Afrofuturism has been a defining fashion movement for the continent in recent years, focusing on a modernist and cosmopolitan perspective through patterns, crafts and representation. Louie Akinwale’s brand Lu by Lu is a Lagos-born atelier providing a new wave of wearability to both high-society and underground movements, viewing the diasporic subculture through a lens of community and the pulse of Afrobeat. Made from sustainable materials, linings sourced from the waste of the West, and beads crafted from recycled materials in Akinwale’s bedrock of Lagos,the bags are as ethical as they are eye-catching. Akinwale himself exudes a raw energy that has served his creative pursuits as a model and creative director well, and is woven into the aesthetics and culture of Lu by Lu.
Who are you?
My name is Louie. I’m 28 and from London. I’m a model, a designer, an art director, and a men’s wear editor for different concept stores. I’ve modelled for Loewe, Stone Island, Gucci Moncler, Armani, and others. I’m very confident in my own way. I like to meet new people and I’ve always got a smile on my face. I live for the moment. I founded Lu by Lu two years ago, and I have been honoured and blown away by the global support and interest in the brand.
Talk about Lu by Lu?
The opportunity to start Lu by Lu presented itself in a really organic way. My mother is a designer and she got sent a bag. I was like, ‘yo, this bag is actually really cool, but it could definitely be elevated, maybe change the silhouette, change the pattern here...”. Lu by Lu started to slowly progress from that. I brought different elements of design, culture and creativity to my own bags. I feel that when you have your own brand, you can express yourself in any way possible — you’ve got something to give. I have always wanted to create a community where people can come, show their talent, and express themselves through the brand.
Everything is beaded and made with recycled plastic.We source the beads, and they are handmade in Nigeria. Our bags use the lining of old bags and make them into our new bags. There’s a lot of waste, as everyone knows, and we used old Michael Kors lining in our bags for a while, all sourced in Lagos. There’s a lot of discarded textiles that land up in Lagos, so we use recycled bits from all over the world. We hand make everything, nothing goes to waste, everything is in component with the bag.
Elaborate on your latest collection?
I shot the collection myself, and it is called Shakara and was inspired by Fela Kuti. Shakara is an Ahwai word meaning to show off or to be brilliant — the work and the collection are very out there. I’m a committee member at Soho house, London, so we filmed it there — they are very supportive of creativity. I focused on cultural appropriation and used all white models. As much as it’s controversial, it’s also honest, because when you’re shopping in the western world, you don’t see African designs. I wanted to just show African designs within a Western context of wealth — they were all wearing African clothing and they didn’t even realise. I was guided by wanting to sell African designs and products in a western context and juxtaposing African design onto them, rather than the other way round. It created a message of embracing foreign cultures and experiencing their clothes. We are all community people, we are all family and we need to portray that sense of community. Fela Kuti was a pioneer, being all about expression and being very loud and bold, and the collection captures that.