Wale Adeyemi's original career ambitions amounted to a job in window-dressing, but the Londoner overshot the mark to become a designer with bullet-proof credibility. His reputation was cemented when David Beckham was snapped wearing his iconic graffiti-print jacket. Adeyemi has since proved his versatility by designing for A-listers including Beyonce Knowles and Alicia Keys. He now has his own womenswear line, is creative director of urban range Fabulous 500 and is a consultant for US baseball cap brand New Era, which is launching a clothing line.
You seem to have a packed schedule - do you ever have any time off?
Not much. But I love my job. Look around the studio - this is me. And I've always been a bit of a juggler, I like to do all sorts of things. As a designer you can't hit everybody with everything at once. You have to give them something they can understand. But I give each project my twist. I find it difficult to say no; I like challenges.
What's the next challenge?
Growing the womenswear line is important. The high street is the driving force now so we want to get the range onto that level, into retailers such as Bank. At least we know there is an audience out there. When we ran a competition on MySpace to find the next face of the brand, we got 1,000 entries in three days. That's not the only judging I have to do - I'm off to Nigeria next week as a guest judge and stylist on their version of Pop Idol.
High street dominance has meant that fast fashion has taken over. Is that a problem for brands?
It's not a big problem - people want newness all the time, that's all. There's much less forward ordering. Retailers now want to see a range on Monday, get it delivered on Wednesday and sell it on Saturday. That's fine - I like it fast. With Fabulous 500 we've kept it flexible so we're not working to seasons. As a kid I would always move on to the next thing quickly, whether it was skating or BMXing. That's why I love fashion - it's always changing.
You're seen as being plugged in to youth culture. So what's happening right now?
It's all merging. Rock, house, hip-hop, punk; it's all about fusion, and that's amazing. For me, it is an advantage working in the UK because everybody in the team we have here comes from a different background.
Do you feel ghettoised being described as a black designer?
When it's said it's usually meant as a compliment, but if I'm honest then yes, it's annoying. Why "black designer"? I'm a designer, that's all. People think black designer means street designer. There's more to it than that. If you look at the womenswear, there are no "black" pieces in it, just a range of references given my twist.
Does US young fashion cast a shadow over the UK scene?
Not really, it's just a bigger market. You can't compare the two because there's so much volume to cater for in the US. You can't sell hamburgers to the Americans, so why be anything other than yourself when designing? The fusion of influences is becoming important there too. They are mixing skate and hip-hop and all those trends, but they also get the European look too.
Where would you like to see your signature in future?
Maybe a brand such as Sony. I'd love to give the Wale twist to more lifestyle pieces, and designing some hardware for a company such as Sony would be great, something beyond clothes.
THIS FASHION LIFE
- What is your biggest fashion weakness?
Sneakers. My addiction to them is ridiculous.
- What was your best fashion moment?
When David Beckham and his son wore my signature graffiti-print jacket and it made all the newspapers. The print went on to become one of the most iconic prints of the 21st century.
- And your worst?
- The bootlegging period that followed the success of the graffiti line. Imitation isn't always the best kind of flattery.
- Who is your industry icon and why?
Joe Casely-Hayford. I did work experience with him when I was at college. If I'd not seen his dedication and how much work he put in, I wouldn't be doing this today - I would have been too shocked coming into the industry.
- What would you be doing if not fashion?
Either arts in some shape or form, or music production.
- Where do you shop?
Selfridges is always cool. On the high street it's got to be Topman or Topshop.
- What books are you reading?
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Both are very interesting.
- Who is your style icon?
Tom Ford - with each brand he creatively directs he retains a bit of its own style, but gives it a twist.
- Who is your pop idol?
Gwen Stefani. I love her vibe.
- Who is on your mobile speed dial?
Wouldn't you like to know!