In Conversation: Bemi Shaw

Taking the reins at oki-ni this month is Bemi Shaw, a journalist and stylist with a talent for mixing street style and high fashion to create a sleek aesthetic. Bemi’s first shoot ‘Roots’ seeks to explore her Black British heritage and highlight young black creatives in the UK. Her second will celebrate the culture of Europe’s biggest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival.

Can you talk us through your background, how did you get started working in the fashion? I’ve always loved fashion but it wasn’t accessible to me. I grew up working class but buying Vogue and i-D. I would save up my pocket money to buy the latest trainers and eventually my first designer purchase. It was only when I went to study fashion at university that I realised fashion wasn’t all about how much money you had, money can't buy style. From then I interned at a countless amount of places, honed my craft and really explored my own identity and how that connects me to fashion. I used to see my past as a hindrance to my growth but now I realise it's how I am where I am now.

Can you explain the themes and inspiration behind your first takeover, you titled it ‘Roots’ can you explain that a little bit? I really wanted to focus on doing a project that was meaningful to me. Being Black and British it’s important to know your roots and where you come from. The inspiration was really just about celebrating my culture from the traditional Grandma’s house to Notting Hill Carnival. A lot of the props in the shoot I stole borrowed from my own nan’s house.

The shoot’s got a real family feel, was that something you want to explore? Initially, no. But, once we started casting for the shoot it seems like an obvious route to go down. Some of the models are related and a few of the people are family of the wider production team. In West Indian culture, a family is held to the highest standard so it lends well to the shoot concept. A family is important and in the end, we created our own oki-ni family you could say.

You’ve got together a really interesting mix of models for this shoot, can you explain who they are and why you brought together such a varied bunch of people? I wanted to celebrate young black creatives in the UK who are making moves. Narx is an amazing DJ, Daniel a sick skater and Jerome is a brilliant vocalist. Just Icy, I'm sure will be on billboards worldwide one day, Alicai is probably my favourite Jamaican artists right now and Butler’s illustrations are simply divine. If you love R&B soulful sounds then Tafari is one to watch. It was important to me to have that buzzing creative energy in the shoot.

What was the impact of getting first, second, third generation of Black British people together in one room, did it spark any interesting conversation around each of your experiences? It was an amazing experience, one I can only equate to being at a family function. Everyone blended together with ease, listening to Winston tell his stories from when he first moved over to the UK. We all had interesting talks about our own experiences about being Black British, that experience is not singular so it was great learning about everyone else.

The Windrush scandal was a really big issue this year, how do you think it’s changed the perceptions of Black British immigrant families for wider society? I think everyone was shocked by the scandal. All I kept thinking was that could easily be my nan or grandad, I was angry and shocked and simply disgusted that our government wouldn’t do more about it. I don't think it necessarily changed the perception of Black British immigrant families because honestly, these family had already integrated into communities.

What were some of your favourite pieces to style from the shoot? I loved styling the Gosha Tracksuit, especially on Winston, Alicai and Jada. Styling kids is always fun putting oversized pieces on Logan and watching him shuffle around was cute. However, my fave looks from the shoot would have to be the last image we did with Winston, Brian and Daniel. The idea was Sunday best but watching Brian who is 5-years-old attempt to walk about in size 11 Yeezy’s was kind of priceless.

What are some of the key things you're looking forward to in AW18, fashion, trends or otherwise? Layering and wrapping up. My favourite item of clothing is a jacket, they can really make or break an outfit. I love oversized layering as a trend and definitely be trying that come the cooler climate.

We know you’re planning something Carnival-related for the second part of your takeover, does the event have special meaning for you or is it just a good place to party and have a good time? Carnival holds a special place in my heart. I often say its the only reason I still live in London (lol). I remember being super young and being on my mum’s shoulders as we moved with the crowd to watch the parade. I remember when I was 17 and a group of friends and I traveled on the coach from Oxford to London so we find the Rampage sound system and dance for hours. Just last year I spent my carnival with a group of friends and it was easily one of the highlights of my year. Carnival is special we have to protect it at all cost.

Shop new season