Nigerian designer Taofeek Abijako is exploring cultural middle grounds through his clothing brand, Head of State.

ITK x Toyota Changemaker
ITK x Toyota Changemaker

This episode of Changemakers is brought to you by Toyota Crown.

NYC-based Nigerian designer Taofeek Abijako (@feek____) is all about the middle ground. His brand, Head of State (@headofstate_), consists of garments that act as intermediaries between his life in Nigeria and in America, but are a style all their own.

“I spent half of my life in Nigeria and half of my life in the US, so I think what we try to do with our clothing aspect is [explore] that middle ground,” explains Abijako. “One of the many ways we explore that is by referencing things from back home.”

A piece of Head of State clothing “can look quite foreign, but also familiar at the same time,” says Abijako. “So it can be a utilitarian piece that people are accustomed to in Western wear, but the silhouette is actually more reminiscent of a traditional Yoruba attire, which is the language I speak.”

Head of State originally wasn’t intended to be a full-blown fashion brand. Abijako launched it in 2016 when he was a senior in high school as a means to raise money to go towards installing a water system in his hometown in Nigeria. The idea was to fund the project by selling the clothes he made, but as he reviewed his portfolio of garments he realized he had something more than a one-off project.

But to this day, Head of State continues to use their for-profit fashion business model to help fund initiatives that are already in place in underserved communities. “We go into these communities and try to help them tackle whatever problem that’s in place,” explains Abijako. “We don’t go into those communities to take over those initiatives, what we do is we partner with people who are doing the dirty work and we use the visibility that the brand has to make sure those projects get done. I do think that’s my purpose at the end of the day with all of this.”

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