Akin Victor …future of fashion!
His sharp grin caught my gaze and cut my anticipation short. Here was the radiant smile – in close range. A rubber stamp on avant-garde fashion! The poster-boy for progressive fashion powerhouses. Akin Victor. In bright, resplendent, January haze.
If you are a fashion bee, then you must have caught the buzz of Akin Victor who has been strutting across European walkways for legacy fashion brands. After his feature in the Balenciaga Fall Campaign, in 2020, among other campaigns, which also included him walk the Berlin Fashion runway several times for Rich Minsi, Akin Victor has continued to soar as that Nigerian eagle, that destined nubian skin that would carry the country’s heritage to several continents.
Akin has also done print editorials for Magazines such as GQ Portugal, GQ South Africa, Numero Berlin, ELLE Serbia and Max Magazine. He has appeared on German television on an episode of Germany’s next Topmodel in 2021 (hosted by Heidi Klum) as a professional male model.
After years of experience, Akin now sees fashion as an extension of self beyond the clothes you wear. It is a way to show support to one’s friends, to express self, to pay homage, to protest and to preserve.
Akin hopes to eventually collaborate with a fashion house and design collections that express his values and view of fashion. Currently, he has been working with local brands like Soji Solarin & SF1OG.
His portfolio could go on and on. But, for now, we get up close and personal with the German-bred Lagosian as he peels back layers behind his journey through fashiondom, as well as his thoughts on the future of fashion.
You’ve done a lot. You just got signed to some big agencies abroad. So how does it all feel for you, connecting at this point?
To be honest, I feel very proud. I feel definitely proud because getting into modeling wasn’t easy. And just seeing myself achieving all these things like say by day and month by month and also seeing how my family and friends were into it, makes me happy. Yeah, I am just looking forward to explore more and to see what is out there and to get more opportunities.
The shoot with Tommy Jeans was very fun. We shot in Berlin like on the day and when I got the result I was surprised, because mostly when you do shoots, you don’t get to see the pictures immediately, sometimes up to a week. Sometimes up to months and just seeing the result makes me happy, definitely.
I wanted to know how you got into the whole fashion space?
Honestly, when I started it was more like a hobby because my friends around me at the time were pushing me to try. We were just hanging out after school, different spots, they were taking different pictures of me and were like hey you have to apply to an agency, this picture is so good. Funniest thing is I didn’t take it as serious advice, I thought they were just telling me to make me feel good. But then, it actually happens that when I invite people for the first time, even when they haven’t met me, they were also kind of asking me to be a model for them. I was like maybe I should give this a chance and then, I started modelling for Unique. Then I realized sooner or later I had to move into Berlin which was kind of the capital of Germany in order to fulfill my potential. And it was when I moved to Berlin in 2019 that everything exploded, I would say. I started working and like everything. I basically was able to make more earning off modelling.
How do you feel doing modelling fulltime or are you doing something else on the side?
Right now I’m doing a full time, but during COVID there was a time I was actually working for a perfume startup in Berlin, because COVID definitely cut off a lot of jobs. Doing full time is like you have to have a strong mentality because of the fact that you never know what’s going to be next. Like you don’t have this urgency of a certain amount that you get every month. It is always ups and downs. So you have to know how to manage your finances, you have to be strong mentality. I think by the time, I just got better with it. For the future, I also want to venture into acting.
It’s like one thing I will definitely want to start doing in the future more or regularly.
I saw that you featured already in an unreleased short film. Could you tell us about that, let’s see what your first debut was like?
So I shot for like four or five days in Berlin, last year march. For me it was like a challenge because normally when you go to a shoot, you have to wake up for the night to prepare. But for this, I had to just basically learn a dialogue and monologue and everything and get the emotions right and not only the words. Memorizing the words was pretty easy, but people were more of the emotions. When I was on set, the feedback was totally good. People were really surprised that I was doing this and they didn’t even believe that I wasn’t even an actor. And the film is very cinematic I would say. It plays with a lot of problems in society. For example, about how people have been treated and it’s also very emotional. It’s about seventeen minutes long. I haven’t seen it myself but the director has sent me a clip. So hopefully it’s going to premiere this year.
Okay, you strike me as someone who likes or enjoys challenges, am I correct?
Yeah, definitely. I love challenges.
How important is that for you as a model or a creative?
