Allen Aderotoye and I initially met in July of 2015 at the Capsule show during the inaugural New York Men’s Fashion week. It was my first time attending the highly respected fashion and lifestyle trade event, so you could imagine my excitement. Editors and style leaders alike packed platform 2 of Skylight Clarkson Square to witness some of the world’s fastest rising clothing lines and their respective Spring/Summer ‘16 men's collections.
During the presentation’s closing minutes, I overheard someone yell out, “Mr. BAPE!” and to my surprise it was Allen who greeted me with open arms. The uber-stylish designer’s positive energy was so contagious it felt like we were longtime friends. After he properly introduced himself, we briefly spoke about my time working at the extinguished SoHo hotspot and his very own label, òL New York. I followed Aderotoye on Instagram to keep up with his latest moves and learn more about his fledgling brand. I later discovered that Allen’s brainchild was just as dope as I thought it would be.
The 26-year-old creative’s outerwear-centric line is very meticulous in the way it blends unusual fabrics (such as velvet, suede and wool) to provide simple yet extremely suave looks. Possessing such intricate detailing, one would be surprised to know that the label was conjured up by accident. Right after graduating from the University of Maryland in May of 2012, the natural born hustler migrated to New York City where he interned at Exposure Creative Agency. “While at my internship, I made a piece for the first time and it garnered huge attention--everyone there liked it. It was shot by HYPEBEAST and I thought ‘ok, I might have something here’,” Aderotoye confesses. “Ever since, I continued to take steps to continue building out what would become òL.”
Like most notable designers (think Karl Lagerfeld, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Jean Paul Gaultier), Allen did not receive any formal fashion design training. He focused on obtaining a degree in Economics and Business. Aderotoye--a first generation American from Nigerian decent--blatantly states: “conceptual majors are not accepted.” Allen’s Nigerian parents are very strict when it comes to education, which meant that his passion for everything style had to be contained (until he actually graduated from college, of course). “My parents hated the fact that I moved to New York. My response was, ‘I got you that degree, now I need to figure out how to actually get it in life!’. “
Allen is certainly “getting it” in the Big Apple as he is three collections deep into his beloved brand. I recently sat down with the talented craftsman to talk about his upbringing, love for fashion, and the future of òL. Check out our conversation below:
FRENDY: How lit was it growing up in Washington, D.C?
ALLEN: It was great! DC has so much culture--we have our own sense of identity from the style of dress to gogo music, so much influence is started in the area. I was raised between a few areas in Prince George’s County and neighborhood called Trinidad in DC near H st.
FRENDY: Your parents are originally from Nigeria, have you ever visited the motherland?
ALLEN: Yeah, they are from Nigeria both born and raised there. They came here for the opportunities America had. I’ve been to Nigeria twice. It’s a really inspiring place to be meeting family I’ve never seen before, eating jollof rice from McDonald's like chains for sure an experience. This is where my parents are from: a very warm, vibrant colored, hustle or die mentality Nigeria.
FRENDY: Were you always into Fashion?
ALLEN: I’ve always been into style. Self expression is very important--especially as a kid, you want to let people know what kind of person you are by your sense of style to a certain degree. It all started with footwear for me, I was really into Jordans because Jordan was a beast and as a kid there was no better sneakers than the bred 11s. That’s what started to teach me the idea of aesthetics.
FRENDY: I feel you. Which HS did you attend?
ALLEN: I went to Bowie High School. My time there was very regular I would assume for the average teen in High School. Pretty chill, just plotting on Jordan release dates and skipping lunch to have enough for each pair that was dropping.
FRENDY: I can tell that your love for sneakers runs deep. I’m surprised you didn’t formulate your own shoe yet.
ALLEN: Yeah man, shoes have been a long time love. There’s some ideas brewing but footwear is a different obstacle, especially with an original design. Shoes really have to be functional while having the looks, on my architectural quest it surely will be conquered. One way or another.
FRENDY: When did you become passionate about clothes?
