Like many kids of his generation, Davon Okoro spent a lot of time in front of the TV. But while his peers were watching cartoons, Okoro was finding himself in the groundbreaking styles and fashions of MTV.
“I grew up in Nigeria and we didn’t have much money,” he explains. “My mom would go to the thrift store and get us a bunch of graphic tees and jeans.” Okoro saw similar secondhand fits flaunted by the stars of MTV and was inspired. “Ever since I was a kid I had a thing for clothes.”
His family left Nigeria and moved to Far Rockaway, New York, on Okoro’s ninth birthday. Today, he’s a second-year nursing student at UVA, and despite pursuing a career in the field of medicine, fashion remains a driving force in his life. In February, he created Dépendance Global, a clothing line of his very own.
Dépendance Global (French for “global addiction”) brings together a few of Okoro’s most enduring interests: fashion, but also multiculturalism and the nature of addiction. “I’m trying to bring awareness to the concept [of addiction],” he says. “Maybe it’s a loved one, maybe it’s drugs, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s work—but we can get so caught up in addiction sometimes that we forget who we are.”
The global aspect of Okoro’s brand speaks to his own varied and unusual life. The cultures he observed in Nigeria, New York, and now Virginia are all “so different,” he says. Likewise, he doesn’t want Dépendance Global to be limited to any one place or time, and plans to continue his informal anthropology across the world. “I want to go overseas and see how other cultures live.”
Okoro says the name refers to his desire to “branch out. I have so many ideas…Dependánce Global is not supposed to be just about one issue.”
A brief glance at his brand’s website confirms that neither Okoro nor his clothing plan on being boxed in. He has four products currently for sale online—tees and sweatshirts with creative nods to a variety of influences, from Arabic to basketball to Playboy.
One shirt, “Psychological Pain,” was inspired by Okoro’s nursing studies. It features a hunched, multiplied figure in apparent agony, lit electric purple by its own neurons. A pain scale from zero to 10 runs up one sleeve, and the back of the shirt reads, “PAIN—THE 5TH VITAL SIGN. YOU ARE NOT ALONE GET HELP!”
“Nursing is about the human body and how the human body works,” Okoro says. “It’s an art of its own.”
Another, called “Black is Beautiful,” speaks to Okoro’s experience living as a Black man. Darine Stern graces the front of the short sleeve button-up, a reprint of the Playboy cover for which she modeled as the magazine’s first African American covergirl. “Growing up, I almost hated my own skin,” Okoro says. “Now I know my Black is beautiful.”
Virgil Abloh, a groundbreaking Black designer and entrepreneur, is another influence who served as a model for Okoro’s self-realization. “When I saw that as a kid, it really motivated me to keep pursuing my dreams,” he says. “I never really got to see African Americans in these positions.” Okoro also lists Kanye West, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton among his inspirations—although, “I grew up in a very low-income neighborhood, so there wasn’t a lot of Louis Vuitton around.”
Dépendance Global may still be in its infancy, but Okoro only sees it growing—existing alongside, or maybe even taking precedence over his nursing ambitions. He expects the brand to one day live up to its name, becoming as well known as the projects of his idols. “If you buy a T-shirt, buy a hoodie, I want that to be your favorite T-shirt or hoodie,” says Okoro. “I want people to know that this is a brand for every person. It’s made out of love.”