Models.com speaks to KK Obi, creative director and founder of a new print publication and digital platform Boy.Brother.Friend (conceived by Founder/Creative Director KK Obi and Editorial Director Emmanuel Balogun). While not the first time we interviewed KK (see his previous interview here from 2019), the emergence of this new publication and digital platform focusing on international themes of male identities, diaspora, intersectionality, transnational cultures, migration and mental health through the lens of fashion and art, comes at a much needed time.
Models.com: It’s called Boy Brother Friend. I don’t think I know of any other magazines that so directly address the subjects of “intersectionality, male identities and transnational cultures” as you put them. Why did you feel the need to create such a magazine?
KK Obi: I agree, there are not many magazines if any still operating that address these themes and these themes mean a great deal to us. London to me is one of the greatest cities in the world and feel lucky to call it home (I was born in and am from Nigeria, West Africa); there is so much intersectionality here which births some of the most brilliant creative minds, some of whom I am lucky to call friends.
Boy Brother Friend was initially conceived as a limited edition zine in 2017. The title came from the time where I collaborated with photographer Mehdi Lacoste on a series of portraits which celebrated a set of inspiring people around me; some of whom were close friends, some whom are like brothers to me.
We felt it was important for us to create a space to write/document ourselves into history, depicting and not running away from our truth. Documenting our actual experience, each other and the driving forces behind our work in a physical format was and is necessary to myself and team. Instead of fighting for a seat at the table we wanted to build our own and be able to ensure the narrative is honest and authentic.
MDC: Which magazines were influential in shaping your love of fashion?
I worked at ARISE Magazine and Pop’Africana, I also love Fantastic Man, Arena HOMME +, 1Granary and L’Uomo Vogue.
MDC: “Diversity” in fashion is an issue that has been brought up often over the past few years but tends to apply to the outward-facing part of the industry (models). Do you think enough is being done to address diversity in other areas of fashion?
Not enough is being done unfortunately. While I think it’s amazing that brands and publications now have very diverse castings in their editorials and campaigns, diversity in the design and creative teams is still an issue. Publications and brands today are somewhat removed from the importance of sensitivity when delving deeper. Most are led by trends, commerce and shy away from the conversations that truly matter.
Concept + Collage Jazz Grant, Photographer MissOhio
MDC: Edward Enninful and Ib Kamara are some of the men of color at the top of their respective fields. Who do you think we should keep an eye on, men AND women of color, for the next generation in the creative world?
Ib Kamara and Rafael Pavarotti told an incredible story on our pages, keep more than eye out for Raf. Collage artist Jazz Grant is a super talented lady, designers Mowalola, Kenneth Ize and Jawara Alleyne. Keep your eyes wide open for them just in case you have not already. Models Jeremaiah Berko and Omar Ceesay are such amazing young guys to work with. Keep a wide eye out for our incredible contributors, all listed below; we could not do this without them.
MDC: Men in creative positions have dominated the fashion industry for so long but women and specifically black women of color have not been given the same opportunities at all, aside from Pat McGrath and Patti Wilson, just to name a few. We see men shooting, styling, creative directing women’s fashion stories all the time. Who are some of the women of color, black and otherwise, that you support or hope to have shoot/create for your magazine?
Well we are so proud to feature some incredible women of color on the pages and in the teams. Mischa Notcutt, stylist and casting director is a phenomenal human being; model Grace Quaye is such a pleasure to work with, so elegant in her movement and demeanor. Make up artist Megumi Matsuno and stylist Neesha Tulsi Champaneria, made some incredible stories for us as well.
We hope to have more exceptional women of color, stay tuned to find out more.
MDC: As a black man NOT from America, what do you have to say about what is happening in the U.S at this moment in terms of the movement and protests against the killing of black people? Are there any takeaways that you feel are important for the rest of the world to realize?
I woke up last week to that video of George Floyd being kneed down by the neck by officer Derek Chauvin, screaming I CAN’T BREATHE! Like many other people that were really triggered, so many deep emotions came up for me that went beyond the horrific act that I was looking at and the many other acts that continue to happen across America and all over the world which need to end. For so many of my immediate POC community, some of whom are listed above, myself included, in the fashion and creative industries, experience work related and life related racism on a daily basis. It’s like we have learned to be desensitized to it, but this kind of behavior can’t continue anymore across the board and needs to be called out, studied, understood, isolated and eradicated. We ALL need to place COMPASSION over capital gain and we need to re-examine our core and dissect who we really are and who we want to be irregardless of our history and background.
Photographer Hendrik Schneider, Stylist KK Obi
To order the print or digital editions check out the Boy.Brother.Friend website.