From the outside, Ayo Ojo seems like any regular 23-year-old fashion fanatic. The young student spends his spare time researching his favourite brands and fashion history, discussing his findings and opinions on platforms such as YouTube and Patreon - consider it the 20-something-year-old version of ripping out pages from your favourite magazine and sticking them all over your wall. Blogging - at least for young people - can at times feel like shouting into the void, wondering who's watching you, if anyone at all. Ojo, on the other hand, has become a leading voice in these communities. Not only is he the founder of YouTube channel The Fashion Archive, but also a fashion journalist student at the renowned Central Saint Martins. The young aspiring writer has also appeared on many SHOWstudio panel discussions debating all things fashion, from the industry's rising stars to the fallen ones too. Unlike most other people his age (or other first-year students for that matter), Ojo has published his first magazine - which you can buy for £40 a copy (or £15 for. the PDF) - sold through his own website The Fashion Archive.
Keen to dive underneath fashion's - at times fickle surface - The Fashion Archive is somewhat of a hit sensation. At the time of writing, the YouTube account has a staggering 67.8K subscribers (and Ojo's personal Instagram account @fashionroadman, 14.9k). The platform goes to great lengths to uncover fashion's darkest secrets alongside shedding light on newer designers (not to mention the more established) too. In a nutshell the carefully-curated platform is dedicated to sharing unfiltered fashion content that's just as digestible to the fashion outsider as it is to the old school fashion fanatic, managing to introduce fashion to a broader perspective. A quick stumble across The Fashion Archive website, and you'll be faced with all sorts of intriguing think pieces and fashion critiques, from dissecting the industry's relationship with cultural appropriation, to documenting the success of Telfar Clemens, declaring the young designer as the 'Man of the Hour’.
Dubbed a key player in'The New Wave of Fashion Criticism' by the Business of Fashion, Ojo's The Fashion Archive thrived and existed in its own right before he arrived at Central Saint Martins for a degree in journalism. Fast forward a year into his degree, and the platform has shown no signs of wavering, now supported by physical content (the magazine) as well as digital. From one Central Saint Martins fashion journalism graduate to another, I know first-hand how intense the course can be, a week where only three all-nighters were spent in the library was considered a 'relaxing one', and if your Sunday afternoons weren't spent all day at university, as far as anyone else was concerned, well you just weren’t trying hard enough. Asking how Ojo balanced his time between the demands of his course and working on publishing his first fashion magazine, his answer was simple. 'I'm a boring person that would prefer to do some writing for my magazine as opposed to going out for drinks late at night or clubbing' he told me, going on to admit, 'the time most people use as leisure time is the time I would typically be working on the magazine. I did not have any free time at all.'
The magazine in question includes interviews with a myriad of creatives and designers spread across the globe. From interviews with Detroit-based clothing brand @deviate_fashion and LVMH Prize semi-finalist Lagos Space Programme designer Adeju Thompson to Hanan Besovic a.k.a @ideservecouture, sharing his thoughts on the future of fashion communication, The Fashion Archive Magazine has something for everyone. If you're wondering why the young fashion writer has decided to create his print magazine in an ever-increasing digital age, Ojo has also included a short statement on The Fashion Archive website, detailing his decision deciding to go ahead and create a print-based item while referring to his anguish over the current state that is the print industry:
'The Fashion Archive Magazine was created out of frustration. A frustration rooted in the over-commercial nature of the fashion magazines of today. It is now the age when fashion magazines have more advertisement pages than content. The age when magazines care more about who the cover star is over the quality of the content. The age when major publications talk about the same brands over and over again. The Fashion Archive Magazine will serve as a resource, a place where one can go and expect original stories. A place where the reader learns about new contemporary creatives.'
Interested in this exasperation with contemporary fashion magazines (SHOWstudio can only agree - which you can read about here), I asked Ojo why he felt that the fashion print industry was desperately lagging behind the times and why he thought he had a solution. 'As a black person, I felt I could do my part in pushing a more diverse industry by creating a platform that gives these creatives a voice rather than rely on huge publications to take the initiative to do it', he tells me. Ojo continues, 'I can't expect an industry that won't put black or Indian people on front covers because "it doesn't sell" to change overnight magically. There are international magazines with issues in Middle Eastern countries that won't even feature people from the region in the magazines. They also end up covering western fashion stories instead of finding unique and interesting creatives and stories within the region.'
The 21st century has bared witness to a steep decline in magazine sales, leading to an even steeper decline in funding. As we push towards a digital future, magazines - despite still being sold in the odd off-license if you're lucky) and book stores (only a handful) - are considered something of the past - a good dream that the noughties kids arrived at the tail end of. Through his efforts to constantly update his YouTube account and website with online content, Ojo, of course, recognises this. So why did he decide to release something in print? His answer is intriguing, just as it is thought-provoking.
'Even though the future is digital, nothing can replace the tactile feeling of interacting with a physical object. News belongs on digital platforms because it's easier to disseminate daily news digitally and things can be done much quicker. I think the big difference between digital and print journalism is that digital journalism involves short, catchy and snappy articles that can capture the short attention span of readers whizzing from site to site or app to app. On the other hand, with print journalism a person has committed to buying and taking time out to read the contents of the print magazine which allows for more critical and analytical long-form content.'
An aspiring fashion writer who believes in the power of true journalism, young Ayo Ojo has something to say, and he wants you to listen. The 21st century hasn't exactly been easy on young people, what with rising rents, a rise in totalitarianism, inflation, stagnant wages, Brexit… the list goes on. It's now harder than ever for young people to get a foot in the door of their chosen industry due to the scarcity of internships and apprenticeships, and even if they are one of the lucky ones who bag their dream internship - many are choosing not to take it due to the little pay that's offered, if any at all. We're not saying it's ever been easy for young people, but the generational divide in the 21st century is a stark one, heard only through the cries of people below 30 (and maybe a bit older) who are rarely listened to by the Government. All this considered, one would presume Ojo has the odds stacked against him, but that hasn't stopped him from launching one of fashion's most listened to YouTube channels, receiving a place from one of the world's greatest fashion schools or from launching his own magazine, all at the mere age of 23.
The print copy of The Fashion Archive's magazine is currently sold out but you can buy the PDF version here for £15.