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Interview with Wale Oyejide

4

April 26, 2013 by Ville Raivio

‘I am 32. I am currently working as designer and creative director for Ikiré Jones, but prior to this, I was a practicing attorney/lawyer. I have a Bachelor’s/University Degree in Computer Science, and a Juris Doctorate (Doctor in Law). At only 5 months, my daughter is too young to understand how crazy her father is. As she gets older, she’ll probably assume everyone’s dad is like me.  I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. I’m lucky to have a wife that is very supportive of my interest in clothing. My family isn’t as enthusiastic about menswear as I am, but they have gradually come to accept that this is a passion of mine. In the beginning, they definitely thought it was a bit strange, because it seemingly came from nowhere. Growing up, I really didn’t have an interest in menswear.

All pictures feature apparel from Ikiré Jones

I would say my strong interest in clothing arose in my mid 20s after I had completed university. The interest simply arose out of a desire to feel better about myself, and, of course, to look more attractive to women (specifically my girlfriend at the time). I gravitated toward a more elegant look. I wouldn’t say that I was drawn specifically to classics, but there is certain coolness and mystique that comes from an image of a man in a well-cut suit. Most men can relate to it, and at some point, most men have wanted to look that cool. I was no different. I just became more enthralled than many of my peers did. I’m not opposed to the idea of fashion at all. But as I’ve gotten a little older, I have settled into a certain idea of myself, and how I would like to be perceived. That image I have of myself tends to differ from the “here today, gone tomorrow” trends that one sees on the covers of many fashion magazines.

Most of my knowledge has come from the internet, and sites like Styleforum or Keikari. With the surge of the internet, the past decade has allowed menswear enthusiasts to spread their knowledge and clothing addiction very quickly. If one is interested, he can live on any corner of the world and learn about classic menswear from people an ocean away. I would describe the way I dress as bold, but not over the top. I’m not one of those people who revels in being a peacock or looking like a circus character. That said, I do enjoy a bit of flash. What’s the point of dressing if you don’t keep yourself interested and bring a smile to strangers’ faces? Back when I purchased ready to wear, I was a big fan of Phineas Cole (an offshoot of “Paul Stuart”). As far as tailors, I have previously used Lee Baron in Hong Kong.

My personal site was initially a creative outlet. I had stopped making music (a previous hobby of mine), but still wanted a way to express my ideas. I used the site (www.lessgentlemen.com) as a vehicle to write about my personal philosophies and accompanied these thoughts with pictures of my style. I founded Ikiré Jones because I saw a void in the menswear market. Although there are many designers of African descent, I wasn’t aware of any that were combining Italian style tailoring with African aesthetics. West Africa is known for its use of bright tropical colors, and I wanted to see how this would look when paired with European fabrics.

I also enjoyed the scarves and squares made by brands like Hermès, Rubinacci and Drake’s of London, and thought it would be very interesting to create similar designs from an African perspective. In other words, I wanted to translate classic European styles into an African language. It isn’t my intention to specifically reach the African American community. I don’t want people from different backgrounds to feel alienated simply because my designs are inspired by Africa. The beauty of the modern world we live in is that cultures are swapped and have begun to overlap. We all borrow from each other, and can be inspired by each other. So while I hope to reach many African Americans, I am just as interested in reaching Europeans and Asians as well.

There is no doubt that they have never seen anything like Ikiré Jones before.  To be fair, there is nothing new under the sun. No idea is completely original. All a designer can do is hope to provide a new interpretation of an old idea. With Ikiré Jones, I think we have been successful at widening the classic menswear lens, by giving it a new perspective. What we do is still classic, but it is classic in a different way. I am still a big fan of music. For me, a perfect weekend is time spent at home with my family with some jazz playing as I dive into a new novel.

I think there is a common notion that style is inherent and cannot be taught.  This is probably true to a degree. However, style is just a matter of self discovery. Everyone has an ideal self: A perfect vision of who they want to be, or who they want to look like, when they close their eyes. This isn’t necessarily just about what clothes you wear, but about the kind of man you want to be. Every day, we strive toward this ideal. Some days, we fall back, some days, we grow better. Style is no different. Every man should feel free to experiment and try things, until he finally reaches that comfortable spot. Clothes are just clothes. They won’t change who you are, but they will teach you about yourself. It’s a bit of a paradox, but the clothes you wear outside can teach you about the person you are on the inside.’

http://ikirejones.com/

Pictures: © Wale Oyejide


4 comments »

  1. kryp says:

    did you go to ISI

  2. Wale O. says:

    Robusto,

    Please do not parse those words too precisely or interpret them in the wrong way. As someone born and raised in Nigeria, and making products inspired by Africa, of course it is my hope that other Africans are drawn to my wares. The statement was phrased that way because the initial question referred specifically to African Americans.

    And thanks for your kind words, re: the Ikiré Jones site.

    -W

  3. Robusto says:

    Interesting portrait, but
    “So while I hope to reach many African Americans, I am just as interested in reaching Europeans and Asians as well.”

    So at no point are African men a target ? Strange, in this given context.

    Great site, by the way, very well curated.

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