by Chérmelle Edwards
Spending much of her childhood in Nigeria and then moving to Atlanta, Georgia, designer Asiyami "Gold" Wekulom injects traditions from both cultures into her work. For her label Asiyami Gold, she blends aesthetics from Nigerian prints and Ankara fabrics with the sensibility of the American woman. The recently released collection "A.Au" encapsulates that concept perfectly with loud patterns, bright colors and subtle lines. "Since I lived in Nigeria for the first 11 years of my life and I’ve spent the last 11 here, everything for me is half and half. I am both of these places and both are part of my culture," Wekulom tells CH.
Earlier this year, a friend traveled to Wekulom's hometown of Nigeria and brought back textiles that were exactly what she needed to spawn the "A.Au" range. “I was so blessed. My culture plays a role in everything and in all aspects of myself. He knew me and he knew what I liked. Right now, I like mixing prints and solids and playing with patterns," she explains of the serendipitous trip.
The collection—though bold and bright—was intentionally designed with simplicity. "When you look at African clothing back home there’s lot of puffy, huge sleeves, big fishtails and you can look like an astronaut. That clothing is traditional, even vintage, but it’s not ready-to-wear. These prints already speak for themselves so you don’t need to add extra elements to make it more than what it is," she says.
When it came to facilitating her design process, Wekulom admits she isn’t wealthy in the talent of sketching or pattern-making, so she relies on others for the initial phases of her production process. "Sometimes when I go to sleep, I dream about things. I’m not a sketcher so I don’t sketch," she says. But by drawing what she can and explaining details to a professional pattern-maker, Wekulom's ideas are translated from abstract into realities.
Her jumping off point is always from the textiles—their patterns, colors, textures. Sewing all the pieces by hand, Wekulom has found herself working through the night; sometimes making up to five items in a day. "I’m very determined. When I go, I just go. I don’t sleep, I don’t stop; I stay up until it is done. I want to get to that place where I say, 'Oh my god, this is it.'"
Getting to that stage doesn't come easily. For example, during the making of "A.Au," the designer struggled with her non-traditional production process when attempting to make a bell sleeve fall with just the right movement. She explains, "I do intense visioning, so the mental images I create, can translate into a physical expression. For the bell sleeve I was reconstructing until it was the perfect sleeve. And, the end product is beautiful. I just love beautiful things."
The Asiyami Gold "A.Au" collection is now available online, with prices starting at $50.
Lookbook images courtesy of Asiyami Gold, portrait by Chérmelle Edwards