Tia Adeola Brings Attention to End SARS

Tia Adeola Brings Attention to End SARS

Londoner Tia Adeola opened NYFW with a series of statements printed across her collection: "You Were Supposed to Protect Us," read one, as commentary on the End SARS social movement in her native Nigeria. She showed how beautiful clothes can still carry meaningful messages, continuing her exploration of Renaissance-inspired designs with ruffles, feathers and sparkles for Fall 2022 (the show even opened with a harpist and was held at the Prince George Ballroom).

This season, Adeola introduced menswear for the first time: Breezy short-sleeved button-ups in shades of baby blue and soft pink that she styled with colorful, beaded necklaces. One model wore a dreamy, white open robe with leather trousers. Another modeled pants that looked like they were fashioned from a royal ballgown, dressed down with a zip-up hoodie she printed with the brand's Black Jesus motif.

A studied balance of art history and modern street style, Adeola's show wrapped with PAPER cover star Flo Milli, who walked to her unreleased single, "Pretty Black Cute" — the perfect finale. Below, we caught up with Adeola to talk about pulling inspiration from Michelangelo and why Prince is her ultimate menswear muse.

"You Were Supposed to Protect Us." What's the story behind that statement and how does it reflect the larger mission of this collection?

It was aimed at the Nigerian police force and, even beyond that, it was essentially aimed at all the "higher ups," who are meant to protect us as civilians and as the youth, when they tend to do the opposite. My mission was to send a message and yet still create the beautiful garments that I love to bring to life.

This felt like a return to decadence, which we’re seeing across fashion, post-pandemic. In what ways did you want to put a Tia Adeola twist to these opulent, Renaissance-inspired looks?

I had a lot of time to think, learn and research during the pandemic, and I applied that to my design process. The Black Jesus figures you see in this collection were once white. While learning and growing I made the necessary alterations with members of my team in hopes of continuing to rewrite history through fashion.​ The image I use is the Pietà by Michelangelo, which really resonates with me as I studied his work a lot in art history.

You introduced menswear this season. How did you approach it?

I wanted to challenge myself creatively and I approached it without a clue, as it was something I've never done before. I was heavily inspired by figures like Prince, who challenged toxic masculinity, hence the frills on shirts, pinks and lace.

Fela Kuti soundtracked the show. How do you think his music complemented this collection?

Fela Kuti is my favourite Nigerian artist. He lived his life to the beat of his own drum and was often arrested, harassed and beaten for the contents of his music, which were often directed towards the government. One of the songs that we played, "Sorrow Tears and Blood," particularly resonated with me with the End SARS movement being so recent.

Flo Milli closed the show. What do you love about her and how do you think she embodies the brand?

I loved Flo's music from the first time I heard it. She's creative, she's beautiful and she is an amazing representation of women in music, right now.

Photography: Andrea Sabugo