Rising model Adesuwa Aighewi is styled in the new season’s collections by Helen Broadfoot. Philip Messmann is in the studio, capturing ‘Angel of Harlem’ for Porter Edit, October 11, 2019./ Hair by James Towe; makeup by Mel Arter
Sarah Bailey interviews Aighewi in London.
Raised between the US and Nigeria as the child of a Chinese and Thai mother and Nigerian father, Adesuwa Aighewi has a major to do list. “I want to do documentaries that change the way people view Africa,” the rising model said in an earlier interview.
To that end, the Harlem resident made her directorial debut this spring with a short film titled ‘Spring in Harlem”. The short could have been about the famous procession of Harlem ladies with their Easter hats, but it was “about a posse of sassy Muslim girls talking about their relationship with the hijab.”
“I wanted you just to hear them and find them relatable, like ‘Yo, this is a girl with a piece of cloth on her head. That’s literally it. You don’t need to be scared,” according to Aighewi. Talking about her docu-series stories from Africa, she spent the summer traveling around the continent “just learning and observing all nations, literally hanging out, like, ‘You sell mangoes? Yo, what’s your deal? Let’s hang…’”
Charmingly outspoken, Adesuwa Aighewi is quick witted, while going in for the deep slice. Twice the model traveled to New York to meet with Victoria’s Secret. Her agent was clear:
“‘They are waiting for your breasts; you need to have something’, and I was like, ‘Bro, my mom doesn’t have tits, no one has tits on my mom or my dad’s side.’” Does she think she was expected to get implants? “A lot of creepy things happen in fashion and, yeah, I figured if I tattooed my chest, it would just end the conversation entirely.” And that is exactly what she did.
Aighewi pays some homage in her Porter Edit interview, gushing about Alek Wek and “the pioneering role she has played for black models. “When I see her, I just want to hold her,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion. “People think that as a model there are people behind you pushing, but you’re in the front, you get all the hits.”
The late Karl Lagerfeld receives high praise from Aighewi, who embraced her at both Fendi and Chanel. “You know what’s crazy – I knew Karl would get me. And he was so dope.”
“I want to create change on a big scale,” the model grins when talking about her Legacy Project that will debut later this year. The cross-cultural initiative brings together “the craft skills of African artisans with fashion designers based in the West to create the kind of products that hype beasts and tastemakers would be proud to buy and wear.”
The idea is that profits will go back to the African makers and that other creators will follow suit and collaborate and use the platform, too. “All the money that’s made is in a circle, going back in,” says Aighewi. “All I want to be is a catalyst, just sparking the fire.”
i-D’s new Global Editor in Chief Alasdair McKimm announced in July that Adesuwa was one of four new contributing editors for the revamped magazine. She is joined by Gray Sorrenti, Hazel Ong, and Paloma Elsesser — all reporting to McKimm.
Catch Adesuwa Aighewi’a AOC Archives at the end of this post. AOC specializes in tracking all the #BlackGirlMagic on the rise in the fashion industry.