Oyejide looks through pocket squares he designed
for his Ikire Jones line, July 8, 2014, in
Philadelphia. He pursued his passion for menswear
after realizing his previous career as a civil
defense litigator was not fulfilling.
his sunlit apartment studio space, Sam Hubler, menswear
company Ikire Jones’ sole tailor, spends hours on
boldly printed jackets. The brand, founded by Wale
Oyejide, has a clear mission to offer unique,
handcrafted jackets for every type of man. Naima,
Oyejide’s 20-month-old daughter, is somewhat of a
mascot for the company and engages in innocent mischief
around the studio daily.
the far right corner sits a wooden table covered in
boldly printed fabrics and a wooden back wall of
partially hand-sewn men’s sports jackets and shirts.
actually have no background in menswear," the
Nigerian-born Oyejide starts. In what he calls the
typical immigrant story, Oyejide lived in various
countries as a kid bouncing back and fourth between
Nigeria and countries like Dubai before settling in the
U.S. as a teen. He’s wearing a light blue button down,
jeans, a straw fedora and oversized tortoiseshell
is a former (still licensed) attorney whose only
clothing design experience comes from his expert eye for
fashion. In 2010, he was selected by Esquire as one of
the five best-dressed real men in the country and Craig
Schroeder of Philadelphia bespoke menswear boutique
Commonwealth Proper was immediately impressed by his
sense of style.
had no connections in the industry," Oyejide said
of the beginnings of his company. "You just assume
that you have to go to FIT (the Fashion Institute of
Technology) or to design school to do that."
FIT, Oyejide did not go. Instead he earned his undergrad
degree in computer science. And once he graduated he did
what’s expected of every computer science kid —
became a musician. After being signed to a label,
Oyejide worked as a producer and vocalist in the
independent hip-hop scene under the moniker Science
Fiction for about three years. During that time he
collaborated with underground artists like MF DOOM and J
"starving artist reasons," Oyejide returned to
school where he attended Temple Law and began practicing
in Center City. "I did civil defense litigation,
which basically is a fancy way of saying if somebody
slips and falls in front of the laundromat and sues the
laundromat, I’d defend the laundromat," says
Oyejide of his former source of income.
it provided a comfortable enough lifestyle, law was just
that for the self-proclaimed "menswear nerd"
— a source of income lacking in fulfillment. Rather
than enjoying his career inherently, he found himself
justifying his job with the fact that he could buy the
"fly suits" that got him noticed regularly on
the streets of Philadelphia.
was becoming a "walking billboard" for the
brands he sported. Oyejide saw a void in the menswear
industry. Brands weren’t speaking to confident,
forward-thinking men who wanted to dress uniquely. He
just happened to be law school buddies with a woman
whose brother was a bespoke tailor — Sam Hubler —
who then became the official hands of Ikire Jones.
after his father’s village in Nigeria, and his
American wife’s family name, Ikire Jones is a brand
that marries cultures literally and figuratively. Driven
by wax cotton used customarily for casual African
clothing, Ikire Jones jackets are special because of the
fabric choices and incredible expert craftsmanship.
Hubler, who has been featured on GQ.com, spends nearly
15 hours on each individual jacket, a huge decrease from
the 40-hour minimum he was spending on bespoke suiting.
But time consuming, nonetheless.
out little things to cut the time down, but keep the
quality up," Hubler says is an ever-evolving
challenge. Machine sewn sports jackets retain luxurious
touches like hand stitched sleeves and collars,
meticulous pattern matching and spacious sleeve lining.
This is what’s putting Ikire Jones jackets in their
own made-to-order menswear category.
now," said Oyejide, "there are very few
companies, if any, in the U.S. who can say they do what
designs the scarf and square patterns, which are
manufactured in England, and as a result they reveal a
narrative, subtly but definitively foundation to the
entire brand. On them are scenes of traditional European
aristocracy and mythology. But, on The Madonna square,
for instance, a black woman and child sit on a throne
surrounded by European devotees and caretakers.
scarves and pocket squares are fantastic," says
Schroeder, "and you’ll see me sporting them all
STORY CAN END HERE)
stories accompany each piece in every collection,
strengthening the brand’s narrative — so far there
are two and they are working on a fall/winter collection
for the upcoming seasons.
high-intensity tales of lovers-turned-assassins in Tokyo
and stories of ravaged African villages, ikirejones.com
is as much a shopping website as it is a webpage of
short sci-fi narratives that, regardless of their
intention, seem to paint a completely new portrait of
Africa and her people.
returned to Johannesburg as different men," one
story reads. "The kind of men whose hands had
become calloused from clutching at ancient treasures and
were now strong enough to mold the future."
he says not to read too much into the stories, and the
intentional use of design and patterns, as they are
merely his contribution to the larger cultural
conversation: wax cotton fabric and esteemed black faces
in Eurocentric designs create a positive African
you go to CNN or Google or Reuters and look up any
country in Africa, nine times out of 10 what you read is
something horrible, horrific and tragic almost
everyday," Oyejide says. He hopes to convey an
authentic, honest point of view about Africa not marred
and transparency are trademarks of this cool company.
"Sadly, the vast majority of companies who do this
will go to somewhere like Asia where they can get super
cheap labor," Oyejide says. But that’s not how he
prefers to play it. He likes to know who’s making his
stuff and at the same time be sure they’re able to
make a living, "as opposed to some ghost thing
where you send materials overseas to some kid in a
think it’s a company with a conscience," Oyejide
says, "but not anymore of a conscience than a
Hubler of Ikire Jones, "A big part of it was just
not trying to hurt people and (to) make something
beautiful in the process."