Shaun Akanbi only tackled 25 years of life before founding Billy Boyce clothing. The move from a law graduate of Middlesex University to head designer is one that could be described simply as a pot overflowing with creativity and a frustration at the current state of menswear.
The company began in 2009, while Akanbi was also a student at London College of fashion. In between graduating and starting Billy Boyce, he worked as an intern for Vivienne Westwood. After his time with the iconic brand he was offered a permanent position. We can only think of one man ballsy enough to turn it down. Enter Billy Boyce.
The cliff notes to his life in the fashion industry are far from complete. But recently, FashionBeans had the pleasure of delving in to the mind that so often brings us the very best in cutting edge design. We were dying to ask about his ballsy snub.
“I didn’t only want to be a part of Vivienne Westwood, I wanted to be just like her.”
What age were you when you discovered your love of fashion, and what do you think spurred your interests into becoming the designer you are today?
I’ve always been a big fan of fashion from as long as I can remember even at aged 11; I would fight my parents to buy me a specific type of kickers for school, Casio G-shock watches and quirky Spiderman back packs just to fit within my idea of cool. I was an adventurous teenager who wasn’t afraid to make a bold statement with my clothing and I was constantly customising my clothes and fortunately for me, I had a lot of people asking where I got them from so I often customised for them also. This made me think I could build a career from it despite my love for creative art.
I’m not a designer myself, but I’m willing to bet most would kill for the chance to work alongside Vivienne Westwood. Do you think your time spent with her heavily influenced your outlook on fashion and your current work?
My encounter at Vivienne Westwood was really brief but whilst I was there I learnt a lot about the industry. I learnt the various aspects of fashion from the manifestation of ideas/designs into creating prototypes; I was also able to study a little bit about buyers and visual merchandising. I knew it was a prestigious chance just being a member of the creative team. However, my pride and ego kicked in because I didn’t only want to be a part of Vivienne Westwood, I wanted to be just like her.
“I don’t see the point in dressing well to remain unnoticed.”
Given the chance, if you could have a one-off collaboration with any other designer in the world, who would you choose and why?
I would choose Tom Ford for my capsule series and Vivienne Westwood for my ready to wear series. I’m a fan of luxe-goods and Tom Ford captures sheer elegance with his suave collections whereas Vivienne Westwood’s style is uniquely distinctive with bold prints and quirky cuts.
How would you describe your own personal style? Do you tend to wear the type of clothes you design?
The Billy Boyce brand reflects my personal taste, as I like to think my choices fit well with the fashion lovers of this generation, with some witty, cool garments stemming from a mix blend of indie/punk and rock style tied with subtle urban influences. I personally like to make bold statements, as I don’t see the point in dressing well to remain unnoticed.
Do you take a strategic approach when it comes to designing and think about what you’re target market would want or when an idea pops into your head do you just reach for the nearest pencil and see what happens?
My target market is predominantly young male and females within the 17-27 age bracket like myself so when I design, I have them in mind like I have myself in mind, and this gives me a head start and once I’m in that state I think luxury, fierce, quirky and young.
“I design my clothes to bring out the divas in us.”
What do you believe to be your most successful career achievement since you started Billy Boyce?
My entire journey from setting up the brand to creating my collections, to discussing the business opportunities of my establishment, is in itself an achievement of which I’m extremely proud. The successful transition from making a t-shirt to making something for upscale fashion is one of the biggest challenges I faced. In the beginning a few knew me as a t-shirt brand but the brand has evolved into something a lot more fashion influenced and I took my audience on the journey with me which could be really risky but well worth the ride.
Who and what would you say has influenced your creativity outside of the fashion world?
My family and friends play a big part in my creativity. An urban night out with friends down Shoreditch high street and a change of scenery the next on a night out in Kensington and Mayfair gives you a diverse scope of people, how they dress and their personal lifestyle. I like to think my mum is a very elegant woman when she dresses up with her very expensive and exquisite jewellery, the perfect make-up and a really classy attitude to match. My parents have always taught me about composure and I believe a part of being classy depends on the way you compose yourself. I design my clothes to bring out the divas in us. Further more, I grew up on classical jazz and soulful music with ‘Fresh Prince of Bell-Air’ on TV so I definitely picked a thing or two up from both combinations as a child.
Where do you hope to be with the company in the next five years, and don‘t worry about being modest?
In the next five years I want to have extended my product line from clothing into shoes, bags, and a fragrance line. I also want the brand stocked in the major department stores and boutiques such as Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
And lastly how would you describe the typical Billy Boyce man in three words?
Young, fun and fierce!
Shaun’s designs scream classic 70s Westwood. The impeccable use of tartan and leather creates the grungy underground vibe Shaun aspires for. That, combined with flashes of gold and the way the clothes are delivered through silhouette, is what incorporates the Mayfair chic. Not ones to exhaust a cliché, but opposites effortlessly attract.
Just from looking at what Shaun delivers, it’s needless to say big things will be happening for him. We have no doubt this interview will be the start of many. Any budding designers out there could learn a lot from this man. Scrap that, anyone could learn a lot. Lesson 101: be ballsy, it pays.