A Think Piece
African Presence At NYFW
as told by Liana Jaime-Lopez
images from the Maki Oh SS18 Presentation
by Amandla Baraka
After a contentious year full of commentary and visual stimulus about African derivative work, this season filled me with intrigue in anticipation for what was to be expected among designers and fashion culture itself. Coming off of last season’s soundboard, where we saw designers such as Stella McCartney and Kenzo tapping into the “African aesthetic” alongside many others who definitely took a couple notes from the diasporic culture, which in turn infiltrated much of the work that bled into antagonistic collections. Heading into this season I was enthralled to find a strong presence of African identity. These approaches weren’t guided meekly but instead carried themselves with a strong sense of distinction between the fabricated tales of its identity and the informed takes on the culture. From street style, fashion happenings, and RTW collections such as Maki Oh and EDUN, this season was unique in its subversive reaction to the cultural climate, traditional fashion sensibilities and ultimately true to their own identities.
F irst on my agenda was Maki Oh’s presentation, from fittings, walk throughs and more fittings, I was able to take a front row seat to the collection that was by far her most tailored ensemble. The inherent menswear was evident from the fabrication to the oversized tailoring, that beautifully juxtaposed the more feminine, softer silhouettes. With the playful nature of the presentation, the hair and makeup of the models themselves, the first thought that came to mind was playing in your parents closet as a little girl. With all of her production still in Nigeria, using century old traditions of the adire dying technique, it’s collections like Maki’s that keep the culture alive and well. With a progressive collection such as this one, with so much adoration to a country that has evidently poured a lot into who she is, her collection spilled over with the same passion.
With the highly anticipated brick-and-mortar opening of EDUN’s new SoHo location on 265 Lafayette St., enthusiasm about the Spring 2018 collection amongst EDUN die-hearts and intrigued SoHo cohorts, who caught the visual performance piece of EDUN’s store opening kept us on tooth and nail. The warm tonality in the mood of the collection just brought me back to the roots of this brand. This collection reminds those of us who have followed their journey just how far they’ve come and just how deeply rooted they are in their holistic approach to design and consumerism. From the knitwear, to the denim, outerwear and the use of macramé throughout their collection, the approach that EDUN has had in their market has made them extremely visible and demographically expansive. The educational outreach that informs them as a company is exactly what is creating more cultured shoppers. The platform they have to educate consumers through their lifestyle approach, is how they pay it forward.
With the lack of brand identity that seems to permeate the showroom of some of these companies who feel that tapping into stories such as the ones shared here would expand their visibility (which in fact it does), has a retroactive effect, wherein it takes from the authenticity of the stories that are already there. It’s with this skepticism that I looked at the industry this season. It’s time to get it right, on both sides of the fence. Looking at fashion is not a singular action as it has affects in all facets of the entertainment industry, music, film, culture etc. In much of the same way as we saw visionaries at the Emmy’s this past weekend effect change in their fields, it’s pivotal that the narrative being told in this industry carry the same weight, that designers and brands who represent us tell their story and continue the work.