ALLEN: I am passionate about the style aspect more or so. We all need clothes but no one needs clothes as there is a surplus within this hyper consumption era. However, we all need identity, which is not so easily defined.
FRENDY: Why did you choose to move to New York after college instead of another booming city like Los Angeles or Miami?
ALLEN: That’s where my opportunity was, I needed to have something that was there for me you, you know. I had interned with the Gild in London a year beforehand so I imagined I could probably get my first job with their team in NYC. Wishful thinking. It was also a realistic commute for me--a four hour bus ride home when needed was more than doable.
FRENDY: What inspired you to construct your first garment while interning? What was the piece made?
ALLEN: I was following Maestro Knows at the time. I saw he was going to be at Reed Space later that evening so after my internship, I walked from SoHo to LES to go see what was going on--I was super inspired by his vlog at the time. So using the map on my phone I found my way to the block. It was Allen st. I think because of the name I decided to pay a little more attention and LES at that time was still a true feeling neighborhood. I walked into a tailor on that street which is now long gone and was like “I have an idea,” a few weeks later I ended up with that velvet polo. This piece would be the foundation of òL.
FRENDY: How did HYPEBEAST find out about it?
ALLEN: I was wearing it during Fashion Night Out. When I was just starting to venture into the city I was getting stopped a lot for street styles so I thought this was just another one of those situations. He took a photo and handed me a card, already jaded by having my photo taken I posed and held the card not even looking at it once. My girl at the time took it and flipped it over, I was already busy focused on something else. She taps me and flips over the card. It says HYPEBEAST. I flipped out and tried to find the photographer, he was long gone in the huge crowd. HYPEBEAST has been a favorite for a while so it was a wow moment for me.
FRENDY: What is the meaning behind òL?
ALLEN: òL means òutside Lines. The idea of different, as humans we’re all unique so I started with that as a basis in developing ideas.
FRENDY: Out of the three collections, which one was your favorite to create?
ALLEN: They are all individual ideas I had at a period of time in life, so i'm not sure I can have a favorite. However, ‘Silverspoon’ was a really dope point in my life. We shot the lookbook in London and had a presentation for NYFWM, called it the Wolf of Men’s Week, it was at Leonardo Dicaprio’s former penthouse. It was a vibe.
FRENDY: I know how difficult it can be to sustain a clothing line. Do you have a side hustle to fund production cost, marketing, etc. ?
ALLEN: I am able to do a few projects for some other creatives from time that help to fund the dream and I sell my kicks when times are really low *Laughs*.
FRENDY: How well are your friends and family receiving your line back home?
ALLEN: I think they are receiving it well, my friends have been a big supporting factor since day one. While with my family is a bit of an interesting dynamic. As long as I am able to take care of myself they are fine with that.
FRENDY: For the most part, you’re always rocking an òL piece. Are there any other fashion brands out right now that are worth your attention?
ALLEN: òL was made in purpose of pieces I want to wear more than anything so try to stay òL down. I know that if I can do anything it’s that. There’s so many brands to chose from at this point so I just stick with brands that my friends run. I have been able to meet some really dope designers globally so I try to start there when I look for things outside of òL.
FRENDY: If you were able to collaborate with an up and coming brand, which would it be?
ALLEN: what would you consider an up and coming brand?
FRENDY: I think this is the first time ever my interviewee responded back to me with a question. I like that *Laughs*. What I meant by an up and coming brand is one that hasn’t received any notoriety from any major blogs or celebrities. But in the trendy downtown scene, it’s poppin’.
ALLEN: For New York, I would have to say the homie Ev or Death To Tennis.
FRENDY: How do you want your customers to feel wearing your line?
ALLEN: I want them to feel like they’ve just been hit by the HòLy Ghost. Feel good, confident. Vitalized. It feels good when you just got something new that you really like. I want them to feel this way every time they wear anything òL.
FRENDY: Any plans of moving back to your hometown?
ALLEN: Home will always be home but I am not sure how conducive that will be for me as everything is produced in NYC. I do make sure to spend more time out there these days though.