Lanre Ajayi has one goal when he gets dressed in the morning.
“I want to stand out,” Ajayi said about his fashion sense that includes vibrant colours and patterns that at times merge African cultures with European style.
“I don’t believe there’s a rule for dressing… I create my own style, I determine what I am going to wear and I am comfortable in anything.”
Ajayi is hoping other Calgarians have the same desire. The 45-year-old artist from Nigeria is working on launching his own fashion line, after winning an award for newcomer artists at the Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions.
“It’s going to be like fashion meets painting on the runway.”
Ajayi’s award is sponsored by the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society. Its CEO Fariborz Birjandian said the award helps “engage the new Canadian artist to the Canadian art community.”
“I think the whole concept of immigration is not just people getting a good job,” Birjandian explained.
“We want people to come here and fully integrate in all aspects in our community life and culture and art is a big part of who we are as an individual.”
Ajayi received a $5,000 prize to go along with his award. He moved to Calgary from Nigeria almost three years ago and hopes his story serves as inspiration to other newcomers that may be facing new challenges in Canada.
“This country, this nation offers me and countless immigrants, the platform, a wealth of opportunity,” Ajayi said.
“If you have a will there’s always a way, if you got a dream inside of you, don’t just give up, keep at it, pursue it.”