Yinka Ash: Reimagining Streetwear In Africa
There has been a phenomenal shift in the global spaces of music, art, and fashion, and African artistes, creators, and designers have positioned themselves as key players in these various niches. One of such shifts happened in fashion and propelled homegrown brands to the forefront. Quality, authenticity, and craftsmanship have separated the wheat from the chaff.
Yinka Ash, founder and creative director of Ashluxe has been able to understand the business of fashion and turn his creativity and unique sense of style into a reputable, fast-growing business with a massive cult-like following similar to Supreme in New York or Colette in Paris.
He sits down with The Guardian Life to discuss the journey so far, the rise of Ashluxe, and his grand vision for the future.
Give us some insight into your world, who is Yinka Ash, and what does Ashluxe represent?
I’m Yinka Ash, Creative Director and Founder of Ashluxe and Ashluxe is a high-end streetwear brand that represents the Nigerian millennial. It is inspired by the use of Nigeria, our lifestyle, and the fact that we like to dress up and be announced by our clothes.
How did the journey into the business of fashion begin for you?
I’ve always had an affinity for fashion, looking good, dressing up. I started as a personal shopper in 2014, straight out of uni, I gradually built my client base over the years and in 2017 I opened my first store out of necessity because I realized the importance of the retail experience a customer gets from walking into a brick and mortar space. Then in 2018, I designed my first T-shirt and launched Ashluxe.
What was your biggest motivating factor when starting a high-end streetwear brand in Lagos?
I didn’t start off wanting to do streetwear, I was looking for the perfect t-shirt so I had to create my own version of a perfect T-shirt, fabric, cut, and fit because if you want something done, you do it yourself. Then all my close friends wanted it so I designed a collection and that was how we started.
Your clothes and merchandise all have a unique feel about them from design to quality. What inspires your design process?
I get most of my inspiration from learning, experiencing how everyone around me loves to dress up, and walking the streets when I travel, because what better way can one experience street style than in its natural habitat [the street]. I also attend fashion shows so when it’s fashion week I try to be in attendance because that’s where you get a lot of inspiration for what’s trending and what the next season will look like.
Ashluxe has developed a sort of cult following and has become a fashion status symbol in Nigeria, was this the plan from the onset?
In retrospect, no. The plan was just to make stuff that people could wear and fall in love with. My first experience with people embracing the brand was when I made complementary Ashluxe hats to give to customers when I first opened my store and people started hitting me up to buy them. Today every piece we drop gets sold out within a week.
Tell us about your new collection “Apollo” and what inspired it?
Apollo is the name of the first space flight that landed [the first humans] on the moon and if you look at the collection from the designs and everything you can see aliens and different references to space exploration. You can also see some Greek representations [Greek gods] because Apollo is the son of Zeus as well. I tried to
make sure I was able to embody the future [space exploration] and the past [Greek mythology] into the collection.
What was your most difficult challenge while trying to get your brand out there in the beginning?
Thinking about it now, the only challenge was the newness, people don’t do well with brands they don’t know anything about. So I had to allow people to naturally fall in love with our story. Great things take time.
What is your grand vision for Ashluxe and Nigerian made streetwear in general?
My grand vision is that we get to a point where our quality and craftsmanship speaks for themselves because looking at Nigeria retrospectively, there’s so much craftsmanship, so much art and creativity that we have to offer and up until now we’ve only embraced just foreign things but we’re here now and people are buying Nigerian made stuff more than ever, I think the pandemic year has really woken us up because people couldn’t travel so they had no choice but to look back home and check out what we have here. I think the vision is that we’re going to be bigger than ever and we had Street Souk [Africa’s biggest streetwear convention] last December and we’re on course to have our own Complex Con in Nigeria.
Do you have plans for expansion? If so, where next?
Yeah definitely, It’s only right that we share our offerings with the world, Ashluxe has been embraced wholeheartedly at home and we look forward to breaking more boundaries. We’re working with some partner companies to expand our stores to Europe, the UK, and America.
Where do you see Ashluxe in the next 5 years?
To be honest I can’t go into specifics but we intend to keep pushing and growing so we will not be at the same level every year. I see us doing what we’re doing now but on a much larger scale, doing great things internationally and putting Nigeria’s name on the map.