The fashion industry is built on a mountain of lies that we follow to enjoy the loot. One of the most impenetrable, however, is the insistence that every collection – even every garment – comes from a designer’s mind. In reality, it is a team of stylists, pattern makers, fabric cutters, dyers, seamstresses, consultants, tailors, and even marketers who are responsible for everything you see on a runway or in a luxury men’s store.
Post-Imperial, the Nigerian men’s label founded by Niyi Okyboyejo in 2012, doesn’t want to blow up this godly designer myth. But Okyboyejo is definitely interested in opening it up. While many designers insist on a narrative for their collections that creates a tight sense of control, he prefers to think in mythology. Narrative, he says, “is self-centered. “You want to take some kind of power, you want to tell the story.” Mythology “is more like a community.” One myth says: “Everyone took part in this story so that it becomes a story that is embodied in them.” Therefore, for example, “many African cultural practices have survived with the Middle Passage”.
“It’s not my story,” he says of Post-Imperial. “My story is involved, but it’s not just about me.”
A new project with photographer Joshua Kissi shows this ethos in action. The pictures were shot in Manhattan’s Little Senegal, “my favorite neighborhood in New York – it’s not even close,” says Okyboyejo. The pictures show people from the creative industry who were born there or live there in Kissis Kreis. They’re all dressed in Post-Imperial’s fall collection of muted chenilles, wavy knitwear, and contrasting split t-shirts. Instead of styling the themes, Kissi and Okyoboyejo let Kissi and Okyoboyejo choose the themes for the clothes – “I just told them to go on the rack and choose things, so it’s an extensive collaborative process.” The fall collection was from the West African rice dish Jollof inspires, and Okyboyejo, who talks about Zoom from Nigeria, recalls that during the shoot, he and Kissi and the models talked playfully about whose country made the best version.
“For me, it’s this sensitive design,” he says, “where you design with everyone else in mind. I don’t see Post-Imperial as a kind of platform on which to strengthen my ego. Not to say that sometimes I don’t fall into this trap, but I try as much as possible to make it bigger than me. “
His fall 2020 collection marks a new step forward. In part, it’s the softness of the collection – especially relaxed suits made from chenille fabric treated with the traditional Adire dyeing technique from southwestern Nigeria. (Timothee Chalamet wore the blue jacket in our November cover story.) Okyboyejo was looking for fleece or velvet that might reflect the texture of Jollof, but discovered the chenille and remembered the thought, “This is actually much, much cooler because it looks like a cord, but it’s soft and very plush. “The dyes took it especially well – the yellow, gray and blue tones are almost a yawning palette.