Nigerian designer gives culture a new look
London-born Nigerian Walé Adeyemi’s nous for fashion was born in the trunks of second-hand shops, where he bought clothes to tear them apart and reinterpret them in his unique pieces.
He studied creative arts at Thurrock College and fashion design at the Institute of Arts and Design, his inspiration founded in London’s nightlife and graffiti scene.
In 1995, he created B-Side. Originally menswear only, the line was soon seen on the shoulders of Alicia Keys, Tori Amos, Rihanna and Beyoncé, charmed by its street-cool, easy-to-wear, unpretentious and well-made pieces.
In 2008, Adeyemi was awarded as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “his services to fashion”. He was 36 years old. No wonder he is a streetwear prodigy and a de facto style consultant for brands such as New Era or Caterpillar, using his talent to refresh their image, reach out to a younger market or undertake forthright revival.
Like his counterparts, Malian designer Lamine Badian Kouyaté for Xuly Bët or Nigerian Duro Olowu, he creates collections rooted in the confluence of cultures.
What was your first encounter with fashion?
Buying second-hand clothes, taking them apart and making things for friends.
What was the most valuable lesson you learnt?
Keep working hard and have confidence. Never give up.
Did you have a fashion mentor?
Joe Casely Heyford, who was a London-based tailor and designer. I did my [internship] with him. There, I learnt the basics of the fashion and garment industry.
What do you think are essential elements for a great collection?
I would say: a good pair of trousers, good shirt, great jacket, nice pieces of knitwear and some accessories.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere. I travel a lot so I find a lot of interesting things when I travel, mostly from the people I see in the streets.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Getting people to believe in me.
Three words to describe the brand?
Somewhere between the kerb and the boutique.
Who is the B-Side’s woman?
She is a woman who is into street-style fashion but at the same time [likes] high fashion. Any woman who wants to wear something fashionable, while being comfortable and stylish.
Lagerfeld said “that inspiration should take us somewhere new”. Where do you want to go next?
To the moon.
What trend never dies?
What are you reading right now?
Start It Up from Luke Johnson. It’s about running your own business.
What do you always travel with?
My iPod, sketchbook and laptop.
What is your favourite scent?
Tom Ford’s Noir.