The artist and the fashion designer: How two African creatives teamed up to effect change

Beneath the Nicola Bertucci frescoes and gilt Rococo cornicing of the 17th-century Palazzo Visconti Di Modrone in Milan, a six-foot fiberglass character stands among piles of white and mustard granite stones.
If the mix seems incongruous, then consider the objective achieved. The character forms part of an installation by Lagos-based artist Yusuff Aina, commissioned by designer Iniye Tokyo James for his Fall-Winter 2024 fashion show “Expansion,” held in the space on Saturday. In partnering on the project, the pair sought to challenge the traditional stereotype about the styles of art and fashion that come from their native Nigeria.

“The people who have (already) been celebrated and the voices acknowledged have been fantastic, but there is another set of individuals proposing a different conversation (about) what it means to be from this part of the world,” James told CNN Style from Lagos a week before the show. “That is where Yusuf (and I) aligned and that has been exciting for us because there’s so much more that we want to do together.”
It was on a similar trip to Lagos from London — where James, 36, lives — that he first saw Aina’s work, on display at the city’s leading art center Art Twenty One. After going to see the exhibition — and being told off for trying to touch the sculptures on display — James reached out to open a dialogue about future collaboration.


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