How Ibrahim Kamara Found His Place in Fashion


Mr. Kamara’s work tends to flirt at the intersection of raw realism, pop culture tropes and the alternative realities he creates. Of his debut covers for Dazed, one spotlighted suited Nigerian activists holding their national flag; another showed a young Black man in a Gucci tracksuit and hightops receiving an injection under the tagline “Freedom Is Coming But Where Are We Going?” Inside, an astronaut, slouching skater, Rastafarian, airline pilot and a businesswoman idled in a line, moving toward a visor-wearing vaccinator.

“Thank God Ib was not born in Britain,” said Lynette Nylander, the Dazed executive editorial director. Ms. Nylander, a former deputy editor at i-D and Teen Vogue, was hired alongside Mr. Kamara, who is dyslexic and for whom English is not his first language. The two had bonded over shared Sierra Leonean roots when they met in 2016.

“There aren’t many of us in fashion,” Ms. Nylander said. “But Ib has always been a bit of an outsider, adopting a nonconformist perspective from the world at large and then bringing it inside the fashion establishment. He has such an innate sense of the future, and uses so much color, that his ideas then become almost impossible to ignore.”

Both editors talked about the challenges of shooting content in a pandemic, often using a young team scattered across time zones. For Mr. Kamara, whose commercial projects for luxury brands have budgets that are often many times that of his magazine projects, the challenge of “learning how to be creative with nothing” has at times reminded him of his university days.

His September issue, published last week, is far from amateur, with three covers featuring Rihanna, one of the world’s most famous women. In one, she strikes an Amazonian pose in a gold snakeskin bodysuit; in another she wears a jungle green Louis Vuitton cap atop an Afro wig of Marge Simpson proportions. The third cover has her standing tall with a walking stick in a Burberry string bikini, trench and thigh-high boots. In a playful nod to one of her most famous songs, she’s under an umbrella. The tagline? “The Reign Never Stops.”

Mr. Kamara, who once worked on an ad campaign for Fenty, Rihanna’s clothing and cosmetics brand, styled the singer remotely (and notably in looks by key clients). In an inside photo, she is in a custom hooded cotton and canvas dress shaped like a marijuana blunt by the Jamaican designer Jawara Alleyne.