There’s something so fresh about cultural integration, particularly when such a mergence takes place aesthetically within a sphere of clothing. When colours and textures and customs and styles come together, on equal level, to tell an array of stories in pain, struggle, opportunity and triumph.
I love it. I love the art of wearable art. The skill in speaking volumes without having to say a word. Introducing thought, character and past time, ways of life and worldly traditions, simply and powerfully through what you choose to wear, or design – for others to wear.
The British capital stays King and Queen in this gift of originality. A taste, and never a “trend”, in fashionable expression… How fortunate I am to have been bred in a city unabashed in its melting pot of effortlessly inspiring intertwining style.
So anyway, one London summer’s day, I receive an invitation to effect of the above. It was to attend an event focused on “African fashion”, with catwalk shows and photo shoots all going down on one of East London’s vibrantly “happening” streets. As a fiend for all that good stuff, I gladly accept and off I go.
Morocco’s Hassan Hajaj was on photo duty, doing what he does best as he captured all the glorious clothing moments so gracefully inter-mingled within the affair’s proceedings. He then starts shooting a set-up styled by the ever-talented Samson Soboye. I curiously and quickly gravitate over.
Samson hails from Nigeria, was born and raised in the UK, and evidently lives for fashion – designing (his own collections), styling (editorials all over the UK) and teaching (at the London College of Fashion).
“It’s in my DNA” he says, as we take a seat outside the sophisticated simplicity of his Shoreditch based store. Like his collections, I can’t help but admire the dapper tones of his colourful outfit. This ‘old England’ flair to the African prints so seamlessly put together. “Well, it’s a result of who I am… I grew up in England, but on visiting Nigeria I felt a spiritual connection there, it’s home and home, so it’s only natural for me to do this, to combine my inspirations”
Ever been to the Middle East?
“No, but I’d love to, I’m seeing and hearing great things when it comes to creativity over there”
Indeed. I then introduce the celebrated designer to style similarities between the more traditional roots of the Arabian region and East Africa, a shared use of vibrant prints, and even commonalities spotted in men’s fashion found both in Saudi and Nigeria.
“Fascinating… I had no idea of this relationship, history really is telling isn’t it. I guess this means I should take all these pieces and make my way over super soon!”
Whose pieces do you love? Who is Samson’s favourite designer?
Superb choice. Model?
“And Linda Evangelista, she’s another flawless female.”
Speaking of flawless, I notice an exquisite set of jewellery, glaring at me, calling and enticing through Samson’s shop window… can I also count accessories as part of his designing repertoire?
“Oh no, I house a number of fantastic designers, most of which compliment my collection I suppose, it’s the stylist in me to curate in this way. Finsk supply the shoes, I also have Anita Quansah in-store, Ituen Basi [who recently showcased in Dubai with Vogue Italia, as part of the VFDE experience] and Prey of London. It’s very much a global feel, with a wholly African emphasis.”
What about this term ‘African print’, a little broad don’t you think?
“Of course, it’s a simplification”
As is most of the English language when it comes to any description of what is “ethnic”.
“Ha! This is very true.”
Do you have a preferred motherland print?
“I love a lot of what’s coming out of Ghana actually, and Aso-Oke from Nigeria.”
And music, fashion’s favourite mistress, any particular loves there?
“Love D’banj, I appreciate his introduction of today’s afro-beat sound into the global market.”
“Thai cuisine, anything and everything Thai!”
Oh. Asia now comes into play then. Are we likely to see this in future collections also? An African Asian infusion in the wake?
“I’m already a big fan of Indian fabrics so who knows. We’re all very international here, anything from anywhere can happen darling – at any time.”
*This interview is also available in print, in the October 2013 issue of Dubai’s D’Journal magazine.