Bubu Ogisi's Religious Revival Speaks to a New Generation

BROOKLYN, United States - In a weekend seemingly dedicated to all things Naija Pride with Nigeria's ascension to the World Cup certifiably visualized by Nike and their newly designed team kits, celebrations were also in order for Nigerian designer Bubu Ogisi who unveiled an art installation of her Autumn / Winter 2018 collection in New York. Her brand I.AM.ISIGO, an anagram of her last name, debuted the same collection during Lagos Fashion Week earlier this year, but the art installation took the key pieces and her accompanying campaign images shot by the ocean to distill her creative process in its most pure form. 

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With a re-branding in 2013, the contemporary brand's sole force is to create minimal designs that infuse Nigerian and Ghanaian cultures using site-specific storytelling and indigenous textiles. With global fans including Di'Ja and Naomi Campbell, the label is well on its way to building a sustaining business, counting international stockists in Accra, New York, and Paris among others. In her current collection, Ogisi effortlessly advances a series of raw edge dark wash denim and cornflower blue and mint green cotton pieces. Contrasting stitching, loose ties and tassels hung off back pockets compliment the cool girl wardrobe of cropped tops and culottes. The installation highlighted the individual elements in great detail, including the stacked sleeve denim top and double layered denim culottes, which when hung from a clothes-line were as sculptural off and on the model. Part of the process is uncovering what lies beneath the facade. Not shown were the shoes Ogisi collaborated on with Nigerian shoemaker Shekudo, whose multi-striped slides and boots were hand-produced in Lagos.

Ogisi is often quite specific in her inspiration, drawing on historical reference from various African cultures. On this turn, Ogisi found revelation in the significant religious markers of the Nigerian church, specifically those that sprung up in the early 20th century in the midst of colonialism and missionary tours. In the words of the briefing, "our collection was inspired by African indigenous churches and the hypocrisy that fuels them wrapped around Africans strong and immense appreciation for the ultimate supreme energy. The average Christian is seen to be dedicated to the dissected institute on one day of the week and becomes someone else for the other 6 days without questioning where, why, or how this feeling is developed or where it initially originated."

This certainly isn't the first time a black designer has taken inspiration from religion and its complicated institutions. Most recently, American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss took his constituents to church in his New York Fashion Week Fall 2018 presentation with requisite gospel choir in tow. The institution itself is fraught with contradiction - a vessel for the power hungry and the powerless - but Ogisi envisions a different future. She is speaking to a self-empowered community that can engage in spiritual enlightenment on a daily basis through her clothing. If willing, Ogisi invites you to join her congregation and receive your anointing.

Images courtesy of I.AM.ISIGO.