It was excruciatingly hot and I had under an hour to get to East Williamsburg to meet up with fashion designer, Maat Oguntunde. The L train took forever to arrive and even longer to get there, after all it was a Saturday afternoon. Blackberry clutched in my right hand, messenger bag strapped over my shoulder stuffed with junk, and sunglasses sliding down my nose from sweat I rushed out the Morgan Avenue train station. “Where the hell are you dude?” I text Matt as I leaned against a dirty concrete wall it seems in the middle of nowhere. I was sweating like a pig and couldn’t wait to get away from industrial fumes coming from a nearby trucking garage. A few minutes later I ended up in some abandoned apartment in a graffiti ridden building drinking Orange Juice and Seltzer with an electric fan blowing on me. It was so boiling that stickers on the window melted. I could tell this was going to be a rough few hours, but I wanted to find out more about Afropunk.com community member and his new clothing line, the Maat Oguntnde collection.
Tired of the trends, Afro-punk member creates own line
Maat talks fashion, the evolution of life, and pushing against the norm
Words Amber Alexander
How did you end up designing clothes?
I started designing six years ago in 2004, only because I couldn’t find shit that I wanted to rock. There was nothing that expressed what I wanted to express and so that’s why I started. I did a little research and found out that I could screen print my own t-shirts so I bought a press and did it. That’s how I started doing it, to print for myself.
Explain the inspiration behind your line.
This line of a combination of my experiences in printing and dealing with people as far as what they like, what they will spend money on, and also what I want to project for black folks and other conscious community in general (but people of color in particular). When I first began it was super political and hardcore black people were into it but others were like I can’t fuck with it, like it’s cool but it doesn’t speak to me. So I tried to find a comfortable medium and that what this line is. It’s combining a social aspect and I’ve grown spiritually so I infuse that as well, and trying to express it in a way that’s still punk, still hip hop, still street.
Does your clothing reflect you or the person you want to be?
It reflects my transition. I’m still transitioning so you know there will be my past, my present, and the future. They will all be reflected in there and not just me you know, folks I admire too.
Do you consider yourself an alternative fashion designer or just a fashion designer?
Def alternative because I’m not putting out anything mainstream. If people who like mainstream happen to like it, for example a bunch of old women like my scarves that is fucking crazy! Seriously like way older than my target demographic like grandmas, are buying my scarves and they have no idea what’s on it, what it means, or what it stands for. They just love the patterns and material so those I’ve won everything else may be a little strong for their taste. I found something that everyone can get so I dig that.
What you think the alternative fashion world is lacking?
I think it’s missing a main stake, like a designer that speaks to their demographic that intends to be there for 30 years. It seems like everybody’s goal is to make his or her little money then fucking sell. There’s no one who wants to stick around and be the guy who grows slowly instead of quickly so their kids could have something they could rock and be proud of it; Something that isn’t completely commercial. That’s what alternative fashion lacks, a designer with a long-term vision.
Do you plan to change that? If so, how?
I’m trying to I don’t plan on ever selling. You know, I wanna be that status staple like you know what you are getting, not some crossover shit.
What keeps your motivated?
Hate keeps me motivated; my friends tell me I have old man anger. I mean you know I hate the way black folk feel they have to not be themselves to be accepted. I hate that shit. But I love my people, I love who get it and I love the people who get it. I’m motivated by hate and love.
Describe a regular workday in your shoes for us.
Don’t get up until mid-noon…I’m lying! I go to bed at three am then I wake up at seven am to work on new designs. For printing I try to do it at night at night because it’s fucking hot in my crib, with the press blowing and all that shit. Then I’m designing when I’m not printing so the day starts out with me getting up, working out, checking sales, and seeing if I have to ship shit out. Maybe consult with a couple folks, hit up a few stores to see if they want my product, or check out some vending opportunities, then play with some designs. If I don’t have any meeting where I have to go out I print until I can’t stand it anymore, do some more designing, then crash out.
Where do you want to head with Matt Oguntunde?
In the next few years I wanna be in Tokyo, Paris, ummm…..I want to be in different boutiques but a specific kind. I like the way BBC does their stuff but I don’t wanna be as commercial. I wanna have a cult following and in five to ten years I can count on these die hard supporters; A community that looks out for my shit, gives feedback, and just interact with each other. If I can setup a platform like that through my clothing line that’ll be dope.
What motto do you live by?
Don’t do shit that keeps you up at night. Think before you act. Have fun every fucking day because this shit is brief. You don’t know if you’ll come back as a butterfly or a fucking worm.
You actually believe that shit?
Yeah, your energy doesn’t go away it stays here.
What does Afro-punk mean to you?
Afropunk is hmmm…..can it be defined? It’s pretty much walking to the beat of your own drum. It’s you being you, me being me whatever that is. However by definition it’s afro so it’s coming from a minority standpoint. We are partially defined by the larger because we are ostracized, kind of like when hip hop was in it’s infancy. People didn’t accept it now people are like oh it’s cool because these kids are doing exactly what the fuck they feel.
Do you consider yourself "Afro-punk?"
I was born afro-punk man, I’ve never been a follower. For sure!
To follow Maat on Afropunk.com, click here!
Check out his collection, here!