There’s often a good deal of chatter in style circles about ‘ethnic-inspired details’, but few designers can actually claim a personal connection with the crafts they advocate. Niyi Okuboyejo, however, is able to assert such a claim. Born in Nigeria, he emigrated to the US aged 14 and after some trying spells in his formative years, realised his true calling lay in design. It was his homeland that was the catalyst for his brand, Post-Imperial.
Okuboyejo works closely with master dyers of the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria, who developed the art of Adire dyeing centuries ago. The resist-dyeing technique involves hand-painting a design in cassava starch or wax onto fabric, which is then dipped in dye and washed in hot water to fix it, producing vivid cloths with singular, emblematic prints.
They’re unmistakably a product of a land famed for its inventive use of colour and pattern. ‘Traditionally, Adire was used for special occasions in a cultural context,’ he explains. ‘Each motif has a meaning and significance, which allows the artist to tell a story within the garment.’
While he likes to have a creative input at every stage, Okuboyejo has learnt that letting things happen organically has its merits, too. ‘With our circle-print tie, the dyer was supposed to make small polka dots, but he did random big circles instead,’ he says. ‘I was so annoyed, then I caught sight of myself in the mirror with the fabric hanging over my shoulder – then it hit me that this mistake was better than my original idea.’
After dyeing, the fabrics are shipped to the New York workshop, where they’re sewn into ties, shirts and trousers. The process is symbolic of Okuboyejo’s own transatlantic journey and the brand reflects this cultural amalgam, combining the wearability of stateside apparel with an exotic je ne sais quoi.