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The Power of Telling our Stories through Fashion

By Oriolowo Taiwo

The fashion industry is filled with fashion brands, all with the sole aim of pushing distinct orientations. Fashion and emotions are intertwined, which lead us to dress according to how we feel or what feelings we have bottled up at that particular time. A typical example of this is the tradition of wearing black outfits to a burial ceremony, which shows emotion and depicts how we feel at that time. All unique arms of the fashion world are focused on pushing a narrative or an attempt to pass across a message.

I particularly like to view clothes as being or going beyond great pieces of materials or random graphical prints on fabrics put out to make sales. There is a tale of emotions in play; fashion is art and art is meant to express how you feel. For every design approach, there is a background story influencing the design. It's all about pushing a narrative, leveraging on emotions you find familiar amidst your audience.

Now, an effort to tell a story through fashion balls down to the objective or vision of the creator, this may be based on personal experience or common interest between the creator and the audience. Every step of creating contains a link from start to finish; there is some synergy to keep the audience connected. Nonetheless, over the years, we have had significant players in the fashion industry successfully tell a story through their collection and even seen these brands collaborate, summed with putting out innovation to help buttress their tales.

How do you tell these stories? How authentic are these stories? How do you sell those stories? The most basic response to this will be to channel your story based on personal experiences in creating your designs. Personal engagement with the audience is top tier in executing the task. Telling a story through fashion is purposeful, and this helps build authentic relationships with the audience.

A good example of a brand that is great with storytelling is NIKE. The brand has been able to establish a community worldwide accompanied by a strong but self-explanatory tag line, "Just do it". Nike has consistently pushed the narrative of anyone and everyone being able to accomplish anything, regardless of background, ethnicity or orientation. Through its value of human connection and story narratives, we have seen the brand bring to the limelight several people who have gone above and beyond in their respective fields, which is a brilliant way of fuelling connectivity with its audience and at the same time remaining true to the brand's ethos, values and goals.

Another good brand is the Amsterdam-based brand Daily Paper which has consistently told its unique story over the years. From intentional detailed materials, print on designs etc., the brand has successfully built a community based on telling a story of common and mutual interests. We have also seen great collaborations that expound on a fine balance between designs, narrations and contents.

Ghana's streetwear brand Free The Youth has consistently pushed the youth culture narrative really well in the African space. This has earned the designer a strong community of vibrant youths in the diaspora who share the same interest and evolve in several fields while still maintaining this common interest and pushing the narrative. This has allowed outsiders and foreigners to feel and experience an independent understanding of the creators and originators.

Telling stories through fashion has helped build up communities of people who share common interests regardless of location barriers, nationality, race or ethnicity. This has helped and enabled people all over the world who are interested in these brands to get first-hand experience and valuable knowledge of emotions, histories and brand values through the power of storytelling. The audience, by following the designer's work process, is able to tune in to the experience and feel some sort of justification. The presentation of culture is also a win in the effort to tell our stories through fashion, as there is in-depth knowledge on the origin of a design.

Image credit

Photography & Styling: Daniel Obasi

Models: Adesuwa, Rebecca Fubunmi, Temidayo Sanusi

Clothes: Lisa Folawiyo Studio, Kenneth Ize, Maki Oh

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