“Johnny just come” is a pidgin phrase used in Nigeria to describe any and all newcomers who find themselves suddenly—and naively—in a new place. It’s a playful idiom, encapsulating a more lighthearted attitude to displacement and disorientation, and its widespread discrepancy, “Journey Just Come” is the title of Soji Solarin’s latest collection—inspired by personal stories of immigration from his native Nigeria.
The collection follows the designer’s lively Negro Cowboy offerings—a commentary on the whitewashing of culture and an exploration of Black identity—and seeks to “celebrate and trace an ambiguous, personal, oftentimes optimistic and sanguine side of immigration histories.” Instead of adhering to the prevailing narrative that surrounds immigration—one that’s rooted in ideas of xenophobia, hostility and bureaucracy—Solarin’s collection chooses to focus on the characteristic optimism and resilience he perceived in his parents and friends who chose to settle outside of Nigeria.
Grounded in the real, lived experiences of his friends and family, Solarin’s ideas for the collection began by gathering photographs from other members of the Nigerian diaspora, dating back to the first days they spent in their new chosen home countries. “I asked friends and family members to share images of their parents, or other family members abroad,” he explains. One photograph shows his parents, proudly holding tiny American flags on the day they were granted US citizenship. Another shows family friends arriving into London’s Heathrow Airport.
The resulting collection is at once novel and nostalgic—drawing on the designers own memories of his parents’ style, as well as the effortless elegance of “African dad and uncle fashion”, and fusing it with elements of structural sports- and workwear. Subtle pops of white and green play out across several pieces, paying homage to the Nigerian national flag, while tie dye and denim is reminiscent of Solarin’s parents’ clothing when they left for the airport to immigrate to the US. “I remember my mum in a loose fitting beige pant suit and my dad in his denim-on-denim fit,” he says. “And I tried to convey the energy I felt from the images collectively.”
Consisting of loose-fitting long sleeves and tailored pants, JJC encompasses what the designer sees as three hallmarks of Nigerian style: functionality, ease and sophistication. “My late grandfather set that benchmark for me,” Solarin explains. “He was all about comfort and practicality, which is what traditional Nigerian style is all about; loose fitting clothing that allows you to move freely.” Inspired by nostalgia for Nigeria, but also the tenacity of its diaspora worldwide, Solarin sums up the collection’s ethos with one battlecry, “I’m here, and I’m ready to take over.”
Photography MATIAS ALFONZO
Styling LAWRIE ABEI
Video SOPHIA KUHN
Art Direction MATHEA MILLMAN @ IKONIC STUDIO
Production SOJI SOLARIN
Production assistance CLARA MIRAMON
Models SUNDAY ROMUALD, ESSI TESFOM, LAWRENCE ABEI