Fashion narratives are beginning to change in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Contemporary designers fuse locally woven fabrics and traditional motifs with unconventional styles to create talk-of-the-runway pieces. These designs are a union of global cultures, a blend of heritage and avant-gardism; this is the future of African fashion and Kenneth Ize is certain it is here to stay.
Kenneth Ize’s brand is renowned for its Yoruba-inspired handcrafted aso oke fabrics. In 2016, the designer launched his namesake fashion line in Lagos. Just like aso oke since times past, his pieces are made from yarn woven on wooden looms by local artisans. Going by this hand-woven technique, a two-yard strip takes no less than eight hours. The results are vibrant, contrasting colours in plaid or polka dot geometric patterns which distinguish the brand.
The Kenneth Ize brand is intentionally aso oke. The metallic hemming and frills typical of the Yoruba material characterize the label’s own fabric. These pieces are then sewn into a collection of suits, kaftans, tunics, handbags, and scarfs. At the AW 19 Arise Fashion Week, Lagos, Kenneth Ize made a debut in women’s wear alongside his fifth men’s clothing exhibition. Albeit, he considers his designs unisex seeing that women have also donned what was considered menswear design.
But who wears an Ize? Could men really turn up for an event with tassels at the hems of their clothes? To answer the latter, this year’s Coachella Festival saw Burna Boy dressed in a plaid fringed aso oke coat and pair of trousers from the SS 2018 Kenneth Ize collection (and no, it wasn’t a Burberry). What’s more, Naomi Campbell and Alton Mason walked the Arise Fashion Week runway, styled twice in Kenneth Ize.
There are boundless opportunities for Kenneth Ize, who is also one of the eight finalists for the 2019 LVMH Prize. According to the designer:
“By exploring and nurturing existing cultures, we’ll create and inspire new ones.”Kenneth Ize
i-D Vice, Kenneth Ize: “Everything Is Transforming In Nigeria Right Now”
New York Times Style, The Designer Reimagining Traditional West African Fabrics for a New Generation
Vogue, This Nigerian Designer Has Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam Rocking His Mesmerizing Handwoven Suiting
Featured image source: Kenneth Ize