Emerging designer Olubiyi Thomas sits down with us to discuss the inspiration behind his new designs following the launch of some of his key pieces for the season on Farfetch. Read on to find out more about this fascinating designer.
1. Describe your brand in 2 words?
2. Can you expand on what this means to you?
Archaic, meaning an ode to the ancient past. Modernism, rejecting conventions and the ideology of realism, re-appropriating historic concepts in order to create something more progressive and I guess more subversive.
3. Which other designers do you like?
Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Ann Demeulemeester, Damir Domar, cult designers like Helmut Lang, Carol Christian Poell (CPC), Geoffrey B Small and Paul Harnden. I could go on but that’s all I can remember for now.
4. How would you describe your work process?
I’m very tactile regarding the fabrics I use; very often they inform the foundations of my designs, and I restrict myself to natural fibres such as cottons, silks, linens and wool. My silhouette is long and tailored, fusing western cuts with eastern shapes and drapery.
Historically across many different cultures, garments were constructed in a really clever way, creating the fewest seams possible, which results in geometric shapes, like kimonos, kaftans and Nigerian bubas. I incorporate these techniques into my pattern cutting so everything fits together like a puzzle giving the pieces an ethnographic feel along with a regal aesthetic.
5. What inspires you?
Multiculturalism, the idea of a cultural melting pot of influences out of which the unexpected emerges. I feel in some ways, my dual nationality makes me a living example of this with my family being Nigerian and being brought up in Scotland. Also, ancient sites of dynamic trade and commerce, like Constantinople and Babylon, echo the diversity of London, and form a backdrop for a narrative of hybridity, which I always draw from.
6. How did you first get into fashion?
It was kind of an accident. I started out in fine art, particularly portraiture and while attending a portfolio course at Cardonald College in Glasgow, I was persuaded to apply for the foundation course at Central St Martins. Having got an unconditional offer I moved down to London to study where I finally had the freedom to experiment with new forms and processes, which revealed my desire to work more three dimensionally.
7. Why menswear?
I was always interested in vintage clothes because they allowed me to access the luxury of another era, while current luxuries were unaffordable and out of reach. This naturally led me to consider different ways of dressing men, modelled on myself and my own taste.
8. Would you describe your work as art or fashion?
While fashion is based on transient trends, I think art is more superfluous and goes beyond necessity. I tend to take a more artistic approach in the way I design by being way too impulsive, using a lot of random or found fabrics from different markets, many of which are not conventionally for garments. I’ve also started making one off pieces, which are more expressive and not merely practical but play more to the idea of essentially being objects of desire.
9. If you hadn’t pursued a career in fashion, what other paths would you have followed?
I guess I’ve always been obsessed with film. Maybe because of the multisensory universe it creates, in which fashion, music and cinematography are encapsulated. I like directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick, Wim Wenders, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Spike Lee.
I'd also love to make music at some point.
10. Where do you envisage your brand in the next 5 years?
I would like to eventually have my own shop / Atelier, maybe one in London, Glasgow and in Lagos. It would be a dynamic space of all kinds of creativity, where I could create anything of my own choosing at any given moment rather than relying on the somewhat dated season to season rhythm of the fashion industry. But I hear things are changing.