It is more crucial than ever for one to realise where there is a lack of diversity, but further work tirelessly to fill that space with those deserving and to change that narrative. In that recognition, and in the pursuit of shifting perspectives of the Nigerian Fashion industry, seeking to better represent the industries emerging talents, here we begin with the introduction of a brand, whose tireless efforts at contributing to the ‘New Africa’ Narrative have not only influenced but also inspired and driven their past and present projects.
PITH Africa, a budding fashion house in the heart of Nigeria, whose storytelling capabilities are quite evident in their pieces, that effortlessly break away from the cliche mold that so often restricts many Nigerian brands, although few would admit, took a seat (virtually) with BeingGauche.
PITH sparks interest, from their first collection entitled ‘Dilly1’ for which was accompanied by the realease of two short films one also baring the name ‘Dilly1’ and another entitled ‘Wildered Thoughts’ but also the for the invoking of a thought that perhaps indeed ‘there is more to fashion than merely aesthetic pieces and Instagram worthy editorials’, and so here we speak to PITH about not only their beginnings, but also the perception of the Nigerian Creative industry by those who may somewhat holding traditional views, their issues with the in-competencies that unfortunately drive the Nigerian Fashion industry, and more.
Who ARE you ‘guys’? Who makes up the team of PITH and what roles do each of you play within the brand?
Cosmas Ojemen: We are a trio. I am Cosmas Ojemen and I serve as the creative officer I am assisted by Adedayo Laketu as artistic director and Emeka Anazodo as CEO.
Adedayo Laketu: The word ‘Pith’ means different things to us at this stage of our lives, I think it all began at our basic understanding of Pith as botanical reference, a layer that protects and stores the soul of a plant relating that to our vessels we wanted to touch on the outer layers of a human life, to take the things they felt, insecurity, pain, emotions, consciousness using that to start our brand’s conversation while documenting everything around the environment they thrive in. Right now, it’s a definition of essence because we understand what we are, an aspiring fashion house documenting the identities currently pioneering Africa in elaborate, intricately aesthetic ways.
How did the journey begin and how hard has it been to start up? Both from the business perspective and the designing element, talking also on how your latest campaign developed.
Cosmas Ojemen: From a young age I always loved the idea of clothes, body variations and style; it’s no surprise that I found myself here, making clothes. Starting up has been quite enlightening particularly engaging the supply chain at different levels. We have been able to identify current lapses in production and are committed to coordinating our business model to cater for them. I spent a year in the city of Ibadan, Oyo and it was my first time engaging a design aesthetic for the brand.
Before then, we released our debut mini collection titled Dilly 1. Dilly means remarkable and is an on going narrative in Pith that accentuates the idea of a NEW AGE in Africa across different fields of creativity. It is a conversation on what goes on in an internet fuelled community of humans in Africa all linked together with a common goal. Dilly also presents us with an opportunity to gauge our growth trajectory as autodidact creatives from Nigeria learning from experience and engagement.
Dilly 1 was the first instalment in the conversation with a sub theme ‘Acceptance’. We believe that in order to build a personal relationship with self, we need to embrace our peculiarities. It was about representing the black skin as luxury and beautiful.
Dilly 2, the most recent mini-collection is centred round ‘Streetwear’. In other continents, outside perception of African fashion is streamlined to Ankara prints and fabric however, such is not the case when you live through the fashion here. Streetwear culture is big here in Nigeria with hardcore fans of brands like OFF-WHITE, SUPREME and Adidas in existence. With this mini collection, we aimed to juxtapose the idea of streetwear to various subcultures elements like the music and knockoff culture.
There is so much to be told about fashion in Nigeria and we are telling these stories with DILLY.
Emeka Anazodo: Firstly, starting and setting up a fashion business in this saturated and hyper-competitive industry hasn’t been the easiest because there’s a lot of intricacies involved. The industry isn’t easy to penetrate, you must dedicate yourself and develop consistency to gain acceptance. Running a fashion business means developing and following an organised creative process that works for you, a process others can work with and your customers appreciate. It’s a business that grows quickly if assembled appropriately and soon you find yourself with customers and suppliers scattered around the world, requiring delicate coordination and organisation.
It’s been a hassle nurturing a business stemming up from a third world country as Nigeria, a land founded on incompetencies that negatively affect owning a structured fashion business, the level of chaos, ignorance and misdirection towards fashion and business as a whole can’t be over emphasised.
From my experience as CEO, raising capital each season as sales increase and the business grows isn’t an easy task to maintain, our upfront costs increases because the money earned from previous sales sometimes might not be sufficient to finance the subsequent growth which can be daunting, we end up needing an inflow of more finance to bridge the gap which has to be governed properly in order to avoid any sort of financial block because it’s hard for a small fashion business to capitalise on the short-term buzz generated. The system doesn’t support young fashion brands in anyway.
Supplying products also hasn’t been an effortless task, we’ve learnt it’s important to be in tune with our detailers which is another process, we aim to create a style, curated under an aesthetic theme which can be complex but extremely rewarding.
(NB. I like to call my tailors ‘detailers’. I see them as the most important part of curating apparels, to me the life, shape and form of the garbs are established through the work of the detailers).
Detailers in this part of the word haven’t been given room to explore the art and skill of sewing, they’re stuck in mediocrity of the average Nigerian mind, not to say the traditional African aesthetic doesn’t have gems but we need to improve on these processes to step up the taste level of clothes made. We’ve worked with a few detailers across Dilly 1 & 2, it’s sometimes a hassle getting the designs out into the world but we get it done and the detailers are willing to explore something new, they just need more brands like ours to push the boundaries of what’s expected with African style.
