The self-titled brand ‘Jannine Ngesang’ stands as a testament to the creative prowess of its founder, a dynamic force in the world of menswear design – Jannine Ngesang, a creative director with a love for music and vintage aesthetics.
“The west African aesthetic is so beautiful, and I feel like people give it labels such as “bush or aff’ and I want to remove that connotation and have my audience replace it with trendy and cool.”
This interview shares insights into her journey, inspirations, and the unique blend of West African influences in her work. This interview not only unveils the creative mind behind the brand but also serves as a context for her collection, set to be showcased at the Institute for Contemporary Arts during the Álà screening event scheduled for 25th January 2024.
In a sit-down with Jannine Ngesang, my intentions were to unravel the intricate layers of her creative journey, exploring the diverse influences and motivations that breathe life into her designs. I sought to understand the profound significance of West African culture in shaping her unique aesthetic and the deliberate steps taken to challenge stereotypes in the fashion industry. A trip to the Birmingham fashion show, “Clothes Show Live” serves as a catalyst for the designer’s interest that eventually led to the creation of Jannine’s first collection in 2022 titled “Alkebulan” it was this collection that set direction for Jannine’s design aesthetic.
“The collection was designed as a celebratory project for the west African influences on the western world. It consisted of three looks and were silhouette, print and material focussed.”
As the conversation unfolded, Jannine revealed the tapestry of inspirations that wove the narrative behind the creation of the Alkebulan collection. She shared how the designs were a product of a dynamic interplay of diverse influences, drawing inspiration from renowned designers such as Bianca Saunders, Ahluwalia, and Labrum. These influential figures served as guiding lights, contributing to the unique and multifaceted nature of her creative vision.
In delving into the nuanced details of her design philosophy, Jannine shed light on the creativity that shaped her distinctive aesthetic. The Alkebulan collection emerged as a testament to her ability to seamlessly blend various artistic elements, resulting in a harmonious fusion that defies conventional boundaries. The collection became a canvas upon which cultural expressions, contemporary trends, and personal insights converged in a symphony of style.
A pivotal revelation during the conversation was Jannine’s articulated aspiration—“to reinvent West African street style” with a targeted focus on resonating with the 2nd and 3rd generations of West Africans in the UK. This ambition unveiled a purposeful direction for her work, transcending mere fashion into a cultural dialogue. By tailoring her designs to speak directly to the experiences, identities, and evolving aesthetics of the West African diaspora in the UK, Jannine aims to create not just clothing but a form of cultural representation and identity expression.
In this innovative framework, Jannine envisioned a transformative journey for West African street style. Her designs sought to encapsulate the spirit of contemporary West African identity while seamlessly integrating the global influences that shape the diasporic experience in the UK. The Alkebulan collection, therefore, became a conduit for cultural reinvention, a celebration of heritage, and a bridge between generations, encapsulating the essence of a dynamic and evolving cultural narrative. Through her creative process, Jannine demonstrated a commitment to not just fashion but to the profound storytelling capacity inherent in the art of design.
“The actual collection itself was inspired by archives, such as vintage west African photography, garments, and traditional attire – merged with the street, tailored, trendy aesthetic of the western world.”
It became evident that Jannine’s passion extends beyond clothing, delving into a cultural renaissance that she eloquently translates into her menswear creations – she truly is crafting a lane for herself in the world of fashion. Though inspired by aspects of traditional clothing it is not what Alkebulan nor what Jannine aims for in totality, Ngesang’s designs diverge from traditional west African clothing; she aspires for her looks to transcend the conventional understanding of traditional clothes. Instead, she aims for her audience to discern subtle details and recognize the rich inspiration drawn from West Africa; An example of this can be seen in the incorporation of her brown leather jacket within the Alkebulan collection the shoulders details being inspired by how Nigerian men wear Agbada is a nod in how Jannine pays homage to her cultural roots whilst still creating something new. In essence, her motivation is to craft pieces that are both innovative and timeless, steering away from the confines of tradition while still paying homage to the cultural roots that shape her unique design aesthetic.
This dialogue not only offered a glimpse into the soul of the designer but also painted a vivid picture of what lies ahead, hinting at an exciting future where innovation, authenticity, and a touch of West African flair converge in the world of Jannine Ngesang. As the interview concludes, Jannine provided a glimpse into the future, expressing plans for a 2024 collection and accessory pieces. The mention of upcoming film projects exploring ‘West African in the Western World’ ideas leaves the audience eager to follow the brand’s journey.
Connect with Jannine Ngesang:
The article concludes here with an invitation to stay in the loop by following the brand’s page at @janninengesang, on Instagram.