Take Off with PITH
Breaking new ground in Lagos’ thriving creative scene are fashion house, PITH Africa, who’ve directed a new wave of millennial fashion. Inspired by Africa’s evolving identity, PITH have developed sustainable designs that engage their current environment to understand the layers and emotions being passed across each garb in search of individuality.
The brand have been using their fashion to document a timeline of growth in Pan-African creative scenes, pioneering the cultural evolution of next generation artists and championing an overall message of hope.
As part of our Take Off series which spotlights a dynamic new wave of exceptional talent, we sit down with the trio behind PITH, to get an insight into the creative artistry behind the brand and ‘taking off’ their career within the fashion industry.
Describe where you're from in three senses.
Sound, smell and taste.
Cosmas Ojemen: I love the sound of waves crashing, Afrobeats and Lofi music. The smell of vanilla candles burning on a wet day is my favourite scent and I also love the fresh smell of rain. Amala is my favourite meal and it is popular in Western Nigeria but generally I love spicy dishes.
What was the reason behind starting Pith? How would you describe what you are building?
Cosmas Ojemen: We founded PITH with the primary idea to create a brand that connects the world to Nigeria and now Africa’s diverse youthful generation using clothes, visuals & storytelling and community-driven activities as our mediums. It is about tapping into the essence of what it means to be young, creative and innovative as an African in Africa telling our stories and garbing our essence.
As creators we are deeply inspired by Late Virgil Abloh and his design language, his approach to collaborations, creating and breaking boundaries so that a younger version of himself could create on the highest taste level there is. For us it’s about applying that same idea in the environment we have found ourselves. Creating anything in Nigeria is hard but that is why we do what we do, we need kids all around Nigeria to know that it’s possible to engineer a brand as big and with a similar taste level as Louis Vuitton, Nike and Levis. It’s important that we leave a message of hope and build a culture that continuously champions Africans to dreams as big as they want.
You create art through fashion, imagery and experiences inspired by Africa's evolving identity. How would you define what this is?
Adedayo Laketu: First and foremost, we’re a fashion house that creates products inspired by our environment, our ideas, our individualism, culture, what we are as the new age of Africans and how that can be expressed by what we wear, and how we interact with our many different styles, and layers. The entire experience of absorbing this and putting It back into the world is art to us, it’s like painting brush strokes on a blank canvas, we’re modern day Basquait, or like one of my favorite painters, Ayanfee, we’re creating in real time through the products and experiences we curate.
Our visual identity is also important to us, being born in an era with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Netflix, etc. The modern day audience is more in tune with visual experiences that help express the thoughts of the brand and what they’re trying to communicate with the product. We try and create this in our imagery, how the brand is perceived visually is very important to us and we craft that with as much intent and detail as possible. It’s a story of Africans being cool, experimenting, inventin, innovating and inspiring something amazing all over the continent on the same scale as anyone else around the world.
One of the core values of Pith is ‘community’, we’re big on creating a community for everyone who interacts with Pith. Beyond the products, we create a safe place through our experiences for minds from different subcultures and lovers of Pith to connect and interact, network, party, have fun and just celebrate themselves. We’ve created this with our pop-ups and collaborative experiences, one of which being quarterly rave/pop-up Ps & Qs, which we do with one of the biggest bartending companies in Lagos, Quacktails.
While I was growing up Nigeria wasn’t known for much, and a lot of things weren’t really being spotlighted in the country, or around Africa. It felt like we weren’t part of the world, just in our own dark little bubble. Then we grew up, the power of the internet connected us to the world, around the time more amazing things began to happen. This is the new age of Africa to us, once filled with kids dreaming about being skateboarders and going Pro like WAF’s Pro Skaters, straight from Lagos, winning Grammy’s like burna boy, building a tech start-up, the list goes on. The things that are possible in Africa regardless of the negative numerous factors are magical, and that inspires us to create Pith. We want to be part of this timeline of Africa rising, contributing our own story to it as we build one of Africa’s biggest fashion house.
How has travel impacted your creative practice?
Nez Anazodo: The first fundamental form of travel is to take a journey into yourself. Travel has always been a medium of expression for us to stay open-minded to absorb inspirations, and support our creative process with ideas & general findings from documentations of nature & people. And then from this, we interact with the cultures & sub-cultures booming around us.
Our second mini capsule introduction “DILLY 2” was inspired from travel and the streets, “what the people are always wearing on the street?” - we made a decision to journey through the streets of Lagos and Ibadan - two largely populated cities in Nigeria, to see what fashion means to the general public at-large, we wanted to be able to understand worldviews through style. We then interrogated questions of identity via our designs to capture what’s not only popular, but true.
