Black is a colour to most,
Black is a Race to politicians,
Black is grotesque to the ignorant,
Black is beauty to my Motherland, and
Black is an identity to me!!!
Just as the cliché movie title, "50 Shades of Grey" suggests variation in colour, I believe there are more than 50 shades of black.
Black as an identity is more than just the skin, it goes all the way back to historical events such as slavery and social exclusion. Being black means embracing what historical activities have been stigmatised to the word black, over-coming the brutal behaviour directed toward our ancestors (Nelson Mandela) and what they went through, constantly fighting to be seen as the norm, rather than 'the other'.
The norm being the white race, mostly Europeans and 'the other' being Africans, African Americans, Asians, Arabs...etc.
I got asked a question, and I was surprised by my response -- "If you had to choose one, which would it be; Are you a woman or Black?" Bear in mind that if you asked a white woman, her response will be "woman". Of course, my instinct said Black, despite being proud of my womanhood. It is this feeling of having to constantly feel like I must defend my race before my gender that saddens me. Another reason is, the term feminism has lost all it's meaning when it is overly popularised on T-shirts to gain financial income. Now I am not saying some of the motives behind the production of such clothing is not good, but with the mass production and Instagram filtered posts that have the "We should all be feminists" shirt has lead to a lost translation of what being a Feminist is.
When majority of White people think of us 'Black' individuals, an idea of increased crime rate comes to mind, you think of gang fights and aggressive behaviours. Oh, and let's not forget the silly 'tatted up' bodies, grills and gold chains big enough to imprison someone. I do acknowledge that some of these stereotypes are based on what has been seen, but the ignorance of what a Black person is, seems to constantly re-surface. Another stigmatised term when thinking of black is the monkey and/or ape -- The BET's series, "Being Mary Jane" shines light on what being an "Ugly Black Woman" can be, in an interview on 'Talk Back with fictional character Elizabeth Foy and Mary-Jane, played by Gabrielle Union. Another encounter is a white man calling Mary-Jane a "Black Bitch" (Season 2, Episode 9) furthering identifying her as a monkey "...Because you look like a monkey, an ugly BLACK MONKEY".
So what exactly is black?
Africa is a developing continent, even more so in the fashion industry, so it is hard not to recognise talent when it surfaces - I present The Iwade.Brand, formerly known as 'The Line-Up Brand X K.A.E', a Nigerian born clothing brand that shows off the raw talent of its country's creatives.
It seems like the creative industry is something that is inescapable, as much as society tries to put it under the category of being a 'hobby'. Keisha Eromosele, who is the creative director of this brand started off studying Computer Science and somehow just couldn't keep her hands off the fabric.
The Iwade.Brand shows off precision and attention to the body's silhouette. Focusing on shoulder blades, neck lines and most importantly, comfort!!! The Iwade brands aesthetic is one that keeps it classy with a bit of sassy, not too boring but enough prints to keep the eyes lusting for more. Enough said. Here is a Q&A with the mind behind this brand:
1. What is ‘The Iwade brand? And what brought about this name?
I changed the name of the brand because it represents where I am from and in the past this is exactly what I wanted to achieve. I included initials, "IWADÉ" is Eweade which is my name. It means "I did not fall" so I also see it as a great message to base a brand on. Unlike the other options I had, this didn't take time to come up with.
I made the decision pretty quick cause it felt so right! Still does, went to a few of my friends to ask for opinions which is the usual thing for me and they all loved the idea.
2. Briefly tell us what inspires your designs?
My designs are pretty much inspired by everything like I said. I am not limited to what gives me inspiration. I try and have an open mind whenever I am working on designs for a client or the brand and sometimes this might mean getting inspired by and learning from my environment, watching an old 70’s show, literally or picking things from previous styles or designs to get what I want.
3. I think it is safe to say your collection leans toward the basics, i.e. The off-shoulder body-fitted dresses and the turtle neck body-suits. Do you think you might go toward the extravagant side? More Red-carpet glamour?
Yes, definitely. I always say I would not sell anything I wouldn’t wear myself and my personal style leans towards the simple dresses and body suits. I love it when the main features of my designs get people staring, especially at how the outfit falls and fits and it’s not so much about the bold/bright colour or the extravagance of the style. It is much easier to style something simple, which is why the ready-made clothes fall under the “simple” category. However, for custom made pieces, I do tend to move away from the basics and try something new for the clients. I have worked on a few dinner outfits so far and would love to do more extravagant and red carpet worthy designs.
4. It is remarkable that all these pieces are made in NIGERIA, what made you decide this? Is that a marketing strategy and is it paying off?
Honestly, I just had a better chance of getting the clothes made in Nigeria at the time but then I decided to put it out there as a ‘made in Nigeria’ brand because I felt like a lot of us go out of our way to order out of the country. Most Nigerians might be encouraged to try out one of their own. When I thought about it at first, it was to make the statement that “Nigerians can do these things too!!!”, we don’t necessarily need to go out to get them. I mean we have the choice, but it shouldn’t be because we don’t think we can do the same. So, what wasn’t an intentional marketing strategy ended up working as one and worked out well.
5. Who is ‘The Iwade.Brand individual? Is it both Sexes? [Male and Female] Or just aimed at one Sex?
The Line-up caters to both sexes. Currently we only sell female clothes but I am working on releasing the male pieces sometime this year.
6. Do you have a small creative team or is this just all you?
I wouldn’t exactly call them a team they are more of family. I work on the designs and select the materials then my mum who has been in the fashion business for over 25 years makes the clothes. I have only had one shoot which was what I used to kick-start the brand. My sisters (Lisa and Mya Eromosele) and friends (Taiwo Ogundipe and Moyin Orimoloye) were my models. They all took time out to meet with me at the studio. My first and only shoot for the brand was with photographer, Austin Usen (@nehroo), we hadn’t met before then but he understood my vision and what I wanted to give.
Now when it comes to advertisement, I cannot stress how important this was. The rest of my friends played a huge role when it came to promoting the brand. They posted on every social media platform available and purchased items without me asking them. They went out of their way to ensure we got the word out. So, you see I cannot really call them a “team” that kind of sounds like they are obligated to do these things but they just did it to help. I might model the clothes sometimes or promote myself but the people around me really deserve the credit.
7. It’s only been 2-3 months since you launched the brand and you have hit over 200 followers on Instagram, does this make you proud?
Yes, it does!! I am very grateful to God for how far the brand has come in just 2 months. I feel really blessed to be able to put my designs out there and have people acknowledge it.
8. Do you have plans for ‘The Iwade Brand’ for the near future?
I am currently working on the spring/summer 2017 collection. It will be coming out soon so I have a lot of things to put in place.
There's a new girl in town, and it's the BIOLOGICAL WOMAN.
As Timberlake once said [or sang rather], "I'm bringing sexy back" and that's exactly what I intended on doing with this shoot.