Wole Olosunde (@Guacawole on Instagram) is a self-proclaimed Medical Creative. Yes, that’s right — a Medical Creative. It only takes a brief glance at his work to realise that such a hybrid can exist. Olosunde balances designing multiple lines with his work as a registered nurse in NYC. His brand ‘Against Medical Advice (AMA)’ is inspired by his work in the ER and encourages an exploration of what lies beyond our rigidly defined boxes.
Olosunde, himself, refuses to be put in a box. He eschews stereotypes put on him as a young designer, a nurse and a black man. AMA reminds us that design ingenuity can be born in the most unexpected of places. Unsurprisingly, Olosunde takes inspiration from genre-defying designers, including Junya Watanabe and Virgil Abloh. Initially, his parents doubted his decision to go into fashion and he is often met with the critique, “you’re a nurse, then be a nurse” – he told Office Magazine. But he has never let others preconceptions define his ambition. His clothing and homeware explore themes of transparency and vulnerability observed with his patients. He compares his pieces to CAT scans and X-rays in their ability to explore interiority. Olosunde believes that the overlap between fashion and medicine lies in the understanding of anatomy and how the body moves — his expertise enables him to create garments that move well on the body and feel good against the skin.
Wole Olosunde at his work | Source: Against Medical Advice
Despite others’ doubts, he consistently comes out with medical-inspired, ambitious pieces. Including a trench coat printed with images from actual CT scans and the ‘Neurotic’ dress featuring a printed network of neurones; “A special dress for the woman that drives you crazy” (Instagram, @Guacawole). Evidently, his untameable drive translates into success — last year a jacket he designed was purchased by Skepta and AMA was linked with its first stockist, a boutique in New York, Laams. He hopes that his innovative pieces will start conversations and spread information on medicine and Covid-19 in particular, telling BoF, “I want to be much bigger than fashion”. Olosunde recently teased the AMA Corona Virus Puffer Vest on Instagram which features a shell hood, a removable mask and ‘3D microbe’ design. Olosunde believes that our emotions have been heightened by the pandemic. He considers his ‘Isolation vs. Intimacy’ sweaters, inspired by Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, in relation to quarantine. The sweaters feature designs inspired by X-rays and thermal imaging and depict both human closeness and insularity. As a result of quarantine, a conflict has been created — on one hand, we crave physical contact, yet we are more in touch with our innermost thoughts and ideas than before. This friction is reflected in the pieces.
Source: Brandon Henry @Livinglegend__
He has also used his Instagram to document ER work throughout the pandemic, detailing his work as a travelling nurse and his long days spent between the studio and the hospital. Despite the pandemic, he believes that 2020 was the best year of his life, telling BoF that both himself and society have grown from the experience. He is religious. This is clear from his evangelical captions and the subtle biblical influence in his work such as the Angel/Butterfly wings on his ‘AFTERLIFE’ trench which represent the evolution to the afterlife. Olosunde writes in an Instagram caption summing up the year; “I really THANK GOD I’m still alive and healthy [… ] I know he’s been watching cause I can’t even explain all the blessings that have been coming in all my careers”.
He believes that the pandemic will change fashion forever and, one day hopes to create a line of clothing specifically for nurses, designed to accommodate the physical demands of the job while encouraging self-expression in the workplace. As well as facilitating important conversations about Covid-19, Olosunde uses his work to spread vital awareness on issues affecting black people in the US. He comments on the “hyper-political state” that fashion finds itself in right now (BoF).
Source: Against Medical Advice
His Valentine’s Day drop features pillows with printed designs of black babies and black foetuses in the womb. On Instagram, he commented: “In NYC alone, Black mothers die at 12x the rate of white mothers during childbirth/pregnancy […] We are endangered from birth then marginalized and systematically oppressed throughout our lives”. He plans to donate a share of the profits from the drop to 4 new mothers directly. Wole and Against Medical Advice are here to stay. That much seems clear. But, in case there was any doubt, he reminded his followers recently in an Instagram post “I promise my ideas will outlive me. Idk how much more you need to see before you believe me”
Written by: Madeleine Urban
Source: Brandon Henry @Livinglegend__