Cosmopolitan Chic Afrique at Duro Olowu's Autumn / Winter 2019
LONDON, United Kingdom - Duro Olowu took to London Fashion Week with an intimate guided tour for trade and press through his world of carefully considered prints and patterns. First stop on the tour was South Africa, the birth place and center point for this season’s muse Miriam Makeba. Born in 1932, the iconic singer, performer, and human rights activist used her platform as a voice against apartheid and a white-minority government in South Africa. Her outspoken resistance led to her ban from her home country until Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 influenced her return. Makeba represented one of many black entertainers and intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s, who saw the potency of popular culture to amplify and empower the civil rights movement in the United States and abroad.
In the frenzied pace that has become all global fashion weeks, Olowu’s personalized remarks in detailing each look of his Autumn / Winter 2019 collection was more than a welcome treat. PROTOChic got an inside look on the exclusive presentation.
Olowu started on the opening trio of geometric patterned pieces, “here, [the model] is wearing a jacquard coat. This is actually a print done in jacquard, in a double-faced super fine merino. I just contrasted the front; I love the fact that you can turn the sleeves up and make it three-quarters.” These details are what have long distinguished Olowu’s mastery in print making and pattern fabrication.
He continued, “on the head is this hood-cum-snood. [Makeba] was always in these tall…sort of very sculptural head pieces; it was a South African thing, but she also did it in fabrics that were quite European and amazing. So I wanted to come up with a more urban, contemporary version. It just pulls off your head, so it can sit on your neckline.”
The modern take on Makeba’s unforgettable aesthetic expanded into another geometric dress; this one with fur sleeves. Olowu noted that he designed “the Mongolian fur [to be] placed slightly higher up on the sleeve, so [as to] get a nice elongated arm.” An already head-turning dress received a dramatic twist with the luxurious fur embellishment. He added, “again, it’s about this look Makeba had of being supremely stylish, but powerful in a way where the focus of attention was on what she said or what she was saying, but you never forget what she wore.”
As models walked in a circle in the sitting room, he highlighted the black silk chiffon two-layer cape with large tie bow neck. Olowu shared “it goes to show [that] even for high performance like glamour, she was sort of still understated. It was not about showing off, but it was about making a point, which she really did… politically and style-wise as well.” The decadence is irresistible and such a fitting tribute to an inimitable icon. Who wouldn’t want but an ounce of Makeba’s elegant taste? A woman who left her indelible mark on the world.
Photos Courtesy of Duro Olowu.