Wandering through Covent Garden recently, my eye was caught by a new store setting up with fabulous yellow print wallpaper and the name OKUN, which I knew was a Yoruba word. Intrigued I popped in to find out more.
ÒKUN (which means ocean) is a new London-based, Nigerian owned fashion brand producing male beachwear. The original designs are inspired by African prints such as Congolese Kuba, Ghanian Adinkra, Kenyan Kikoy and of course Ankara/Dutch Wax. The collection combines the intricate patterns of these traditional, often woven fabrics with the modern fibres of luxury swimwear.
The funky store furniture is made from upcycled West African fishing boats, handmade in Senegal by Artlantique.
Founder and creative director, Bola Marquis, left a career in IT to fulfil his creative dreams. Only in its third season, ÒKUN won the 2014 UK Fashion and Textile Rise Award for emerging design talent. It’s already stocked in some pretty swanky boutiques overseas including in Palm Beach, Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo.
The company also raises funds for two charities – the Ethiopian Education Fund that provides secondary education scholarships and the Dada Marquis Foundation in Nigeria that provides affordable accommodation for students. After two seasons manufacturing in the UK, production has just moved to Mauritius and Madagascar. The plan is to be truly Pan-African featuring materials and designs from and inspired by North, South, East and West Africa.
Striking, stylish, exuberant, showcasing African design – I love everything about this brand. I am slightly jealous that the boys get all the fun. Female swimwear along the same lines would be fab. In the meantime I might rock a pair of shorts like these ladies
There’s a launch party taking place from 2-6pm on 16 August 2014. Head over to the ÒKUN pop-up with beachwear bargains galore, open until 31 August 2014, 38 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9EP www.okunbeachwear.com