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Mowalola OgunlesiPhotography Ruth Ossai

Four menswear designers you won’t find on the fashion week schedule

As LFWM kicks off, we take a look at the emerging talent coming out of Lagos, Tbilisi and beyond

This weekend marks the beginning of the AW18 menswear shows, as London Fashion Week Men’s kicks off and the likes of Craig Green, Cottweiler, Charles Jeffrey and Grace Wales Bonner showcase what we can expect from the season ahead. We’ve already given you our ones to watch – but what about the emerging and international designers who aren’t on the official calendars? Including fresh talent straight out of Lagos’ and Tbilisi’s burgeoning fashion scenes, the Central Saint Martins graduate who found inspiration in the rubbish piled up on the streets of Korea, and the visual artist exploring the sometimes difficult relationship between humans and technology, read on to discover five new names to put on your radar.

GOLA DAMIAN

Thanks in no small part to a certain designer by the name of Demna Gvasalia, there’s been a huge amount of attention on the fast-developing Georgian fashion scene for a while now. Though womenswear still prevails, a number of designers that are shifting their focus to menswear are beginning to emerge, with Gola Damian one of them. Showing at Tbilisi Fashion Week at the end of 2017, Damian sent a troupe of male and female models down his runway, as part of a collection that challenged conventional masculinity and femininity. Featuring boys in high-waisted leather pencil skirts and delicate crocheted cardigans, and girls in loose wool trousers and polo shirts emblazoned with I Need Your Love – created, says Damian, “for crowds of individuals, young and old, dancing non-stop to techno for hours, for days, for eternity” – the designer is becoming known for creating clothing that is beloved by Tbilisi’s forward-looking youth.

GOOM

GOOM is the menswear brand that almost never was; overwhelmed by a series of internship interviews and offers from the likes of MargielaLanvin and Kenzo midway through her BA course at Central Saint Martins, founder Goom Heo instead opted to leave fashion behind and head back to her native Korea to take time to recoup. Two years later she returned to CSM, presenting a final collection inspired by the stacks of rubbish she saw on the streets of Korea and China, and a man whose t-shirt had rolled up, exposing his pot-belly – “I thought it was cool that he didn’t care and neither did anyone else around him,” she says. Fusing traditional tailoring with sportswear, Heo’s exaggerated silhouettes and motifs encompass Eastern and Western influences, demonstrating an inherent aptitude for off-kilter print and texture. Having embarked on an MA in September of last year, we’re excited to see her next move.

MOWALOLA OGUNLESI

It’s little wonder that Mowalola Ogunlesi is embarking on a career in fashion; following in the footsteps of her mother, father and grandmother, the Central Saint Martins graduate is the third generation in a line of designers – though she’s is carving out a niche all her own, with her powerful final BA collection marking her as one to watch on the menswear landscape. In an homage to her homeland of Nigeria and its rich heritage, the designer found inspiration in the African psychedelic rock of the 70s and 80s, creating a series of unapologetically sexy, cropped jackets, slim, low-cut trousers and leather styles painted with distorted Lagos number plates and shop signs that put a futuristic spin on the era. “It was a celebration of the black African male,” said Ogunlesi of the collection, “his culture, his sexuality and his desires.”  

ORANGE CULTURE

Adebayo Oke-Lawal founded Orange Culture in 2011, with his debut collection appearing as part of Lagos Fashion Week the same year. Fusing contemporary silhouettes with traditional African construction methods, Orange Culture is “less a label and more a movement” according to Oke-Lawal. That movement is one that explores ideas of masculinity and identity politics against his country’s conservative social and political landscape – reflected similarly in the boundary-pushing Nigerian magazine A Nasty Boy. With his unique designs brought to life in bold Nigerian-inspired prints, he’s intent on securing Lagos’ place on the fashion map, and, given his past nomination for the revered LVMH Prize, seems to be well on the way to achieving his goal.