Alexander-Julian Gibbson is an NYC-based creative content specialist and editor. Everywhere he goes he spreads the good message of African designers and especially those from his home country of Nigeria. Graduating from Howard University, he is a rising creative who assembles and honors African creatives and African fashion. He has worked with various media outlets such as GQ, FLAUNT, Coveteur, XXL, and V magazines, Vogue Magazine, as well as big companies like Fendi, Coca-cola, and H&M. Through his work, the Nigerian-American stylist promotes his vision of diversity and masculinity.
Alexander-Julian and H&M
To kick off men’s fashion week in Paris, Alexander-Julian invited an intimate group to a dinner hosted in collaboration with H&M. The event took place at fashion’s favorite restaurant Derrière, which is located on a hidden street of Paris’ third district. The ambiance was romantic with grand floral arrangements, the guests were gathered around simple French cuisine, and the conversation was eclectic. It was an opportunity to cross the finest black creatives from New York, Los Angeles, Lagos, Paris, and Dakar who create the fashion for tomorrow, and a welcome moment to pause before the race of the Paris Fashion Week begins.
For All The Pretty Birds, we chatted with Alexander-Julian about the H&M aesthetic, travel inspirations, and African creatives on the continent.
All The Pretty Birds: Tell us all about Alexander-Julian and H&M.
Alexander Julian: It’s not a tangible collaboration. H&M has an amazing aesthetic in line with the things I am doing right now, and it seemed like a natural collaboration to me, especially with H&M Home. They’re doing an amazing job and have a lot of recycled materials in their aesthetic, which is a standard that I admire. It’s the beginning of men’s fashion week here in Paris, and Paris Fashion Week is my favorite week! I’m hosting this party with H&M for all the creatives in town. We’re all going to have an epic schedule after that, but it’s important that people vibe together. I personally find fashion week very intense and it’s good to be here with friends.
ATPB: What do you find innovative in fashion today?
AJ: In terms of intangible materials, the blurred line between men and women is something I am interested in. My outfit is a mix of H&M men and women. It’s funny because, even with the event, Anthony presented me with two options. I specifically mentioned that it’s important to have a masculine vibe but also a bit of femininity, like the floral arrangements. We were exploring ideas to put in place. We are in a space and a time when masculinity is a little more fluid and it’s time to explore more of that.
ATPB: What do you gain from this collaboration with H&M as an African creative?
AJ: African style and fashion are part of my DNA. I am a Nigerian born and raised. H&M has done several collaborations with African designers, and for me working with a company that appreciates culture is something that elevates my brand. The thing with me is always alignment. It’s about picking the specific brand that aligns with the things you believe and H&M is a brand that champions diversity and African designers. They understand what it is to promote different cultures and push fashion forward.
Anna Touré, PR for AT Group, Corey Stokes, stylist and fashion editor at large for Highsnobiety and Alexander-Julian Gibbson
ATPB: Do you think it’s a good time to be an African creative?
AJ: Yes, absolutely! It’s always been a good time to be an African creative. Saying this can be a little touch and go, but I don’t think that it’s ever been a bad time. I feel like African creatives have always created magic. We’ve always been doing amazing things. We as the African diaspora and specifically the others on the continent are doing amazing things.
ATPB: What advice would you give to young African designers and creatives?
AJ: One thing I tell everybody, especially when I am on the continent, is that it’s important to have faith in yourself and your country. A lot of African designers and creatives wait until they can hear [feedback] from the outside world before they begin to feel themselves. We can’t do that because at the end of the day we could miss the mark easily. I feel like we must trust the institutions of our countries. I am Nigerian and I work a lot with Nigerian peers. It’s important to work with the brands around you in your own country first. It’s a way to network naturally. Never undermine people around you. Work side by side. Grow together. Learn together.
Nigerian men in Paris-Allen Onyia co-founder of Upscale Hype
ATPB: We always talk about Nigeria and South Africa in fashion today, can you explain why?
AJ: These countries make it a lot easier for outside brands to come in. I know there is a difference or privilege in American industry for English-speaking African creatives. But, I think at the end of the day, fashion is the most world-famous language. Talent will speak. For example, take Vogue Italia which writes about Nigerians brands in Italian. I see my Nigerian friends in Vogue Italia and it’s literally written in Italian. I know you guys can’t understand, but you could see talent and the work that has been done.
Fashion is an aesthetic industry. Communication is amazing, but talent will communicate for you. If you have a brand, do your own shoot! Don’t wait on someone to like your brand. Work with a local photographer. I believe in what we can do by ourselves. I remembered the time when Vogue Africa became a conversation. I thought, why do we need that? We don’t need that! There are publications on the continent and we just need to be supportive of that. We need to support each other.
ATPB: What are your inspirations outside of Nigeria or South Africa? Why do the fashion industry and African fashion focus on Lagos and Johannesburg?
AJ: It all ties together. My idea is that style is a language that transcends all and my thing is that we’re working in an industry we all know Paris, London, we know New York. We all know the fashion capitals. The funny thing about it, is all the designers are shown in these cities, but we draw inspiration from people all over the world. My work specifically is meant to bring forward the specificities of the world. For example, I did a thing in Rwanda about the history of plaid in Africa. When you think of plaid, you think of the grunge in London, you think of Ska. You realize that Eastern Africa has a long history and it implies our modern, traditional style. This kind of story I use to travel to tell. It’s the reason why traditional style both influences and evolves our modern style. I like to interject different cultures into the conversation in fashion because all the top brands gather inspiration from around the world. It’s not just London, Paris, or New York.
Not to give them an excuse, but people want to make it digestible. They pick two cities, but the magic happens all over the continent. I think they try to focus on this because there is so much going on. Even in Nigeria, there’s a lot of diversity, ethnicities, and ways to express style. In one country, there are so many cultures. Right now, it’s fresh. It’s like being black in America, for them we are just Black, but among this group of people, you have a lot of communities and diversities.
Image credits: Virgile Guinard
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