TOLU AREMU ON DESIGNING FOR BLACK PANTHER, WORKING FOR CHROMAT AND THE FUTURE OF FASHION
The youth are the future, right? We're not placing our hope on what's past but instead what's to come. And if Tolu Aremu is any indication of the future of fashion, it's safe to say we're in good hands. The designer just graduated from Pratt this past Spring and is already making a name for herself with her work for Chromat; the brand known for their sexy sportswear and inclusive message that truly shows they're for everyone and everybody.
And when Chromat was asked to make a dress for a Black Panther themed event at New York Fashion Week, it was Tolu who was asked to design the gown. Using her eye for athletic tailoring done in innovative ways and Ankara straight from Nigeria, Tolu's vision comes to life. FASHION IS DYING talked to the Nigerian designer about Black Panther, working for Chromat and what's next.
gettin' real with tolu aremu
FASHION IS DYING: How would you describe your personal style? How about the styles you design?
TOLU AREMU: I would describe my personal style as feminine, minimalist tomboy, with Nigerian roots. The styles that I like to design can range but it usually stems from my sportswear background (I played basketball my whole life), adding lux elements and detailing, and always staying true to my Nigerian roots.
FID: You’ve been working at Chromat for five seasons — what’s been your favorite part of this experience, and how has it shaped you?
TA: Chromat is family. I love every minute I’m there but my favorite part of the whole experience is when we have our runway shows. Chromat is such a passion project for everyone involved. And every time we all come together (Becca, the Chromat Team, models, casting director Gilleon Smith, make-up and hair team, the djs, etc), it just feels like a big family reunion. The energy, the love, and the feels that flow through that space are unmatched. it’s something I truly cherish. And it’s always a bonus that I get to work with my brother, Tobi, every season too.
FID: Congratulations on designing the dress with Chromat for Black Panther for fashion week! It was so stunning. I love that you were able to incorporate your Nigerian roots into the project — what was this like for you emotionally?
TA: The whole experience was emotional form me. When Becca McCharen-Tran called to tell me about the project, my jaw hit the floor. The fact that she trusted me and believed in me to create a vision and bring it to fruition was very telling of the heart of her and her brand. During the last 48 hours of making the dress, I felt a duty to represent my Nigerian heritage, as well as all the Chromat Babes worldwide. It felt like I was a part of something bigger than me. I love that I got the opportunity to connect influential elements in my life, my Nigerian heritage and Chromat, with the awe-inspiring Black Panther movie.
FID: I feel like a lot of people like to think of fashion as frivolous or unnecessary, when it can be really empowering and political. How does fashion and design align with your values, and do they inspire one another?
TA: I’d say before I got to Chromat, I just was just making clothes to make clothes. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t really working towards a bigger picture. Once I started at Chromat, I realized that fashion can be so big and impactful towards the future. Working with all different types of people in all different paths of life, I realized that clothes have the power to bring change to this world and empower the people who wear them. I believe that all stems from the core value behind the brands you wear and choose to support. With Chromat, we make it our mission to deliver our message through the clothes, the models you send down the runway, the models in our editorials and the team that’s behind the brand, etc. Especially times like now, people need to use their voice, even if it comes from the clothes they create.
FID: Do you think fashion is dying?
TA: I don’t think fashion can ever die. We wake up and put on clothes. We wake up to fashion everyday in so many ways. We’d be naked if fashion died. But I do think there needs to be a revolution in fashion. We need more diversity and inclusivity on runways and in magazines. We need to push the envelope more in this industry to move it forward, not let these “moments” be a “trend” that will pass but instead be here to stay.
FID: If you could pick one muse to wear your pieces, who would it be and why?
TA: I’d pick Elaine Welteroth. I think she’s an incredible woman, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice. She gives social influencers a positive connation. She’s a woman of color who empowers and motivates young women to go out and be better. And to know that she’ll be at the Met Gala one night, then chilling in Brooklyn the next. She’s just a shining example of going after your dreams but always being grounded and humble.
FID: Congrats on graduating from Pratt. I hate to ask this but have to know- what’s next?
TA: Honestly, I’m just gonna chill for a bit. When I graduated from high school, I got accepted into 0 colleges. And boy, did that mess me up for a bit. I questioned if I was even good enough for this. Then my parents asked me if I would live with Tobi (my brother) in NY and figure it out. I then spent a year and a half taking sewing lesions and classes at FIT and Brooklyn College to finally be accepted into a 4 year BFA Fashion Design program at Pratt. So when I finally got this degree, I told myself "you deserve to chill, take on projects that you love, travel more, and live ya best life."
You can follow Tolu and her work here.