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Okuru Is The Latest Brand Championing Cultural Appreciation

Okuru Is The Latest Brand Championing Cultural Appreciation

Over the years, fashion has become oversaturated, with young entrepreneurs unaware they are fresh meat. Style goes beyond clothing and pandering to the temporal trends in society. Okuru, is the latest brand to understand this.

A fashion house is created on fundamental principles which become an entity, taking on a life of its own and conjuring a following of its own. The industry lures, chews and churns these bright-eyed fawns, the ones who have not realised this and spits them right back out again. It is lethal. This will not be the case for Chris Okutu, though. Chris knows this.

The London-born Congolese designer founded OKURU back in 2018. With a focus on unity and cultural appreciation, the foundations of this brand seek to intertwine the elements of Japan and Congo. Ikigai is the philosophy that inspired the brand identity — finding purpose and exploring the reasons behind our being. Chris exclaims that OKURU is “made to stimulate”. He wants you to ask why, and then why, and then why again. It is a collaboration between creatives, with the consumer as the priority.


This year’s campaign is a microcosmic show of solidarity between cultures and generations. “Juxtaposition, not competition,” the designer asserted. The best example is the Black Panther jacket, Chris’s favourite. It sports sky blue kanji text on both sides, and a traditional black panther bears its teeth armoured on the lower back. The silhouette is familiar. This is deliberate – inspired by timeless varsity jackets and the canonical 90s Avirex. To me, this token inspiration was quite charming. Lately, innovation is only deemed excellent and worthy when fresh and completely original. Capitalism — an omnipresent force that haunts society by conditioning it into believing that all the best things are new. 

So, it was remarkable to see a brand acknowledge and pay tribute to styles from the past that pioneered and paved the many faces of fashion today. It is just as impressive to rejuvenate the old as it is to create something new.

This is an image from the Okuru 2023 campaign. It features a Black Panther jacket and a male model wearing matching patterned trousers.
Courtesy of Okuru


Today, Non-Playable Characters (“NPCs”) are fascinated with the “minimalist” look — how ironic. Derived from the ‘stealth wealth’ and the ‘moving in silence’ sentiment, you have luxury brands selling plain tees from the same warehouses as high street brands, but they’ll impress their name into a corner and charge several hundred for it. That isn’t fashion. It’s ostentation disguised as modesty. OKURU marches for its parade, antithetical to the other brands you might know.

OKURU is loud, flamboyant, expressive and maximalist. If you know anything about Congolese fashion, this is precisely what it is. Shying away from patterns and colour is what makes everything mundane and replaceable. Look at how iconic brands have disgraced their quaint origins by opting for their new logos’ minimalist (soulless) look. There would be no need for fashion houses if we continued like this. Here, extravagance and kaleidoscope-like textiles catch your eye and echo Versace’s neo-baroque aesthetic. Unapologetic is the word that comes to mind. Both these brands embody it wholeheartedly.


Integral to this campaign was the monogram print as a base fabric. There were shirts, hoodies, shorts and dresses that utilised this print. This is another thing you don’t see anymore. A model wore the monogram dress, hands encased in black leather gloves, and legs in black knee-high boots. Accessorised to perfection, between her fingers weaved a traditional Japanese folding fan, the Sensu. She waved it flirtatiously as she strutted down the runway with her patterned headscarf flowing with each step.

Courtesy of Okuru

This was one of my favourite looks, especially with its styling. Fashion fanatics know each outfit is a persona, a little insight into who you are or can be. It can be escapism or a reality. When clothing is created and worn with intention, it is felt by the individual and those perceiving them. The power lies within that intention, which is the DNA of this brand.


What makes OKURU one to watch is the authenticity of the brand and the designer. OKURU lives and breathes its brand philosophy in clothing, marketing, and interviews. Unlike most labels who try to commodify exclusivity, it looks to generate inclusivity — not just for its brand development but for every individual who encounters the brand too.

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Back in December, Chris conducted a Fashion and Creative Arts workshop. Ideas spewed from everyone everywhere; it was a glimpse of the potential ahead in OKURU’s future. This was a clear investment in their desired clientele; the brand’s integrity lies here.


I would love to see this brand begin assimilating this Japanese-Congolese approach figuratively. So much of the brand focus is on unifying cultural backgrounds. So much of fashion has been so cross-culturally integrated that we aren’t even aware of the origin of influences anymore! Personifying this will allow the brand to be ever-changing and unique. Retain the maximalism and the soul-searching objective. Capitalise on this by using it to explore and integrate other cultures, amplify their voices and beautiful clothing and traditions, and share it with the world as they have done with Japanese and Congolese fashion.

Emulate the little universe within London into OKURU unapologetically for all of us watching.

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