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Nuba; the unisex brand exploring its ancestral line

In 1983, the Nuba people of southern Sudan were subjected to their second Civil War. This 22-year-long battle between the central government in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), resulted in two million innocent civilians displacement and death. Many of these stories have gone untold or forgotten. However, British-Jamaican Central Saint Martins alum, Cameron Williams, sheds light on these horrific events and stories in conversation through his unisex brand, Nuba.  

Cameron grew up in South London, United Kingdom, where he was surrounded by an array of cultures. Despite his upbringing in a Jamaican-Guyanese home, it was Nigeran culture that struck his attention growing up. He would examine “how the Nigerian aunties dressed on their way to Church” with their Gele head wraps and coordinated dresses to match. This ignited his attention to subtle elements of elegance. 

On the other end of the spectrum, he also noticed styles the younger individuals around him wore. With inspiration from the grime musicians of London and UK hip-hop’s peak, many wore “washed-out combat trousers partnered with a Nike parka jacket or windbreaker and leather baseball gloves,” Cameron explains. “[The outfits] were mostly tones of black and grey, which I thought evoked the feeling of growing up in South London.”

As a teen, some of his first inspirations came from his discoveries of high-fashion designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens. He admired these designer’s ability to portray their identity through clothes. This prompted his deep-dive into his own identity, as an Afro-Caribbean and African designer. His research on other cultures and ethnic groups within Africa fueled the synthesis of Nuba. “[The Nuba people] were one of the many groups that I studied that helped connect my African-ness and origins” he reflects. “There were many similarities that I connected to emotionally and ideologically; I felt at home.”

Together, these elements set a substantial foundation for Nuba and Cameron’s appreciation for the ethnic groups in his research. Stylistically, his observations growing up influenced his approach to his voluminous silhouettes, asymmetrical cuts, and organic draping techniques. “My upbringing is the cultural foundation for Nuba,” he says confidently. “It’s allowed me to find a starting point of where to begin [my] personal research.” This personal research stems from his discovery of his Benin, Africa ancestry line to his explorations connected to the Nuba people of South Sudan. 

For his 2021 collection, Cameron focused on the tribes and ethnic groups of the Nuba people; including the “Dinka, Neua, and groups within the Nuba Mountains Region.” This research extended into “symbolism from the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana, documentaries on the Bushmen in Southern Africa,” as well as a book on Ancient Egyptian ethics called Maat. Through researching these subjects, Cameron observed parallels between each regarding their value of unity and the structures that build a family. “Overall, there is a certain level of synchronization between the male and female in a way that the woman plays a part in the cultivation of the society, while the man plays a part in feeding that cultivation; an unspoken partnership that is essential to creation and sustenance. That kind of bond inspired me when I started focusing on something unisex that embodies the balance of male and female.”

This approach is practiced in the way he cuts and constructs his garments. The concept of balance is especially enhanced in this collection amidst the pandemic. His approach this season was reminiscent of comfort yet elevated and chic. There’s an element of excitement and ease that will be needed in dressing up again. “The way we’ve spent time inside and disconnected from each other has shifted that balance away from our connection to how we see clothes as products,” he adds. “That was my aim, trying to make something that had a sense of comfort but could also be worn outside while feeling smart, good, and redefining [our identities] through clothes.”

As Cameron continues to grow in his craft post-graduation, he will be working with stockists in Soho London and a charity in Jamaica for families that can’t afford to attend school. He will also be working with charities like Hands Up for Uganda, which helps communities in Southern Uganda with infrastructural development; and Barktex Germany as he uses bark cloth from Uganda for his Yam Bag.

Through Cameron’s 2021 collection, he not only hopes to inspire and grow with his customers through his community outreach but also beyond. He hopes to continue to bring awareness to the “social-cultural environments that exist around the world. I want people to feel hopeful, eager, and enthusiastic to find a new normal in how we interact socially and culturally.”

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