Gaea Lumi: The Brand Behind Nigerian Hip-Hop’s Most Famous Traditional Hat

BY Dora Abena Dzaka October 17, 2023 7:58 PM EDT
Photo Credit: Facebook @GAEA LUMI

For many years, different tribes in Nigeria wore recognizable traditional attires, which gradually acquired a hat that was in accordance with the notion that one’s tribe can be disclosed by the clothing of its people.

As a result, hand-woven, cotton-lined hats are frequently worn as ornaments or have specific cultural significance among Nigerians and other ethnic groups who dress traditionally in West Africa.

And Gaea Lumi, a slow fashion company that specializes in crochet knitwear has capitalized on its usefulness and incorporated it into Nigerian pop culture and the hip-hop community.

Gaea Lumi is a streetwear fashion company that Ayakeme Abasi created in 2019. The brand got the needed attention when Ayakeme tweeted a photograph of an Okpu Agu-style bucket hat and balaclava combo she had woven in August 2022 and Odumodublvck was made aware of it by social media.

In response, he privately messaged Ayakeme, and that was the beginning of a connection that has substantially modernized the rapper’s wardrobe. As a result, Ayakeme’s creation has become one of the most identifiable pieces of clothing in Nigerian popular culture.

Despite the growth in the fashion industry in Nigeria, the issue of copyright is a hindrance. According to Eleanor Rockett, an intellectual property expert, the fashion industry has “copying at its heart,” with many examples of fast fashion companies stealing designs from smaller direct-to-consumer brands and then reselling them at lower prices.

Fashion designers in Nigeria have minimal control over their works because the country’s Constitution provides little protection for intellectual property and exempts works intended for mass manufacturing from copyright protection.

Ayakeme is aware of this limitation but is unconcerned about it since she is sure that her designs will stand out amid the imitations they inspire and because she is aware of how challenging it is to protect a design in the fashion industry.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to copyright the design. “Nothing tops the original design, not to sound arrogant. The Okpu Agu hats were also influenced by what already existed. Anyone can do that, in my opinion. Just someone has to do it first and correctly,” she remarked.

Fast fashion companies are well known for offering mass-produced clothing at frequently low prices, but the environmental consequences have raised some questions. These businesses considerably increase global carbon emissions. The slow fashion movement, which first emerged in the 1960s, stands in opposition to the prevalent industrial model by advocating more environmentally friendly methods for lowering textile waste, carbon emissions, and plastic pollution.

Following this concept, Ayakeme’s GAEA LUMI occasionally elects to recycle used t-shirts and plastic bags in order to convert them into yarn. Half of the brand’s name, GAEA, refers to Gaia, a Greek mythological earth goddess, and was inspired by the brand’s environmental philosophy. Ayakeme’s Yoruba name, Pelumi, is the source of the second half, LUMI.

Ayakeme, who also has a background in modeling and communications, intends to adapt more conventional designs in light of the popularity of the Okpu Agu bucket hat.

She also has the international stage in mind. The popularity of the Okpu Agu hat has inspired thoughts about future modifications to other traditional clothing. It has shown that it is possible to revive and reintroduce traditional clothing items in a way that is compatible with contemporary sensibilities.