Q&A with Fashion Roadman
Meet the fashion journalist published in Vogue, GQ, BoF & maker of the recent documentary ‘Turkish fashion: Talent amidst the chaos’
From being labelled ‘fashion critic for a new generation’ by Vogue Business to releasing his now sold out magazine, Odunayo (aka The Fashion Roadman) has taken a fresh perspective of the fashion industry throughout his career so far. Graduating from Central Saint Martins in fashion journalism, he seeks to break the barriers between bias in fashion media and fashion enthusiasts. He has amassed over 100k subscribers on YouTube channel where he released his most recent production of the self made documentary ‘Turkish fashion: Talent amidst the chaos’. There is no doubt that Odunayo’s career in fashion journalism will only continue to take a unique and well needed outlook of the fashion industry, with the second edition of his self made magazine soon to be in the works.
Where did the name fashion roadman come from?
The thing is, I think a lot of people in fashion have really wacky aliases, which I used to find really funny. So just thinking of what wacky alias I could have, I also wanted something that made sense. ‘Roadman’ is considered like a gangster, it has bad connotations but then when you say ‘fashion roadman’, it doesn’t sound like anything that would be dangerous so I just like how funny it is. I do enjoy when really posh people like fashion exec’s say the name. I do get a chuckle out of that. That was part of why I came up with the name but also people used to call me that because I used to live in Lewisham in an area where no one cares about luxury fashion so my friends used to call me that as a joke.
What was your motivation for creating the documentary ‘Turkish fashion: Talent amidst the chaos’?
My issue with fashion journalism right now is I think that the ‘good days’ or the ‘golden age’ of fashion journalism are gone. What I mean by that is, people don’t really like to find new stories anymore so it seems that if you open i-D, Dazed or Vogue, I can assure you that one, the ads will be almost the same and two, the articles will be covering the same stuff, whereas when you used to read is magazines in the 90’s like The Face or i-D, they were going to some random part of North England and finding this cool designer or subculture. But for multiple reasons, one being corporate greed because people just want to grow profits year by year, until everything fizzles out and becomes so derivative. So that is kind of the direction where fashion is going in and personally I don't like that. So I decided to make a documentary series, going to regions in the world where fashion is not covered a lot in the west. So last year I went to Cape Town, and made a documentary in Cape Town. This year I went to Turkey because Turkey is known as a place where all the brands produce clothing but not necessarily the designers there or the fashion community or culture.
From the creation of your documentary, what are the biggest barriers faced by smaller designers in countries where fashion media coverage is low.
Well, first of all, it’s obviously a lack of exposure. If no one covers you and you get no press (and that's the good thing about being in the west) as brands get so much press. Then there are external factors that people have to face like designers in African countries where you don't have 24/7 electricity so literally, you are using a sewing machine and the power cuts off. Or in Turkey because of the politics and the situation economically, you can buy a fabric $5 per square metre and then the currency devalues so quickly and now, that same piece of fabric costs ten times more than it did just a few weeks ago. In the west, in the UK the worst thing that ever happened was when probably more recently, the currency devalued and then a day later they fixed it. That just shows the kind of issues we have here compared to issues faced in less fortunate countries.
You were also involved in the three part series fashion documentary in South Africa, how have both the trips to Turkey and South Africa shaped your view on the fashion industry?
I've always had a different view I guess because I grew up in London and Nigeria at the same time so I kind of have two different perspectives on the way I see things. If you go to places like Ghana or Nigeria, there's this whole thing about sustainability because a lot of clothing that is recycled by us just gets dumped into countries like Nigeria and Ghana. This has destroyed whole fashion ecosystems, because people can't even consume that clothing fast enough. Then it's being sold next to nothing and then designers don't have a job because no one is going to buy their clothing when you can just buy all the garments coming from England that get dumped for nothing. I think that my perspective hasn’t really changed like in South Africa and going to Turkey, you kind of see those kinds of things where the west just come with their problems and dump it on these countries and then just leave. Whether that's Turkey and what they do with the factories, there have been so many regulation issues with luxury brands and fashion, same issue in South Africa. I think I've always had that perspective of western countries just dumping their problems and then leaving when things get inconvenient.
Fashion is expanding outside of New York, Milan, London and Paris for example, Dior’s show in Mumbai, Gucci in Seoul and Chanel in Senegal. What does the future coverage of fashion look like to you?
This just reminds me of the 60’s where people were so angry that everything just radically changed. I think fashion is getting to that point where people are starting to realise that most fashion media are not critical like Vogue, or they all share the same thing like Dazed and i-D and they don't add anything new to the conversation, almost like a waste of space and time. I feel like fashion media will either continue to go in that direction, becoming PR for brands and they control everything that the fashion media says or, there's a group of people like me, who don't care and go against the system and show different types of fashion in a global way. My issue with brands like Dior in India is because they don't do a show in India because they care about Indian culture and really want to highlight it, they do it because ‘oh, there's an Indian market that is untapped and we need to sell to’. That is why they go there. Unfortunately, their intentions are a little bit off, I wouldn't use it as a reason why fashion is going more global because it's just to sell more terribly made clothing. There is a book called ‘how luxury lost its lustre’ and in that book, they talk about how brands like LVMH use factories where kids' legs are broken with hammers when they don't work long enough. It's not about brands being global, it's all about money.
