Over the years, menswear fashion in Nigeria has, no doubt, undergone a continuous transformation. What we used to know and understand as “menswear” is evolving every day. Although, change in this sector of the fashion industry is perceived slow as only a few menswear designers seem to be willing to critique the norm. It, therefore, takes a lot of energy and passion to thrive in a society where toxic masculinity ranks the order of the day – a society that tends to lay a lot of emphasis on what a man is expected to wear rather than on the power of comfort. In essence, this narrative, that has been passed on from those before us, has placed so many limits on the dynamism of menswear.
On the issue of thriving, the Maxivive label seems to “mess” with the Nigerian narrative. Maxivive is a Nigerian based menswear brand founded by Papa Oyeyemi in 2007. This menswear label is set to focus on the distinctiveness of individuality and a person’s true identity. From the label’s unique design architecture and choice of fabrics, Maxivive has proven to become a menswear brand to reckon within the fashion industry.
It was indeed a great opportunity to sit with Papa to discuss his thoughts on the evolution of menswear and ever-changing definition of masculinity.
RS: How would you describe the menswear fashion industry in Nigeria?
PO: I think the current state of menswear in Nigeria is constantly developing.
Why do you think non-conforming outfits are sometimes not received by the general public?
I think it’s just because people don’t accept what they don’t know. It’s difficult for you to just accept what you do not know and what you do not understand. I don’t take it personally, trust me. I mean, it took thirty years for the internet to circulate around the world and it is still not everywhere. There are still some places with no internet, so why do you think it’ll just take a few years for you to know that you don’t have to wear a shirt and trouser alone?
What inspires you to create more androgynous designs?
There has to diversity in the way we see things, and that’s just the way I see things. That’s just me interpreting what I see. It’s nothing personal; I’m not trying to make everybody cross-dress or wear gowns, no. I simply subscribe to the idea of replicating things the way I see them, from my own perception.
Can you predict the future of the Nigerian fashion industry as more of these non-conforming labels are popping up?
If I’m to predict that, I’d say the shaft would have to be sieved out. Once this is done, then can we truly know the difference between the designers who are riding with the trends and those creating menswear for a better reason. I mean, it’s okay to do it because it is trending, but I think it’s better to do it because it is just the way you see things. That’s basically innate.
Nigerian men are changing; are fashion brands keeping up?
If brands are keeping up to factors like this, it means those brands are the ones I previously referred to – their goal is to trend. I’m not a trendy brand, so I’m not keeping up with things like that.
The work of a designer is to predict, to curate, to solve problems and carefully suggest what consumers should wear the next season. So, if you now base that on what people are wearing, it means you are just jumping on the trend to make money and in turn, you are not doing your job. I believe, as a designer, you’re just to curate and people will catch up with it in the future.
Robert Fiyinfolowa Solomon is a freelance creative writer born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria. Despite his busy schedule, he loves talking about fashion and getting his voice heard on the internet.