The tuxedo that Adams sported was imprinted on the back with Laolu’s art that included the message “END GUN VIOLENCE.” But the Park Slope-based creative is taking all the attention in stride. Adams isn’t his first high-profile client — the artist has created custom designs for Serena Williams and the chief executive officer of Essence magazine Caroline Wanga.
A law school graduate who practiced as a human rights attorney in Nigeria before relocating to New York, the artist said he switched to full-time art mode in 2012. Music, art and custom clothing design (that can include sourcing fabrics to make prints) are all in his wheelhouse. “There are no limits to what we can do. If we can’t do it, we get someone to help us do it. We pretty much create art on everything. That’s why I see art as my canvas,” Laolu said.
A few months ago, he met Adams socially. After being elected, the mayor asked him to join his transition committee for arts, parks and culture. As an immigrant, Laolu said he stands to impact a lot of other immigrants, who struggle when they first come here. “It’s a culture shock and all that. Eventually, you just make your way. And crawling through and getting recognized is something that I really live for,” he said. “I am happy to lend my voice and show people what’s possible and what creatures need especially in places like New York, where we have a lot of people coming to New York.”
The artist also designed the jacket that Adams wore to Ralph Lauren’s runway show in late March. For the Met Gala, the design was a collaborative effort, according to Laolu. (Adams’ longtime partner, Tracey Collins, donned an Oscar de la Renta gown.)
Acknowledging how the Met Gala is “one of the biggest platforms in terms of fashion and art,” Laolu said Adams wanted to make a statement and “felt that I would be able to lend my artistic voice. I’m not new to that. Given my background as a human rights lawyer, I like to do activism in the arts,” he said amid screeching sirens.
As for the criticism that Adams received from his jacket’s message given his job is to end gun violence, the artist said, “To be honest, people are allowed to have their own opinions. Criticism is all part of democracy. It’s expected. The mayor’s a politician and he knows how to handle that. I am a visual artist and I just create and also lend voices to causes that I feel from the heart. People are allowed to criticize. I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t see why not.”
In terms of whether Laolu designed the art on the back of the tuxedo for Adams for free, he piped up, “He paid for the piece. He paid for the whole piece,” declining to discuss specific fees.
With a few pieces on display in his Brooklyn studio, the creative is scheduling studio visits with potential clients and the media by appointment only. A show is being planned for some time in the next month or so, and an album is in the works. The aim is to stage a show in Europe and in Los Angeles.