If you could summarise key points that you would want people to take away from your documentary, what would they be?
It seems to me like a lot of people aren’t willing to be open minded enough to understand that there is more fashion in the world than in the west. There is obviously a deeper and darker history to it, things like slavery, colonialism and the deliberate erasure of all the stuff people made. They had to do that because they had to show that these other people who were brought here as slaves are primitive and don’t have any intelligence. So, any of their art or fashion had to be destroyed because they didn't want them to be humanised in any way. So, this whole idea of Paris being this mecca of fashion or when you look at fashion history, it only tends to be people from Italy, France or Spain as if there are not hundreds of other countries in the world. I just think it's a bit silly. I think a lot of people don't get credit for example, Walter Van Beirendonck is a really famous Antwerp six designer and he’s really inspired by some artwork that tribes in Mali create. Now, no one talks about tribes in Mali and Africa when we talk about fashion, but they talk about Walter Van Beirendonck. It just seems like there’s a whole part of fashion that isn't part of the conversation. So for me, I want people to take away that there is more fashion than just in the west and two, fashion is just as important wherever it is in the world. Just because you've been convinced by the fashion media that it's only Paris fashion week or whatever, doesn't mean that's where the most important fashion is, that's the only place that can create these couture designs. I just think it’s very silly to think that way but a lot of people in fashion do think that way.
You said that you feel most print magazines are hard to differentiate between today. As a fashion journalist, what do you believe is missing from the fashion media scene?
Just real critical journalism. Also finding new stories. That is honestly why I made my magazine, the same reason and my magazine doesn't have a front cover because I don't like the idea of people having to put a celebrity on the cover just to sell a magazine. I think from the start when you have a front cover, you are already trying to say ‘you should buy this because this one person is there’ and that to me says, why do you have to over promote one person, what about the rest of the information in the magazine. There are just so many aspects of magazines I don't like and I think fashion journalism needs to be more critical and less PR and I think a lot of people don't know that? Because a lot of fashion journalists now who are quite big, they work directly with a lot of the brands they ‘review’. I won't name names but one person comes to mind, he literally writes reviews for a brand he gets flown out for every season. The conflict of interest is crazy. That tends to be the fashion journalism we have right now. I think people just need to be more critical and also find new stories because they are all out there. If I went out into London now, it would take a few hours and I would find a really cool story of new designers, it's really not that hard.
You studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, what do you think makes a great fashion journalist?
I think there are different types of journalists so it depends. Some fashion journalists only focus on sustainability, some are show critics, you have people who go the historical route but in general, whatever you do has to be informed by fashion history knowledge and technical knowledge. For example, I know a lot about clothing construction because I've constructed clothes myself and I think as a fashion journalist, it's very hard for you to talk about clothing if you don't have any idea how to sew in any way or make a pattern because you can’t review it properly. How do you know if this jacket is constructed really badly? Especially if you are a critic. So I think knowledge is key in all aspects, fashion history, pop culture, present knowledge and I think everything ties together so you have to be a well rounded individual because fashion designers get inspired by the past, the present, by politics and sports. If you have a wide range of knowledge of things, it will make you a better journalist. There are some fashion journalists whose whole life is fashion and they don't know anything outside of fashion. I think that is bad and you should be more well rounded than that.
You were labelled a ‘fashion critic for a new generation’ by Vogue Business, how does that make you feel?
I don't know, I don't see myself as a fashion critic to be honest. I see a fashion critic as someone who goes to and analyses runway shows and I feel you need a certain level of respect in the industry to even be called a critic. I think that would be cocky of me just leaving school and ‘yeah i'm a critic of a new generation’. I don't see myself that way.
Advice for people getting into the fashion industry?
I think it depends what job you want to do. As a fashion journalist, magazines don't know what they are doing to the point where, if you have some interesting ideas, 9 times out of 10 you will probably get your foot in the door a lot easier than before. Also, if you are a journalist, being good with things on social media is good because that is once again, a place where legacy media is struggling. If you are a designer. I would say use social media to your advantage because it is one of the easiest way to build an audience rather than going through the traditional route of trying to be this designer that goes to Parsons and wins awards and prizes etc because the reason why people get picked for these prizes is not just on skill, it's on so many other factors and you don't want to leave your career in the hands of people with their biases. That is kind of why I started my YouTube channel because I remember at the time I decided I wanted to be a fashion journalist, if you typed online Alexandra Shulman British Vogue, it's just the editorial team and everyone is white, no other race. No Black, no Asian, just all white. I remember she went to an Oxford Union talk and someone in the crowd asked her, ‘why is there no diversity in the models you use on your magazine cover?’ and she said ‘a blonde, pretty smiling model on my cover she will sell more issues even more than a dark haired girl, let alone a black model’’. It's literally on youtube. It's so funny because Edward Enninful took over and the magazine made the most money ever and he made it diverse. Why I'm saying all this is because that was the kind of fashion journalism I was seeing at the time and I knew, if I wanted to go the traditional route and work in a newsroom, it was never going to work. There is no one like me in those places. That's why I made my YouTube channel and made it myself and luckily, fashion has progressed to the point where it is more diverse but that is just one example of how you can’t leave your career in the hands of other people.
Follow Fashion Roadman here
Article by Mia Mazzocchi
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