Local fashion company Afro.ditie Creative discusses their vision, celebration of culture, and their designs

The company’s founders touched on cultural appropriation, as well as how they hope to start a conversation through fashion to educate people on other cultures

Afro.ditie Creative is a Vancouver-based company that seeks to engage in a conversation about culture through fashion. It was started by Ayodeji and Anastasia Akintemi as a way of expressing and sharing both of their cultures. As stated on their website, Afro.ditie was “born from the desire to embrace and celebrate love, culture, beauty, and life.” It goes on to say that “[They] are on a mission to bridge cultural gaps through fashion.” The Peak spoke with Ayodeji and Anastasia about their vision, their brand, and culture.

     Anastasia began by explaining the significance of the name Afro.ditie Creative: “Culture is so many things . . . so for us, [Ayodeji] being from West Africa and me being European — I’m Greek and Portuguese [and] from [Canada] — living in this kind of western culture . . . [we] have these other experiences from our family origins. Afro.ditie is basically celebrating our cultures.” This is very clear in the name

     Ayodeji also added, “The reason we say ‘Creative’ is to not pigeonhole ourselves into just fashion. It’s just [that] fashion is the medium we’re using to engage that conversation . . . We have a lot of other passions as well. We wanted to leave the opportunity to bring things under the umbrella of what we do with Afro.ditie, but fashion is the main one, and a big part of what we’re doing right now. We’re passionate about food, we’re passionate about music, [and] we’re passionate about dance. There are a lot of artists that we collaborate with who [also] have those passions. We bring the fashion, [they] bring whatever it is they do, and we do something beautiful.” He also said, “We’re inspired by other people’s creativity as well.”

     In the past Afro.ditie has collaborated with dancers, models, DJs, and makeup artists to put on various visual presentations of their work. When they launched their clothing line at Gastown’s The Basement, Suyalife catered the event, bringing their delicious Nigerian street food to the venue.

     Afro.ditie’s designs are inspired by both Ayodeji and Anastasia’s cultural backgrounds. For example, they work with Nigerian prints and motifs, such as their “Wazobia Warrior” concept. As Ayodeji stated, “The word ‘Wazobia’ is made up of three different words from three of the main tribes in Nigeria. So in Wa-Zo-Bia, the ‘Wa’ means ‘come’ in Yoruba, ‘Zo’ means ‘come’ in Hausa, which is another tribe, and ‘Bia’ means ‘come’ in Igbo. Essentially it means ‘come, come, come’, so the idea behind that is these tribes coming together [in] unity, to make it work in the country called Nigeria. Then we took that, because symbolically the message resonates with us, ‘let’s come together in humanity’, we’re all here together . . . let’s celebrate our strengths, our diversity, and help one another, because if we know that we have a lot more in common than [we do] different, we’ll actually listen to each other, and spread love.” The warrior part was added as an expression of passion. “Fight for justice, fight for unity, fight for love . . . that’s why we added the warrior part, too.”

        As their designs draw inspiration from multiple cultures, they are mindful of cultural appropriation and take care to be respectful of all the cultures that influence their work. As Ayodeji noted, “Our pieces that we come up with flow through that [collaborative] creative process, so one look today might seem more African, but that doesn’t mean our entire look is going to be that way. The whole idea behind our brand is sharing culture, acknowledging culture, but giving room to share and learn from each other’s cultures.”

     Anastasia also added, “We have people wondering because we have white models wearing our clothes, but we’re not just making clothes for a certain ethnic group. We’re coming together in our creative energy to create this art form for everyone.”

     Ayodeji went on to say, “We live in a call-out culture . . . sometimes we just want to call people out to feel better about ourselves — sometimes it’s justified, absolutely [but] sometimes it swings a bit too far.” He said, “Going back to why we do what we do . . . we use [our designs] as an opportunity to educate people.” One of the main goals in regard to Afro.ditie’s vision is to bring people together and teach them something they didn’t know about another culture.

     On November 18, Afro.ditie participated in an event called The ART of ART: A Westcoast Formal, which was a fundraising gala for Youth Unlimited, an organization that works to help at-risk youth. At the event, Afro.ditie collaborated with professional dancers and makeup artists to create a performance showcasing their clothing.

     When asked why events like this are important to them Ayodeji said, “A lot of [at-risk youth] are people who just need a community around them essentially, and at Afro.ditie we do believe that we all need a community around us . . . Part of our message with Afro.ditie is sort of like ‘hey, we are actually part of this larger community called humanity so we actually have a lot in common. Lets come talk together, embrace each other, learn from each other, and not try to dominate each other. Let’s love each other . . . and just make ourselves stronger.’”

     “In the sense of this organization, Youth Unlimited, [there are] these kids who may not necessarily have this community around them, whatever their life circumstances are, and they provide that opportunity for them through mentorships, partnerships, programs, you name it. The heart of what they do is something that resonates with us, so it really made sense for us to be a part of that in whatever way we could.”

Afro.ditie will be participating in Vancouver’s inaugural African Fashion Week in February, which will coincide with the release of their new fashion line. You can purchase their clothing either through their website or at The Basement in Gastown.

Below are some photos, sent to us by Afro.ditie Creative, showcasing their designs: