BORN IN LAGOS, NIGERIA TOBI ADEBOWALE IS A LOCAL ART DIRECTOR, STYLIST AND DESIGNER. TOBI BEGAN HIS JOURNEY INTO FASHION WITH A STYLE BLOG CALLED 'THE EYE LONDON', A SHOWCASE FOR LOCALLY SOURCED FASHION. HIS STYLING EXPERIENCE RUNS THE GAMUT, FROM COLLABORATIONS WITH FILTHY REBENA AND BLUE PEPPER VINTAGE, TO FEATURES IN LONDON FUSE. HERE, TOBI REFLECTS ON WHAT INFLUENCED HIS JOURNEY INTO FASHION AND GIVES US INSIGHT INTO HIS DEBUT STREETWEAR COLLECTION.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY INTO FASHION?
Hip-hop introduced me to fashion, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, in particular. The way their music and their fashion were almost one in the same, their style spoke to me as much as their music. Watching them over the years, and their evolution, helped me also grow and evolve my style.
HOW WOULD YOU BEST DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A CREATIVE?
I'm definitely a stylist first. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who's a fashion designer, about how when I think of designing a piece I go the opposite direction of her process as a designer. First, I think about what outfit the piece would be a part of and how it should fit or look and then I work backward to what would go into making a piece that would fit perfectly into this complete look. I also do a lot of creative direction, whether it's for Bloom or shoots for my blog posts, or the few fashion shows I've put together. I'm a very visual person and I literally see stuff in my head and try to reproduce it in real life as close to the original picture as possible. I'm equal parts stylist and creative director.
HOW HAS YOUR CULTURE/BACKGROUND INFLUENCED YOUR JOURNEY?
My people have an adage that says "A river that forgets its source will surely dry up," that pretty much sums it up. I was raised by my mother in Lagos, Nigeria. I’m pretty much a product of my environment. My worldview and perspective are shaped by all my experiences, most of which took place in Lagos, so it definitely influences the way I process my thoughts. It's always present in my head when I'm making decisions, even if it's just on a subconscious level.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS?
I’m excited when I visualize an idea for the first time. I'm excited when I’m executing the idea and when I have to improvise or adapt to any challenges. Then I'm excited when I see the idea in motion. Can't say I prefer any part to the other.
WHAT'S THE MEANING
BEHIND NAMING YOUR COLLECTION ''BLOOM''?
That's what flowers do when the time is right. Before they bloom plants go through a lot to prepare themselves for that moment. That's how I feel about the collection. It is my very first collection and a lot of wanting, wishing, hoping, and hard work went into making it happen.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU
TO CROSS OVER FROM
STYLING INTO DESIGNING
YOUR OWN COLLECTION?
As a stylist, I try to use other people's clothes to tell a story or make a statement. I felt like it was time to contribute a piece of me into the stories I'm telling. The other reason, which is more of a long term goal, is I want to be able to provide young men and women with good quality, classic, and timeless alternatives to the big name brands charging them an arm and a leg to stay on trend.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN DRAWING INSPIRATION
I'm always looking and just trying to assimilate as much as I can. I don't have any formal fashion education or training. Everything I know comes from online publications, articles, talking to other people. I just try as much as possible to read. I make sure I read at least one fashion related article a day. I also do a lot of window shopping online, just to stay aware of what stores are carrying and what's trending. I like to be able to see an outfit and know where the pieces are from. There's things in pop culture and things from my past that I can draw from and build on.
WHO AREYOUR FAVOURITE MEDIA CREATORS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, AND ARTISTS IN THE CITY?
Mofe; he's a photographer, model and graphic designer, kind of like a creative Swiss army knife (laughs). I work with him a lot, he gets me and he gets it. I don't really have a favourite though. Everyone I've ever worked with brought something new and different to the table.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST INNER OBSTACLE IN YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY AND HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED IT?
Fear of failure. It leads me to self depreciate. I try to count my blessings and just go back and look at what I've done. It helps a lot seeing how far I've come.
WHAT ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO CULTIVATE HERE IN THE CITY WITH YOUR WORK?
That's a big question. I really don't know. What I do know is that Bloom is the first step of many on this journey. At the end of the day, I think every creative seeks to create or seek out a tribe of people who enjoy their art and gives them a purpose or a reason to keep doing what they do. So I guess I'm trying to cultivate my own tribe in London now and eventually the rest of the world.