Why Tinie Tempah's swapping London for Lagos

"This isn't a departure, it's an arrival," Tinie Tempah tells Grazia about his race against time to show his first collection in Nigeria
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Why Tinie Tempah's swapping London for Lagos

When Tinie Tempah got a call about showing his clothing label What We Wear at ARISE Fashion Week in Nigeria, it gave him just seven days to design an entire collection. Grazia discovers what happened next…

What went through your mind when you found out you only had seven days to design a new collection?

When I got the call to bring What We Wear over, I was really excited about that. I performed at ARISE a couple years ago and I had such an amazing time there – even just being in Africa during a Fashion Week, the energy is completely different. Because I have Nigerian roots as well, for me it felt a bit like a homecoming but I never thought I’d come back in this kind of capacity – to go back to where my roots and my origins are and show a collection to that crowd and that audience, so we thought it would be a really good idea to push ourselves to see if we could make something that was purely for Africa. In the week before the show, people were running around London trying to pull it together, I was on the phone a lot, emails were flying around. It was all very manic but we managed to get there in the end and we were very happy with the way it was received.

This capsule is very different to the What We Wear aesthetic. Why the departure?

The silhouettes are similar, and you’ll find a lot of our signature techniques through the collection so there’s very much a synergy. The biggest difference is how much we’ve explored colour and patterns. This is the first time we’ve really done that. I wouldn’t say it was a departure, I would say it’s an arrival. We’re still three collections in, this is our fourth, so it’s still really early days for us. To be honest, if we hadn’t got this call, I’m not sure that that would have been the direction we would’ve gone in for our next collection, so I’m really happy that we were challenged to think in that way. 

Who does this collection speak to?

I’m speaking to the core following that we already have at What We Wear – young, millennial, creative men and women. I’m also speaking to African diaspora. The African continent is known for many reasons, and in this day and age of creativity, there’s definitely a chance for African designers to make a mark on the world, and so I guess in some way I’m speaking to them as well.    

Why did you join forces with Nigerian streetwear brand Modus Vivendii for this show?

I like the fact Modus Vivendii does streetwear, and where I feel I sit in a different place to that. I felt it was a great opportunity to collaborate with a streetwear brand that actually meant something to Nigerians. We had a lot in common, in that we’re all very aspirational in our ventures and what we’re trying to do. Usually when I’m making music, or creatively collaborating in any other way, it shouldn’t be that hard. It should be quite fluid and seamless, and it felt like it was. I like seeing my favourite brands come together to make a one-off thing that you might never be able to get again. I don’t see why that’s going to stop any time soon.

What did the performances by Not3s and Dice Ailes add to the mix?

They’re both Nigerian artists from the African diaspora – one is from the UK one is from Canada – and they added the musical aspect of the culture. I can’t think of one African person that doesn’t see music as an integral part of their life or their culture. Usually, you’d get runway music or get a producer to make something special but I just felt because it was such a special occasion, we had to have the artist out there so people could feel the energy. We all came together for the same cause and the same reason, and it all meant a lot to everyone that was there.

Photos: Baingor Joiner  Model: Victor Ndigwe

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