Gareth Cowden is the mind behind Babatunde Styles. He's a forward thinking African that's leveraging his fashion prowess and raising positivity in South Africa. We were first put on to his dope caps when NYC music video director, Vashtie, shared them on her blog. We caught up with Cowden on his way to a shoot with FHM (For Him Magazine) in South Africa to ask him 5 questions for our An African Minute series.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was raised in the suburbs of Johannesburg. Although I enjoyed art at school, it was sport that intrigued me and consumed most of my time. When I went to University in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, I discovered my love for clothing as well as my creative side. This was also the first time I was exposed to mixing with other races and the beginning of many inspirational and life-shaping experiences.
2. What is the significance, or meaning behind the BABATUNDE name?
Babatunde is a Yoruba name. The direct translation in English means: " The father comes back" or " the father returns." I loved the name and meaning as I feel that we need more fathers in Africa. Africa needs men to behave like men and take more responsibility for their families, Africa's growth and also themselves.
3. When you're creating new pieces is there a message you want your work to carry, something you'd like people who sport BABATUNDE hats, umbrellas and other forthcoming attire to feel?
If possible, I would love for people who wear Babatunde to be more conscious
of themselves and how their actions and/or inactions affect others. Whether
it's someone close to you or a stranger in the streets. A greater respect if
you could call it that. Only through respecting ourselves and everyone
around us will we achieve more as a continent.
4. When did you know for sure you were meant to be a fashion designer? To whom or what do you credit your artistic eye?
I've been a fashion stylist for close on 10 years now. I never thought I would get into design/manufacture. It was just a natural progression I guess. I saw a gap in the market and took a risk. I would have to credit my wonderful experiences in Africa as well as the amazing people I meet and get to interact with for inspiring my ideas.
5. How do you think your fashions might contribute to the changing global perception of Africa?
That's quite a difficult question to answer. If anything, I would hope that Babatunde can change the world's opinion that Africa is a rural, traditional and backward continent. Hopefully we can show people around the globe that Africa is a progressive, creative, and contemporary design force and encourage the world to support Africa through buying African products rather than egotistical debt relief programmes. Or is that too harsh?