Nigerian designer Gabriel Ugochukwu debuts new collection ‘AFLOAT’ for menswear brand Russell Solomon. AFLOAT is an acronym for “African Force Lifting Off And Thriving”, the 20-piece collection is more than just an aesthetically-pleasing assemblage. In this collection, Russell Solomon helps further the conversation on the mental health challenges faced by creatives as well as developing a sustainable approach to fashion for up and coming talents.
To ordinary eyes, a creative’s ability to invent can seem like child’s play. While it would be pretty nice to be able to turn on creativity like a faucet and effortlessly create and execute brilliant ideas, it doesn’t work that way. Creatives have to be artistically stimulated.
For Abuja-based designer Gabriel Ugochukwu of emerging Nigerian menswear brand Russell Solomon, his creative genius did not quite strike when expected and when it did, it struck in the unlikeliest of places. After placing a spot as one of the top 5 finalists for the 2018 Lagos Fashion Week Fashion Focus Fund where he showcased his SS19 collection titled Code of Conduct, Gabriel decided to go on a year-long hiatus in order to rediscover the brand’s purpose.
In a time where creatives have become so aware of their mental health, it’s no surprise that Gabriel identified the pressures & expectations and made an intentional move to take a break.
“As a creative, there’s often a lot of pressure to perform, to create and to excite. After my showcase at Lagos Fashion Week 2018, it was clear to me that I needed to take time off to rediscover myself and the purpose for the brand” – Gabriel Ugochukwu
In the course of his journey to self and purpose rediscovery, Gabriel went down memory lane where he was reminded of the dream, which was to build a timeless brand which creates functional and forward-looking pieces. In finding artistic stimulation, Gabriel channelled his inner zen and took new hobbies which helped him dedicate more time to self-care and as a result, he felt inspired to create a collection aimed at encouraging young creatives who are faced with such pressures.
“This is a body of work that I hope will inspire and encourage young creatives like myself. With this collection, I’m sending out a message that says it’s okay to feel burnt out, to feel pressure. The most important thing is that you don’t sink into the pressure, that you take time to discover or rediscover yourself and purpose.” – Gabriel Ugochukwu
Beyond inspiration drawn from mental health challenges faced as a creative, the earth played a huge role in his latest assemblage as is core to the brand – previous collections such as Skin, You-Th & Code of Conduct are a testament to this. With each collection, a consciousness to the role that fashion plays in building a sustainable environment is heightened, which is why Gabriel continues to opt for a sustainable approach to Russell Solomon’s mode of production.
“Sustainability is more than just a wave – it means being conscious and intentional as it relates to the earth and people in it. It is our responsibility to take positive steps in maintaining the earth and this includes us being conscious of our production process.” – Gabriel Ugochukwu
Gabriel’s play on earthy tones such as greens, beige, and brown, can be interpreted quite literally with his choice of fabrics being organic cotton sourced from Ethiopia, linen, adire and denim, a reference to his stance on building Russell Solomon into a sustainable brand. As ever at Russell Solomon, the foundations are functional, sartorial pieces that incorporate casual and semi-corporate, as well as a sporty element. Understanding the influence culture has on our identity and creativity Russel Solomon brings in elements of his Igbo roots from materials used the Uli inspired prints and the eye-catching cut-outs and cargo pants.
Head over to the website to shop the collection and see more from Russell Solomon