Meet Taofeek Abijako: The 20-Year-Old Nigerian Designer Behind Head of State+

BY KATIE LACOUR

At 20-years-old, Taofeek Abijako landed on Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his notable fashion line, Head of State+. He not only started his brand in high school, but was painting Vans for funding before he was recruited by a Japanese retailer, United Arrows. His brand is unique while also sharing a powerful message of Nigerian history. As a result of entwining these elements, Taofeek has taken the fashion industry by force, being a designer to watch during Men's New York Fashion Week and a feature in The New York Times.

 PHOTO: Taofeek Abijako /  Instagram

PHOTO: Taofeek Abijako / Instagram

Abijako immigrated from Lagos, Nigeria with his family only two years before launching his first collection in 2016. His father was an independent fashion designer, and while Taofeek wasn't allowed to touch any of his father's machinery, he explored his father's sketches extensively. It was during his time at Albany High School that Abijako began to fully harness his designing abilities. To raise funds for his first collection, he sold hand-painted Vans with unique designs for around $200. Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg caught a glimpse of his designs and shared them on her social media. The profits from his custom Vans helped fund Abijako's first collection for Head of State+.

Abijako launched his collection on Twitter and was scouted by a Japanese company who decided to invest in his talent. While his collection became a great success and his continued success is still booming, Abijako shared his view of the collection with CFDA, "I approach Head of State+ as less of a brand and more of a case study. It's me digging into my cultural upbringing while trying to have a firm grasp and understanding of it."

Head of State+ portrays Abijako's interpretation of luxe men's streetwear and was started when he was only 17-years-old. While his collection is based in New York, Abijako wanted to reflect on his time in Nigeria. He even named his company after the title of a song by Fela Kuti, the late Nigerian political activist and creator of Afrobeat music. Nigeria's independence, as told by Abijako, came with a new life and monumental music was inspired by the newfound freedom. Post-Biafran War, the music granted important messages of rebellion and resilience, like that of Fela Kuti.

Even with Abijako's rising popularity, his philosophy remains the same with Head of State+. He describes the brand as filled with "thoughtful, inconspicuous and honest designs." Head of State+ features a streetwear exterior look, while combining social and political commentary in the nooks of fabric. "I've never felt so good about something," Abijako stated of his brand. Head of State+ features sweatshirts with hood laces in various colors, cropped pants, and T-shirts showcasing the brand's name. Abijako's brand also includes wide-neck sweatshirts, half-zips, jeans, and basics.

The fashion industry has already taken notice of Taofeek Abijako. So much is clear with being named a designer to watch during Men's New York Fashion Week and now making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Abijako explained his intent on affecting the fashion industry to CFDA, "I hope to contribute to the encouragement of fruitful dialogues regarding social, political or cultural matters. Designers are not doctors or fire fighters who save lives, although we are and can be conversation starters. The design gives us the privilege and luxury to highlight and raise awareness on any topic."

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Abijako also garnered inspiration from Youth FX, an Albany-based program that empowers teenagers in underserved communities to learn more about the arts. In addition to empowering others culturally, Abijako's journey also serves as a guide to future designers to challenge the fashion hierarchy and go for it.

There is something to be said about a young designer starting out on a successful path but sticking to foundational ideas that expand into powerful messages. With the next generation, Abijako's influential messages and streetwear style has the opportunity for larger than life influence. There is no doubt that the young designer's creativity and professional energy will aid in the expansion of Head of State+, both as a cultural form and a prominent name in the fashion industry's surge of streetwear.

Lead Image Credit: Taofeek Abijako / Instagram