Also, because we are very much community driven, creative travel for us is community building through first-hand experiences, cross-cultural engagement, and an authentic exploration of the self. We want to be able to bring Pith forward to a city near you in a manner that recognizes and respects cultural contexts.
Can you share a little behind the creative process of Dilly 1, 2 and 3?
Nez Anazodo: So the entire idea of Dilly to us means ‘remarkable’ and currently remains an on-going ideation series broken down into elements from our inception till date.
Dilly is currently broken down into 3 sub-genres that all have internal meanings. Dilly 1 channels "Acceptance", Dilly 2 channels "Streetwear" & Dilly 3 channels "Enviroment.”
Dilly 1 is identified as our beginning (Acceptance) — inspired by a need to creatively forge and materially express the brand identity with layers and emotions passed across each pieces in search of individuality so everyone can appreciate the beauty of being clothed in their skin, — we sought out to create this capsule collection using earth tone palettes that felt natural in contrast to our melanin skin, thereby heralding our blackness and amplifying our black experience. Acknowledging who we are was the first step to building a world and community of our own.
Dilly 2— "Streetwear" - In essence, this was borne out of personalized understanding of what fashion means to us and our advent into it from our respective perspective - at that time was also when our industry patriarch Virgil Abloh became popular for his streetwear transitioning into high fashion and making that idea become mainstream - that went on to introduce a vision that had us mostly inspired by what the people at large wear on the streets in our local community and neighborhoods around Lagos and we thought a better way to propagate this idea of streetwear to us and how people mostly feel in this clothes we documented was if we tried to reinterpret with our voice and opening up a discourse thereby breathing a whole new life to what it means in our community — one fueled with freedom, rawness, and youthful vigor.
Dilly 3 — "Environment" - as the sub genre suggests, this phase has been a very experimental and monumental one in our current trajectory, looking backward, it was effectively informed by the introspection we had during the hiatus we took just before the pandemic and the recurring question that kept coming to the mind and made us take the break was - "how do we make our production process moving forward safe to our environment". - We want to make clothes but also making clothes that are sustainable and beneficial to our immediate environment, so we don’t end up affecting it and the people around us in conscious/unconscious negative ways.
The core part of this chapter to us is sustainability and we want to explore more sustainable alternatives across different stages from fabric sourcing, fabric or garment production to garment repurposing across our production and supply chain in developing and testing new products while improving existing ones. In a perfect world, there’d be no more new clothes.
We began to insert and explore ideas around used-jeans. This birthed our current trajectory creatively, giving birth to an entire new chapter of PITH and it’s been deeply rewarding considering how many denim pieces we’ve been able to up-cycle in just one year and how our consumers have been receptive to this shift in design ethos. This year we want to explore more garments silhouettes with denim as our primary fabric.
Ultimately the idea of Dilly to us is deconstructing the idea around dropping collections which gives us more capacity to create in and view the world.
It's been six years since homosexuality was effectively criminalised in Nigeria. Why is it important for you to support pride and the queer community in Nigeria?
Adedayo Laketu: As founders of PITH we feel it’s so stupid our government still feels homosexuality is something punishable by law, and as far as calling it a crime, so it’s important for us to speak up as PITH. We’re big on community as we’ve mentioned, and our community has always been one that’s a safe place for people to be what they want and who they want, there’s no limit to individualism, to being yourself. As big LGBTQ+ allies we’d always play our part in supporting the community. We plan on doing more.
One piece of advice on how not to annoy locals for people visiting Lagos?
Adedayo Laketu: I think it’s people feeling we’re not connected to the world and looking down on us. A lot of times when celebrities like rappers, actors, etc come to Nigeria they’re always surprised when we sing the latest hit word for word or know the latest movies, or tech or game. It’s so funny because Nigerians are one of the fastest growing internet adapters, and Africans are connected to the world in a major way shaping culture straight from the continent to the world.
So the major thing is to never dumb it down when you’re in Lagos, like any major city around the world we’re also in touch with the everything and even more.
It’s crazy cause you see Nigerians from Lagos, Nigeria, around the world now, Rema shutting down shows and festivals, BurnaBoy selling out Madison, Tems winning a BET, designers like Faith Oluwajimi who owns Bloke having shows in Paris, Photographer Stephen Tayo, exhibiting his art and creating, and so many young other Nigerians in different fields who all started from Lagos and are now global faces shaping culture. Still a lot of people are ignorant about Lagos itself, where these people are from. We’re trying to shine a light on that with Pith as well, we’re the ones shaping culture now and the world needs to know this and respect the creators behind it.
What's next for you?
Cosmas Ojemen: Right now we are gearing up to launch a website, a couple more collaborations on the way, we are dropping a few new pieces and then working on the next version of our curated offline experience - Ps & Qs, with Bartending company Quacktails.