Keep An Eye on: Buki Akib
We found Buki Akib last week at Capsule in New York. Among the endless array of cool stuff, her vibrant and voluminous creations managed to stand out. Or really, they drew us in. Her clothing—menswear all inspired by her home country of Nigeria—is alluring in its combination of appearing both outré and familiar, modern but earthy and it oozes with the delight of something profound. The indigenous references aren’t chasing a trend or worse, appropriating a culture, rather they’re there to connect the “now” with time worn African style. Buki Akib, only a few years after graduating from Central Saint Martins in London only has a few collections under her belt, but with her craftsmanship and eye for translating foreign objects into modern design, she’s got us hooked already. Check out our interview with Buki Akib and her Fall 2013 look book, after the jump.
EH: Can you describe what native Nigerian prints are? What are the identifying trademarks?
BA: If you look through history, the usual print you will see is from the Yoruba tribe, called aso -oke fabric, They are stripes that could be thick or thin. But along the years the patterns have evolved and we see more colors and geometric shapes. Aso-oke fabric is usually worn for an occasion whether it be a naming ceremony, wedding or death. Culturally, theses are all paths of celebration. So the colors and patterns on the aso-oke can signify the type of tribe or even identify the family.
EH—How have you worked with the prints throughout your collections?
BA: To me working with prints on the aso-oke fabric is a form of communication. It’s how I describe the mood of my collection and history of my culture.
EH: Do you source them from a special place in Nigeria? (I think I remember you saying Lagos, but is there a specific organization you go through? Looking to see if you have a relationship with the community in Nigeria)
BA: I found local weavers just outside Lagos. The are super talented and skilled. So I go to them with patterns I have drawn and we work together to develop the prints onto the fabric. I am working to get the government to support the scheme I want to start by supporting the textile industry. It will take some time. But I am up for the challenge.
EH: How would you describe the style of Buki Akib? Also, what does “men’s style” mean to you?
BA: Well, the BUKI AKIB style is one of a kind. Men’s style is seeing men back home [in Nigeria] wearing their traditional attire. Effortlessly stylish.
EH: When did you first know you wanted to create clothing? How did you go about making that a reality?
BA: I always thought I was going to be a painter. I was advised by various art tutors to try fashion illustration then textiles. So I ended up doing my BA degree in fashion design with knitwear at Central Saint Martins.
EH: You started off with menswear, just wondering what drew you to guys clothing as opposed to women’s…
BA: Again at my final year I was advised to try menswear. So I did and I have never looked back.
EH: What is the ultimate goal of Buki Akib? What do you hope to achieve though your designs?
BA: Like everybody else I have hopes, dreams and aspiration. I just take each day as it comes.
EH: Buki Akib is a beautiful name. Do you know where it comes from? If it has a literal meaning?
BA: Buki is short for BUKOLA . Typical yoruba name. And AKIB is my mothers maiden name. My character is pretty much like the AKIB family. We are dysfunctional but have a great sense of humor.
EH: Can you tell us a little about the project you’re working at at he Welkultren Museum?
BA: The exhibition at the Welkultren museum in Frankfurt is called “Trading Styles” and will end this summer. I was invited to create a collection interpreting artefacts from their ethnographic collection.The objects were put into sections—Africa, Oceania, Asia and Amercians. It was really overwhelming because you got to see objects such has daggers, huge rowing boats, drums, masks, delicate hair combs to metal jewelry the list goes on. I decided to choose musical instruments from each country. Why? I liked the idea that music from each country was a form of communication. The sounds of the instruments gives the listener a sense of spirituality and identity. An example was the Gemelan orchestra from southeast Asia the gongs, drums and xylophone were all a way to communicate to the higher spirits. I felt really emotional touching the instruments (with gloves) and seeing the craft that had gone into making something so amazing. I looked at thumb pianos from Africa which were my favourite cause I use to play with it when i was young in Lagos. Then water drums from paupa guinea which were mind blowing to see. The museum had a great video archive so I was able to watch a lot of short documentary films and a library so I read books on how the objects were made. We were given a studio to work from and another secure room were they placed our chosen objects. I was able to see object anytime of the day. Even at night in my pjs! This collection was about a feeling, following my instincts with the sounds i heard from the instrument . I knitted delicate fabrics from monofilament to illustrate the spiritual connection i felt. I had my weavers in Lagos make the bold prints on the aso -oke fabric to imitate the sounds of the water drums. This was a new way of being creativity for me and I enjoyed every moment.
Check out Buki Akib’s past work at bukiakib.com