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Quiet Triumphs: Muktar Onifade & his DIY fashion brand

With links to WGSN content and trend predictions, the Quiet Triumphs series looks at unearthing talent that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream. 

For the first in the series, Robin Torres met with Muktar Onifade, the designer behind VIZUVLGVDŠ. 

Nowadays, starting a successful brand is an attainable goal. Ways to produce quality clothing is easier and more affordable than it’s ever been, as is access to professional crafts such stitching, screen-printing, or embroidery. This has fostered a new generation of DYI designers; propelled by the internet, leveraged by social media, and fueled by success stories about young designers who’ve made it (from Staple design’s Jeff Staple to Off-White’s Virgil Abloh).

American born Nigerian Muktar Onifade, a self-taught creative director and seamster with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, is one of those rising designers. Four years ago, from his bedroom in Detroit and while working as a calibration specialist for GM, he decided to create a high-end brand called VIZUVLGVDŠ (Visual Gods). Fast forward to the present- Onifade has been featured on the NBC’s BLCK 2017 list as one of the most innovative young, black pioneers in America, and was recognized on the 2017 Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list.

WGSN caught up with Muktar to talk starting a brand from scratch, motivation, and design influences.

 

muktar onifade

Some of your visual language – a distinctive geometry and minimal color palette – already make your collections quite recognizable. How would you describe your design?

My African heritage and mechanical engineering background inspires my brand, VIZUVLGVDS. I like to call my designs ‘abstract’ in the sense that the underlying aesthetic of the collection is Afrocentric, but the concepts and designs are heavily inspired by engineering theories, minimalist objects and modern architecture. My brand is based on the idea of finding the true balance between heritage and design.

 

What motivated you to create VIZUVLGVDS?

When I worked in the corporate world, I met so many people that worked for 15-25 years in the same role with little ambition for change and lacked happiness. Some, for instance, were passionate about their roles but had other creative dreams that faded with time. I could see myself being in that same situation 20 years from now. My goal as a fashion designer is to inspire others to pursue their wildest dreams regardless of their current situation.

 

Given your DIY mentality, how hands on are you in building the brand?

Before I decided to pursue fashion design, I had to develop my skill in a wide range of creative fields because I realized that a lot of designers were only great at one thing, which is the creative direction of designing clothes. So I decided to learn everything that goes into building a proper fashion brand from hand sewing to screen printing to embroidery. I also design and draw all of my sketches and graphic art for each collection, shoot my own editorials and collaborate with other photographers.

 

muktar onifade

 

As a designer, what do you hope to achieve?

My goal is to make VIZUVLGVDS a globally successful, African-inspired, luxury brand. I am very passionate about creating art that is unapologetically original to my heritage and history as well as setting new standards. As an African designer, I feel it’s important for me to share my unique perspective and ideas without pressure to conform to industry norms. I believe that if you give the younger generation of creative’s the right tools and knowledge, they will find their power within and true value to the world.

 

What impact, if any, has living in Detroit had on your design or craft?

The interesting dynamic about Detroit is that it is a city rich with culture of art, design and innovative technology. I call Detroit ‘beauty in the ruins’ – you have to look beyond the surface sometimes in order to discover the most beautiful gift life has to offer. This is what I discovered living and designing here.

 

 

 

Ideally, how would you like VIZUVLGVDS to be distributed?

In a perfect world VIZUVLGVDS will be a stand-alone concept store located in Lagos, Nigeria. But if I had to pick, it would be Dover street market, I love how the brands are represented and the emphasis on merchandizing and installation presentation.

 

Fashion today often seems like a balancing act between commercial success and establishing a recognizable aesthetic. Does it guide your work?

In order to be a successful fashion brand you have to find the perfect balance between unequivocal brand identity and commercially successful merchandizing strategy. This is something I am very aware of when designing but I don’t necessarily let it guide my work because you could risk losing your identity as a designer when chasing commercial success.

 

What does the future hold for you?

I honestly don’t know. I am just focused on perfecting my craft in both engineering and fashion design.

 

 

WGSN Subscribers head here for our report on West Africa: Menswear.

Like this author? Follow him here: @_dotmo.

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