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Mansour Badjoko

Mansour Badjoko is showing us all how you spark change in the fashion industry. He created a gender neutral brand that models everything a brand should be: high quality, realistically prices, transparent in its process and sustainable. Mansour proves his versatility and creativity through collaborations with artists such as Julien Colombier and Lisa Lapierre. As he is picking up steam, the I Love Belgium team interviewed the designer to learn some more about his achievements and thoughts.

ILB: How would you describe your brand's style? 

My brand style could be described as minimalist, functional and comfortable. 

ILB: What or who inspires your work? 
I love people watching, it is really inspiring. In the street or in public transportation, I analyze what strangers are wearing, and how I could improve what is already there. I also try to guess what they will need in the near future. Then I mix it with abstract ideas that I am obsessed with: Fragile Masculinity, Nobility, Elegance, and Attitude of Defiance. 

ILB: You mention that your brand is gender neutral, how do you break gender norms through your style? 
While designing 2 collections targeted exclusively for men, we had up to 30% of female customers. It was such a surprise that some women were interested in the kind of clothes we were making. Reading on gender norms and gender roles, the term "gender neutral" came out frequently. Digging a little bit further, I realized it encompassed my want of making desirable clothes for a wide array of genders. I believe gender neutral brands are the future. Men and Women tend to wear the same pieces anyway: t-shirts, jeans and jackets. The inception was also really logical: buy less clothes, and share them with the people you know. I predict that in the near future a small fringe of the population won’t be phased by wearing clothes that the opposite gender can wear as well. 

I am interested in pushing gender norms a little bit further. I want to expand the definition of masculinity and femininity, and explore new possibilities and formulate new typologies of clothes. As a starting point for the brand, I use the notion of "a shared wardrobe". The main goal while designing is to make people look good and feel comfortable in their own skin. I am interested in corrupting the real world with clothing that is quietly dramatic yet pragmatic, elegant yet comfortable, fashionable yet sustainable.

ILB: On your website, you wrote about the experience of turning 30 this year. What have been your proudest accomplishments so far, and what do you want to do in the next 30 years? or how do you think the fashion world will change within the next 30 years? 
My proudest achievement so far is to be able to stand where I am today, because there were a lot of odds stacked against me: socioeconomic background, racism, homophobia, self doubt, etc. I know myself a little bit more today. 

Moreover, this year has been pretty special to me because I became a teacher. I am in charge of the first year in Fashion Design at HEAD Geneva. I am the eldest of four children, and I have always enjoyed seeing my younger sisters and brother succeed after I guided them. Now I get to do it every week and see growth and evolution before my eyes. It is really refreshing and rewarding. 

The future of fashion is bright and exciting. We are currently at a tipping point in the industry: big luxury companies are slowly adopting the fast-fashion business model of creating more and more collections throughout the year. Fast-fashion companies are also getting really good at copying and delivering goods when they are desired and relevant to the season. Young designers are following these rules because they are becoming brutal for a small-scale company. But a few people are starting to refuse to comply, they are trying to find new ways to work, new ways to collaborate, and new ways to sell clothes and make a living out of it. I find that exciting and reassuring. 

ILB: I like how you share quotes on your website. Are there any inspirational quotes you would like to share with the readers of I Love Belgium? 
To quote the great philosopher, "I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way." - Whitney Houston 

ILB: Why do you love Belgium? 
Something that is interesting in Belgium, which is both a blessing and a curse: nobody takes themselves too seriously. It creates a unique atmosphere where nothing really matters, and that makes it really good for creativity because we are not afraid to fail, to try, and to explore new ways of doing things. As a small country, there is also a fantastic sense of community; this interview is proof of that. We really support each other without even really knowing each other, no questions asked. That is unique to Belgium, and I love that about us.

Looking to learn more about Mansour Badjoko’s work? Be sure to check out his website with all the details on his latest series, as well as his journal page with insight onto his fashion and personal thoughts.

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