Ibrahim Kamara

Ibrahim Kamara, Photography by Kristin Lee Moolman

Stylist Ibrahim Kamara has a rep­u­ta­tion for being hands-on. In prepa­ra­tion for his 2026 exhi­bi­tion last year at London arts centre Somerset House, Kamara dump­ster-dived in the shan­ty­towns of Johannesburg with pho­tog­ra­pher and long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Kristin Lee Moolman. He scav­enged dis­carded dresses, jack­ets, and market bags, refash­ion­ing them into new out­fits, and dress­ing street-cast men in tight skirts and kimono gowns. Their ears, necks, and chests were fes­tooned with cos­tume jew­ellery and junk-shop brooches. The final pho­tographs explored what black mas­culin­ity could look like 10 years in the future. Unperturbed by African sar­to­r­ial codes and Western stereo­types, 26-year-old Kamara used 2026 to reawaken a thought-pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tion around gender pre­sen­ta­tion and black mas­culin­ity.

The cul­tural osmo­sis that plays out in Kamara’s work is shaped by his for­ma­tive years. Born in Sierra Leone, he grew up in Gambia before moving to London aged 11, where he later stud­ied at art school Central Saint Martins. Drawing on his own dias­poric expe­ri­ence, Kamara most recently worked as cos­tume styl­ist on Sampha’s stun­ning short film Process, directed by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar col­lab­o­ra­tor Kahlil Joseph. Kamara made con­nec­tions between Sampha’s life in south London and his par­ents’ in their home­town of Freetown, con­trast­ing tra­di­tional Sierra Leonean ashobis and reimag­ined Western cloth­ing like wed­ding dresses and 70s suits.

When we spoke via phone on one of his rare after­noons off, Kamara had just got back from a job for wom­enswear brand Stella McCartney in Nigeria — where he and pho­tog­ra­pher Nadine Ijewere were tasked to rein­ter­pret the Stella McCartney SS17 Collection — and was already plan­ning his next trip to the con­ti­nent for more projects this summer. In hushed tones, Kamara talked about how the DIY gen­er­a­tion is shak­ing up the fash­ion world, and the sar­to­r­ial inspi­ra­tion of new Africa.”

From Ibrahim Kamara’s 2026 exhi­bi­tion, Photography by Kristin Lee Moolman
From Ibrahim Kamara’s 2026 exhi­bi­tion, Photography by Kristin Lee Moolman

What are some of the mis­con­cep­tions when it comes to style and Africa?

People have an idea of what visu­als look like before they have seen them, based off things they’ve seen in media. It’s quite prob­lem­atic because Africa has pro­gressed so much sar­to­ri­ally, and what con­tin­ues to be spread in the media isn’t an accu­rate reflec­tion of what is going on presently. There is so much more.

Your work envi­sions new expres­sions of black mas­culin­ity. What inspires you?

There are two boys out of South Africa called FAKA. To me, they are a per­fect exam­ple of new Africa. They don’t give a fuck about what people think of them, they are rein­vent­ing what is around them. They rep­re­sent the queer boys, the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, the straight boys in Africa who want to try some­thing new. Boys like FAKA are allow­ing men from all over the African con­ti­nent, and beyond, to be them­selves. You know, I live in London but I work a lot in Africa so all I can hope is that my work enlight­ens kids there who feel like they don’t belong, wher­ever they are.

I grew up in a very strict envi­ron­ment and 2026 was very much my coming out story, after so long of hiding who I was. 2026 is a cel­e­bra­tion of just being your­self, and those are the things that are super impor­tant to my work. The idea that you claim your space and you fight back, at least once in your life. I want black men, gay, straight, trans­gen­der, bi, or what­ever to fight back and express them­selves. That’s new Africa to me.

You worked on Sampha’s Process film with Kahlil Joseph ear­lier this year in Sierra Leone, which is where you were born. Did that have a par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for you?

I felt like I was going home. In a way, it felt like I was giving back to Sierra Leone through Kahlil [Joseph] and Sampha. Being there brought back so many mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in Freetown. I vis­ited the house I was born in. I got to work with so many beau­ti­ful young people and it just felt really refresh­ing to be back in that envi­ron­ment, cre­at­ing some­thing new and authen­tic.

FAKA, styled by Ibrahim Kamara, Photography by Kristin Lee Moolman

Do you think fash­ion is rep­re­sent­ing enough people, or do you think there is still some way to go?

I think there is a bit of progress. I have had sup­port and people who I have a lot of respect for have shown admi­ra­tion for my work. I think if we aren’t get­ting the rep­re­sen­ta­tion needed, we can just create our own plat­forms though. Young people find it so hard to break through so have had to make these places to show­case what they can do. You just can now just create your own world.

Do you think the fash­ion industry’s cur­rent inter­est in diver­sity has the poten­tial to bring about real change?

I really hope it is some­thing the indus­try wants to talk about in the long term. If not, people like me and my friends will just have to con­tinue to talk about it. It’s not a fad for us, it is our real­ity, it is where we are coming from, and we need to share our sto­ries. There are so many black tal­ents finally telling our sto­ries and hope­fully it just keeps going. Fashion needs to open its doors to many others like me, people who have come from noth­ing.

What direc­tion do you see the fash­ion indus­try taking in the future?

I think the future is now. We are living in a DIY gen­er­a­tion. It’s not like you have to wait around any­more to climb the lad­ders. We have the inter­net now and the DIY gen­er­a­tion use it to show­case their work and get jobs. There’s no middle man and that’s great because you can guide your­self and learn from your own mis­takes. I think the hier­ar­chy will change, and my gen­er­a­tion will be our own bosses.

Model King Owusu styled by Ibrahim Kamara for King Kong mag­a­zine, Photography by Campbell Addy