A secret we learnt early on is having a dummy business plan, it helps in sustaining a pathway not just for raising investment, but also for clarifying goals & objectives and communicating these to our wider team of workers or employees for a better understanding of Pith’s DNA, which we aim to imbibe into the business and culture of our fashion house as a whole.
Our culture is founded on having the soul of of the new age African youth, we’re determined to build a business structure through fashion based on that.
Those are a few hurdles set across
When one finds a picture from the latest PITH collection, it’s easy to see it is a brand built to stand out. So, what then does individuality mean to PITH and how is it that it stands out from the other brands that exist.
Cosmas Ojemen: I believe being able to visually represent the soul of a youthful culture helps Pith standout as a brand, however the aim is not to standout.
Whenever we talk on the idea of youth culture, we do not refer to it singularly in context of a certain age demographic, rather, it is more of a mindset. It’s about garbing what it means to possess a youthful spirit.
I stumbled on a quote from Franz Kafka, a Jewish novelist and although I have not read his work, one of his quotes resonates deeply with everything we’re building Pith into. He says, ‘’Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old’’.
Adedayo Laketu: Akhere has a beautiful and distinct taste, he knows how every part of the brand should appear creatively, from the clothes, to the visuals, social media presence, to our fashion films, this has helped me artistically curate a new element for the world to preserve in Pith consciously. We don’t create to stand out but rather to stand in, to be with the people we create for, understanding and preserving each layer of the African culture both the old and developing is a primary ethos for Pith. This allows us own our own voice and helps the people that garb themselves with our products feel a sense of belonging to their inner self. We look for what’s not known and represent it through style, when you see anything from Pith we want you to relate and identify with something that only you feel. Everything else is commentary we aim to create a dialogue.
Pith seems to be more than just a brand it seems like a movement as well, what
would you say PITH Stands for as a movement and who is your targeted audience?
Cosmas Ojemen: I wouldn’t consider Pith a movement, rather, I’d say it is an identity; an identity preinstalled in all of humanity. We are here to document narratives of an existing emotion, culture and personality in way that connects all of humanity together. For me it’s about building a brand that integrates directly into everyday living of our consumers. We want the clothes to spark an internal conversation for every user in a way that projects them being in tune with their individuality as they navigate their style preferences.We are focused on a demographic craving to explore their uniqueness across different facets of their lives.
Adedayo Laketu: As a brand we are building a marvellous global fashion house founded on an African stage, one that truly creates around all facets of beauty and fashion we admire and relate to, starting from the African continent then beyond. Kering Group, Off-white, Supreme, O’real, are all at the top of their game around everything they do, we want to do the same. To make something that shows we’re capable of incredible taste levels as young Africans with a dream of building a new fashion & beauty empire that houses other departments, companies and innovative ideas. Africa is really beautiful and it inspires us so much, we want to have a fashion house that helps everyone appreciate this, our love for cultures, music, art, design, craft, innovation, a new age, pushes us to be more elemental for those who believe in the same narrative and want to explore this with style.
In Nigeria there is not a lot of acceptance, largely from the outside community of Lagos about the Creative means through which many of the youth are utilising to express themselves, so as a brand and with the individuals that make up PITH, is this acceptance even necessary? And how do you cope when people like
family may not understand the creative vision?
Adedayo Laketu: We don’t seek anyone’s validation to do what we must for the fashion revolution our generation is impacting. The fashion scene is more vibrant than it’s ever been, being from Nigeria and living in Lagos which has had four big fashion shows already in just the first quarter of the year proves to everyone, the global and local scene is becoming more aware of what our small circle of African fashion enthusiast are inspiring with their brands, styling, visuals, ecosystem. We have so much to do and we’re concentrated on that. We’re still in the early stages of the fashion culture being a more dominant and lucrative industry so a lot of people especially the older generation might not fully grasp and it’s understandable but that can’t hold us back.
Privilege is a topic constantly discussed in Nigeria, with many believing it as
being the main reason why Creatives in Nigeria are even capable of being
creative and expressing themselves in ways others may not be fortunate to. How true would you say this statement is? And would you say Nigerian society in using this Narrative to undermine the hard work that goes into any creative venture?
Cosmas Ojemen: The social and economic disparities in Nigeria is evidently glaring for a growing community of individuals looking to explore the arts. In a way you can say it dampens enthusiasm to pull through and follow your dreams in an uneven playing field. However I would say this; as an artist, you should not be fazed by the invalidation of your hard work by society. I’d advice that we keep an optimistic outlook, create more and change the society with art.
Adedayo Laketu: The gap between being wealthy and poor is super wide, the middle class is a very narrow spectrum. That being said, I come from the middle class and in creating Pith we’ve had to work really hard in terms of financing, executing ideas, sourcing materials, while navigating all the bullshit the African system throws at you. Undermining this would be very stupid cause it’s evident we’re doing a lot more than others attempted without their help. Using the internet, our creativity and voice regardless of the chaos of existing in a third world, overcoming challenges all adds to the African dreamer story, one we’re invested in and we hope more people can see the light within.
And lastly, what’s next for PITH, what should people keep their eye out for?
Cosmas Ojemen: We just released our mini collection, Dilly 2 and are looking to engage in collaborative collections with entities that represent aspects of what Pith stands for.