By Ese Olumhense and Fatima Sesay
On June 13, “Liberated People”, an apparel and accessories company launched by Nigerian actor, writer, and philanthropist Gbenga Akinnagbe held a pop-up event at Brooklyn vintage boutique “Shirley + Alice”.
Amidst the colorful array of different people, designs, fabrics, scents, and tastes, Liberated People seemed right at home. A lifestyle brand that describes itself as a pioneer in developing “innovative and transformative” products for a global audience, the project is one that embraces and advocates for humankind. “I wanted to create something that not only inspired others to help themselves but each other,” Akinnagbe says. “It only takes one person with a message to start a movement; through each t-shirt, the start of a movement is created, just one shirt.”
Akinnagbe, who has starred in many television shows and films, most notably as Chris Partlow of The Wire, and lead characters in The Savages and Edge of Darkness, hopes to use his celebrity status to shed light on issues of immense importance to him. Among the rather extensive list of these things, youth engagement, eco-friendly business endeavors, and international entrepreneurship are closest to his heart.
“Engaged people are free people. Communities around the world, helping to build with each other, are the inspiration behind Liberated People,” the Liberated People website explains. It also notes that A portion of profits from each shirt is donated to a local, non-profit organization. This particular evening’s funding went to a Beat the Streets, a youth charity in the area.
Liberated People’s apparel consists of a variety of different shirts, each representing a different country and bearing their year of liberation. Brightly and boldly colored, the shirts represented Nigeria, India, Brazil, and other developing countries.
Akinnagbe, smiling and laughing, mingled with guests throughout the night. Promoting the brand, he wore a Liberated People shirt representing Ethiopia’s day of liberation, and was certainly no stranger as he greeted guests and engaged in impromptu dance sessions, building on one of the messages of Liberated People–solidarity.
Unmistakably influenced by the positive vibes, the crowd was warm and the event was a definite success, something one could gauge by the amount of people shopping that evening. Perusing the racks of boldly-printed clothes, sampling citrusy Stoli cocktails, or sipping Vita Coco water, guests mixed and networked. The DJ, who weaved tunes together despite difference in genre, fed off the crowd and kept up a positive dance-party momentum going from start to finish.
Cloaked under this exhilarating aura, one could not help but embrace the mission and experience the spirit of Liberated People.