I would say as a model, I realized at a point people around, especially your agencies, try to put you in a box. For example, you’re the model for this casual look, for this street look, but in order to break that, I realized I had to challenge myself and just do shoots that maybe nobody will expect me to do. For example, maybe putting on a dress and basically breaking this idea of “this guy only fits into this box.” Also for personal development. It definitely helps me just see what I can do and realizing that there is no limit out there. That’s why I love challenging myself in different ways, no matter what it is.
Speaking of style preferences, there’s this new phenomenon where fashion designers and models try to blur gender stereotypes.
I would say doing those kinds of shoots works as long as the model is comfortable wearing the stuff, that’s like the most important thing. If the model doesn’t feel comfortable wearing something or doing a pose, no designer or any brand should make him do it. Like I haven’t done anything I haven’t felt comfortable doing myself. And it’s definitely like a trend going on. And I would say, for me, as long as it’s something that you can stand for, and you are not afraid of doing it- because when I did shoot like that, they are more creative in a kind of direction and I got a lot of good feedback. Sometimes friends tell me like, “Akin, what is this?” But then I just see it as a creative process. Most of the time, the work that actually pays off is more of the e-commerce shooting, the editorial but then you also have to find a way to express yourself. I worked with friends and photographers in Berlin and they are the ones who basically come up with ideas and extra shoots where everything is just breaking the stereotypes. And in my opinion, I often say that a man can also wear a handbag. A hand bag doesn’t mean it’s a woman’s handbag. A man can also wear a handbag and if it suits you, it suits you. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t speak for your sexuality. It’s just a piece of cloth at the end of the day. It’s just something you put on and that’s how I see it.
Basically what you wear really has nothing to do with sexuality anymore, I think that’s the message.
Yeah, that’s the message.
Great. So you have been mentioning Berlin a lot, I kind of noticed it. Are you saying that there are better opportunities for models abroad than home?
I would say if you want to be successful, you have to definitely live in one of the main fashion cities like Berlin, Milan, London, New York etc. Obviously, I think Nigeria is getting more attention from abroad and I have seen it also from overseas, like models also being here. So there’s definitely more awareness coming from outside to Lagos. But for me, I don’t know how the fashion seems here. I moved when I was 11 but I also decided to come back home just to tap in with the people again and to see how things are here because I definitely can say that we Nigerians know how to dress and know how to make clothes. So I guess I just want to also bring myself into the space here.
If you had some level of authority to make decisions and you could make changes within our local fashion theme here, what would be top of mind for you?
I would probably say the government should probably invest and have more trust in the local fashion theme but I think that’s a little bit of outreaching. For example in Berlin in Germany in general in different European cities, certain designers are funded by the government at one point since they see that what they are doing is basically helping the culture. They gave a budget to organize a show and maybe if something like this could happen here in Nigeria, that will definitely help the growth more.
Okay, great. Fashion weeks, I’m sure you have done a couple. So do you have highlights like your favorite so far, like unforgettable memories?
Regarding fashion week, I would say it was in Berlin when I did a fashion show for a South African designer. I was super happy because normally, when I’m at a fashion show, the outfit is not wearable but this time I felt really comfortable in my outfit and also getting the job wasn’t super hard because normally it’s like a lot of extras behind it. Going to the call and then to the recall, all this stuff. But this time I went there and there was an instant vibe with the people from the brand. That was definitely a highlight. But apart from fashion week, was also when I did a job for Balenciaga in Berlin. That was a personal highlight for me because until then I have never worked for a fashion brand. I never thought it would happen. I remember when I got the confirmation, I remember falling down on my knees and was basically screaming out.
What do you envision for your brand, as a model in the creative industry?
I want to be more known for my work, and also with modelling I want to work with more high fashion brands in the future. I would also love to definitely one day, just design a collaboration with a brand. I think I found a new passion with this. So this year, I want to see more films, and I want to show the world what I can do, and show the world my talent in a way and make people proud around me- everybody who has been supporting me.
I would definitely want to come to Nigeria more regularly and work with Nigerian based brands here. I would also love to be part of Lagos fashion week but I think I will just come here more often and spend more time. It’s going to happen. I definitely believe also, it’s manifesting. Being around the right people is going to make it happen.
I have also done a couple music video shoots in Berlin and it was always fun. So I will also be open to work with directors here in Nigeria and to appear in some afrobeats, music videos. And just showcase my face to the world in a way because afrobeats is getting bigger day by day and I will just like to work with local directors. I feel like it’s also a different type of way that people approach it here. Basically working with Nigerian directors and seeing how they approach things here and basically maybe taking the influence and using it also abroad.