by Timothia Ogbole

Avant-garde street-wear is swiftly rising to the forefront of clothing trends, at last an era of cutting edge fusion between high fashion and street wear has been embraced by both designers and consumers in the fashion community and one of the designers embodying this fashion fusion, is Mark Kotun a graphic designer whose love for art turned into a passion for making cutting edge street wear. He’s the creative director of Man acquired knowledge, a street-wear label that combines art with Avant high fashion to reconstruct and design quality, intricate street wear garments.

We caught up with mark to discuss his latest collection “born again”, his inspiration, challenges and more.


 Q: How would you describe your style?

My style is personal, I like pieces that are sort of avant-garde and I also like easy to wear. I’m a very modernist, sometimes minimalist person and most of my designs are usually very expressive. I would say my style is a mix of that.

 Q: Was it always your intention to be a fashion designer?

         At first I was really into fine arts, painting and drawing. When I was younger I used to draw a lot for as long as I can remember and once I got to the university we did an activity where    everyone had to pick what they wanted to do at that time and I chose graphic design. I went to a school to study graphic design and after a couple months, I already completed the whole syllabus and I was already creating things on my own, back then I was also into photography. Basically, I have been through a lot of phases in my creativity. The fashion thing started in late 2016, it started as a movement, it wasn’t even man acquired knowledge back then it was anti society. It was meant to be a rebellious movement back then, so two years later I started learning pattern drafting and fashion illustration and I felt I should start something I can do and not just something that was as disposable as what it was before. so that’s how I started man acquired knowledge.



 Q: You described your design aesthetic as a fusion of high fashion avant-garde with street wear, what’s the creative process behind creating pieces like that?

Usually it starts off as an idea in my head, a lot of times it’s like a mood, it can be something I am going through or an idea that came to mind. To begin with, I get a pen and a paper to draw, I am an artist and I used to do a lot of fine arts when I was younger. I will try as much to transfer the idea from my head onto the paper, after that I get my laptop and I use photo shop and illustrator to work and add the graphic design, whatever it is that I need to change, I do that on my laptop. If I want to add fonts or graphics I do that, then I decide if it’s a piece I am going to reconstruct or print on because, I do a lot of reconstruction with my work. Afterward I decide if it is something I would have to re-design, maybe like plain pants I will decide if I am going to turn it to a pair of graphic pants or am I going to do a lot of tailoring and add embroidery, so it just depends on whatever I have in mind and I’m trying to put out, I’ll just make use of all the methods I have learnt over the years and just put everything together, so it really depends on what I’m trying to make.

 Q: What was the creative process behind the crucifix denim?

So for those, we used levi strauss pair denims because it’s really difficult to get high quality strauss denim material in blue so the only denim that exists in that quality is levi strauss denims or maybe wranglers. So it starts from that, we open it up then we do the embroidery on the thighs, by the legs and wherever embroidery needs to be. Next there’s a net we sew on top of the pants, there’s also some patches of denims that we have to attach to the pants, so it’s a whole lot of process on top of one pair of pants.



Q: What was your biggest fear when you started MAK?

My biggest fear was mediocrity I guess, at the time when I started there wasn’t a lot of people but back then I knew I had a lot of skill sets and I had an idea, I had a vision and I just wanted to put it out the best way I could. I wanted something that was going to be different  because my design intuition is a whole lot so I believed that this was something I was  going to be the brain child of and it had to be perfect. I had to take it to the point where every single thing was handled by me because you literally can’t trust anyone else to get your perfection except it’s your own team and back then I used to outsource companies, I used to rent time with tailors but after sometime I literally had to get everything done by myself, because that’s the only way I could get the perfection I wanted. It was difficult, because it cost a lot, but I just needed to get it done.


Q: Who/what do you look to, for design inspiration?

It depends honestly, usually I have different mentors depending on the phase I am in. Its once been Samuel ross, its once been virgil abloh, its been maison margeila and now its rick owens. Right now I love rick owen’s work a lot, I saw his spring/summer23 runway collection and it was beautiful, so I’m just trying to create pieces that are still ready to wear but explosive.

