Interview with Alexander II Akande

Alexandre 2 Akande

What is your name/where are you from?

I’m Alexander Akande, 26, designer, illustrator and creative consultant. I’m from Yaoundé, Cameroon, but I grew up all around – Nigeria, DR Congo, Kenya, France and the U.K.

 

What got you into Fashion?

I’m not one of those who claim to have always been into fashion. In fact, I wasn’t particularly stylish as a kid. I’ve been drawing since the age of 4, and grew up obsessed with comics and animation, especially Japanese animation.

I designed a few concept basketball sneakers during my senior year in boarding school in Nairobi and sent those to Nike and a few other companies. The response was surprisingly positive and it sort of opened up a new avenue for me. I guess that’s when I caught the bug.

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When did the company start? Why?

It’s hard to pin down a start date, as it’s been a constant evolution and work in progress since my first year at university. I spent a year in France as part of my undergrad degree in 2009/2010, and that really shaped my entire perspective and gave me a direction. I guess I could say it “started” in 2011 when I did some design work for Nitty Scott MC.

As for why, well I don’t exactly know. I studied International Business as an undergrad but drawing and creating is what comes naturally to me.

 

How did your partnership start with Korie Minors? What is each of your roles in the company?

We actually met through Facebook back in 2007. There was a FB group for our courtyard on campus (University) to sort of get freshmen to know their flatmates before moving in. He posted a message jokingly wondering ‘’where all the black people were’’ and I replied. We’ve been close friends ever since. There’s a natural fit in the way we see the world and our skill sets – architecture and fashion are the same thing really; design and construction.

There aren’t really any defined roles. We share most of the marketing/PR duties and some creative ones like planning projects. I tend to focus more on designing and visuals, but everything else really flows organically. Korie actually designed my studio/store back in Cameroon.

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Where did the name A2A come from? Why did you choose to use it?

Well the name “Alexander II” pays homage to my grandfather, who I’m named after. He died before I was born but everyone who knew him says we have the same personalities.

The full name is actually “Atélier Alexander II Akande”, but it visually looks better without the first word. It’s a play on words. The word for “2” in French is “deux”, and the word for “of” is “de”. Both sound similar. So the name said in French can translate to “Alexander II Akande” and also “Alexander of Akande”

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Who is your target market?

I don’t like to think of potential customers as a “target market”. We aim to appeal to people who hold certain values: the desire to stand out, the respect for quality and craftsmanship, people whose focus isn’t on brand names, but on design. There’s no age/gender/racial/socio – economic barriers to great style. We aim for those who appreciate style without being slaves to ever changing fashion trends.

What makes your style different from the rest?

I think one of the things that make us different is our complete indifference to fashion trends. We don’t care much for what every other brand is doing; we focus on ourselves and creating great designs.

It’s a mix of all the different cultures I grew up in around the world. The bright vibrancy of African colours, the attention to detail of French/Italian construction and the creativity of the Japanese. There’s a lot of layering, colour blocking, curves and straight lines, and West African prints.

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What brand do you envision A2A to emulate in terms of customer base and size?

In terms of customer base, I’d say Acronym and Trickers. Their construction is absolutely flawless and their customers are incredibly savvy. In terms of size, I’d say Alexander Wang. Big enough without being absolutely everywhere.

What should we expect next from A2A in the near future?

I’m currently working on the launch collection for our studio launch back in Cameroon and an exclusive Bermuda capsule collection.

Will there be a store here (Bermuda) in the future?

I can’t really say right now if I’ll open a store in Bermuda at some point. Given the proximity to the USA, it would make business sense to have some sort of presence there, where East coast American customers would have to travel to Bermuda to buy some pieces from my collection that they can’t get in the USA.

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If a store does open here would you want to live in Bermuda?

On a personal note, I would be open to living in Bermuda. It’s a beautiful country, close enough to the USA and South America. I’ve got a lot of friends in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the East Coast of the USA. Hopefully all these projects bring me to Bermuda sometime soon.

What advice would you give a young aspiring artist/ entrepreneur?

1: love what you do. If you think about being famous and making it rich before you think about the art and the craft of design, pick another job. You have to want to create because you love it.
2: be consciously ignorant. Avoid reading too many magazines and watching too many catwalk shows. I only read Highsnobeity.com and Hypebeast.com, and I generally avoid keeping up to date with trends. Why? Because it will subconsciously influence what you do, and you’ll end up following trends because you want to sell and be trendy in the moment. Keeping yourself away helps you genuinely create from the heart. Innovation is often born from isolation.

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3: Have an ethos…..a creed, a set style and philosophy and stick to it, regardless of trends and current fashions. Otherwise you end up changing from season to season and never being unique because you’re always copying or changing with trends.

To find more about Alexander II Akande visit their website at:

www.atelierakande.com

http://alexander2akande.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/Alex2Akande

http://instagram.com/atelierakande

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