a back catalogue of its old work following a win at the UK Fashion and Textiles Awards. The brand’s 2015 collection debuted on Figleaves and continues to explore its homage to African traditional fabrics.
Quick dry material and expert tailoring (the brand’s major sell) is great, but compared to African owned contemporary brands Kamokini, Zubaida Zang and Andreah Iyamah, Okun Beachwear seems limited by its design model. There is a lot that the brand can experiment with without compromising its core identity and that seems a shame. The brand’s catalogue each season is limited to five or six looks, pigeon holing buyers into restrictive niches.
The brand also releases one collection a year, and produces a limited amount of pieces. As a result its retailers, particularly the Temple Muse store in Lagos goes occasionally out of stock. This lack of accessibility (one Nigerian retailer plus limited stocks) limits the possibility of a random customer accessing the brand.
Marquis has hinted at a women’s swimwear line in the future and a stronger, more experimental menswear catalogue in the coming seasons.
If the retail end of the business can be tightened, there is vast territory to be charted and conquered.