Q: You referenced the crucifixion of Jesus in your new collection “born again”, how has your religion shaped your perspective of fashion and your brand, and what’s the message you’re trying to pass through the collection?

I’m going to tell you the story of my name, my name is mark and the gospel of mark in the bible was the only passage that depicted the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. At the point when I realized that, it was a turning point for me in my Christianity because I’m a man of faith and I felt it was a hidden message telling me that at the end of the day you are going through it but you are getting through it because look at how it was  for Jesus Christ himself, he needed to carry his cross so whatever it is in life at the end of the day it’s just going to be you to carry your cross with Christ, and you are definitely going to resurrect, that’s my message. Every single design I put out there’s an idea behind it, that’s what made me choose that sign as what I wanted it to be. The name of the collection is called forgiven and if you check the pieces you’ll notice that a lot of those pieces are very religious and it’s because of the phase in life I was at that point.



Q: What are some of the challenges you faced as a Nigerian designer?

If I say all the challenges we could be here till like midnight. Literally every single thing, there’s no light, my machine needs to work on direct electricity, it’s Nigeria everyone has to get through it one way or the other. From sourcing to manufacturing you literally have to do everything yourself if you want it to work out, it’s difficult for any form of creative from Nigeria but if you are able to make it work you can literally do it anywhere else in the world. You should just believe that if you are doing something it’s making some type of ripple effect in your life and other people’s lives. You just have to get through it, it makes you stronger I guess because when you get to a place where everything you need is accessible you just start to flourish without any reason, so it’s a blessing and it’s a curse.


Q: What do you think is missing in the Nigerian street wear industry and do you think it’s starting to become saturated?

I feel like there aren’t even a lot of people to be honest, when I see some brands it starts off like a project and over time they lose momentum and start other projects, if you are talking about other places like new York, Tokyo or China, everyone around you can have a street wear brand and they are all doing something entirely different and still making sales. So in Nigeria, there’s is a whole space for a  conglomerate to grow up in the Nigerian fashion industry, it’s just because the fashion industry is such a cult and it’s so low key and everyone thinks all their heads are being counted but there’s literally no one yet. I just feel like more creatives should go into that scene so that we can have more manufacturers, more people willing to invest in the fashion industry because its slept on like crazy.

Q: What are valuable design skills that upcoming designers should have?                                                        

You need to have an idea on how to use photo shop and illustrator and also a little bit of corelDRAW as an external graphic suite design wise and if you can draw that’s good because literally every idea you put out is some form of reference from your mind, because you can’t tell someone to do something without them seeing a pictorial representation and usually designers would pay graphic designers to get their stuff done but if you could take out the time to learn it yourself it will save you a lot of time and money. I would say graphic design is the most needed skill. What of business skills? Accounting , book keeping, logistics, and delivery. If you can account for everything you make and everything you spend and if you can have a documentation of your all orders and you can make sure you can send out emails and have those orders shipped, you are good to go.

Q: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve designed?

I feel like it changes, I’m yet to create a piece that I am a hundred percent satisfactory with and I feel like that’s a very big problem, people love them but I feel like once I’m done with a collection I’m over it in my head and I want to do something new, so it’s really hard for me to choose. Right now my favorite piece is the one that is not out yet. Tell us about it .Okay, so I have a drop coming very soon but the one I actually really love is more of like a reconstructed piece, it’s a pair of denims with a bunch of holes in them and it’s made from scratch. That’s as discreet as I can give right now.


Q: What’s the future for the brand, what are your aspirations for MAK?

I want it to be like a massive brand like Gucci or off white, I want to be able to create a source of actual employment in Nigeria. I’m going to have flagships everywhere in the world anyways but   I’m still going to keep the headquarters here in Nigeria and also I can help a lot of lives, as much lives I can possibly help, while also putting out a vision that tells the entire world that Nigerian street fashion is here. We are really underplayed in the entire world on so many levels, so if we can win on just that I’ll be very happy in life.

Q: How has Primeries impacted your brand?

Yooo!!!!! I love Primeries you guys are my fav to be honest, I have like six stock lists home and abroad and you guys are my favorite honestly and you guys rock.






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