Meet the Canvas: Shadé Akanbi

Shadé Akanbi is more than a fashionable woman with a story, her wardrobe has a history of its own. Her style is an organized chaos of vibrant colors and textural patterns. There is an effortless way to how she throws together a patterned jacket, gilded vest and her daily stack of bracelets. Shadé has traveled extensively, and her travels have greatly affected her style and philosophy on clothing.

When talking to Shadé about her style, she is at ease. Clothing to her is about the emotional and physical comfort. Shadé explained that how comfortable a person looks in their clothing “says a lot about what’s going on on the inside,” citing someone squeezing into too small jeans as an example. Additionally, she explains how one dresses is an expression of the individual. She is dressing herself as she wishes, baring no mind to trends; she emphasized listening to your gut when it comes to styling, something she believes we should do more often. Her eclectic wardrobe has pieces from Japan, Nigeria, Thailand, Guatemala, India, and the list goes on. She believes that, “when you’re authentically you, you can find yourself anywhere,” anywhere being a foreign country or a thrift store. Clothing and style is about what stimulates Shadé the most, and there is no arguing that color, texture and patterns speak loudly. As she described, “I like all my senses to be engaged,” explaining the visual is stimulating, but she really likes to hear the jingle of the bangles on her wrist or feel the tassel on her pants in a more tactile sense.

Shadé’s style journey does not have a starting point, but many key moments that brought her to where she is today. Her travels have been the most influential aspect of her style. Shadé’s story comes through when you ask where something came from. The vast majority of her style comes from somewhere else. Each bracelet has a story, she knows not only what a specific pattern is but who made it and where, and her style has been affected by the places and people she has encountered. Many times she has seen the course of a given item she owns. “I’ve collected so many bits and pieces of people, and stories and things that you see from my travels [and] that has become my style,” she explained. Her bracelets are particularly sentimental, each acting as an embodiment of a memory.

Seeing the source is also important for Shadé. While Shadé has been a handbag designer for five years and has worked in other aspects of the fashion industry, she also has a site,, for which she designs different products and curates others. The site is precisely Shadé’s aesthetic: colorful, fun and well-crafted. The site makes this aesthetic accessible, particularly for those of us who are intimidated by patterns. Shadé described herself as, “I see prints the way people see solids,” and joked about how to her a striped shirt is a plain one.

Standing in Shadé’s apartment, looking at the combination of trinkets from travels, artwork from friends, and jewelry that acts as both physical adornment and special décor, there is a sense of peace. So much is happening, the stimulation is endless, and yet everything feels whole and warm. Her space reflects her personality and style very well.

Shadé’s style reflects her many loves: graphic prints, textiles, bold colors and, most importantly, the different histories that each piece has. Her style is a collage of different cultures and stories, making up her own style narrative.


Get to Know Shadé…

Favorite musician: Stevie Wonder

What’s in your music player? Currently in rotation on my Spotify playlist: Mali Music, James Blake, Sampha, Stevie Wonder, Pharell Williams, Kayne West, Lauryn Hill

Three things you can’t live without? My sketchbook and drawing utensils. My little haphazard pieces of happiness a.k.a. my bracelets. My Palmers Cocoa Butter jumbo Chapstick (best moisturizer EVER!).

Favorite candle scent: Patchouli scented candles and I’m completely in love with the (aptly named) “Wanderlust” scent from the Boho Glass Candle Collection

Favorite place traveled: Nigeria (that was my first plane ride EVER to visit the other side of my family and ignited the traveler in me from an early age)

What you’re reading right now: Recently finished “Girlboss.” Currently reading “Americanah.”

One person from history you’d love to have dinner with/why? It is so hard to pick just one as someone who is influenced by many different kinds of artists so…here’s my top 3: Frida Kahlo because she was a resiliently beautiful example of strength and passion. Romare Bearden because he’s one of my all-time favorite African-American collage-mixed media artists that sprouted during the Harlem Renaissance Shel Silverstein because his poetry was so sincere and sad and lovely…all at the same time…and I just feel like we’d be friends if he were still here and ever had the chance to meet.

What would you ask them? I would ask them all: Sixty years from now, what would you want to tell an aspiring creative that’s coming into their own, that you wish someone had told you?

What’s one problem in the fashion industry today?

The level of judgement and contradictory ideals that fester within some parts of the industry is appalling to me. On one hand the industry tell us to “be an individual” but will label you as an outcast if you’re not an “individual” within their preset boxes. I have found throughout my experience within the industry, that some people get really uncomfortable when they cannot place you. When they don’t understand you and aren’t willing to learn more (or anything at all) about you. This is why I strive every day to be unapologetically me. And to do that consistently takes courage and practice, but the health and happiness benefits are never-ending and completely worth it.

By: Elyssa Czynski // Photography by: Monique Baron


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