Words Helen Jennings Pictured Tsemaye Binitie at ARISE´s African Icons NYFW show Photography Victoria Will
ARISE's fifth NYFW show was the highlight of the first day of the spring/summer 2013 season at Lincoln Center on September 6. Our five designers brought their A game to deliver a slick, pared-down show dedicated to Africa's cultural icons. It was a full house for the 3pm show, the front row - including June Ambrose, David Adjaye and June Sarpong - sitting expectantly alongside press and buyers for lights down...
The AMFW 2012 womenswear designer of the year had a strong second season at NYFW with a collection cementing his body-conscious, sports-luxe aesthetic. Taking his references from the It girls featured in Claiborne Swanson Frank's book American Beauty, his looks were ready for action of every kind, from marl grey jersey tracksuits with silver embossed branding to leather bomber jackets and denim shorts to a knock-'em-dead, floor-sweeping, blood-red gown, worn by ARISE issue 13 cover girl Dap Tony. His flesh-and-pink toned panelled illusion dresses with organza overlaying, sparkling lamé and laser-cut designs based on stars and stripes were stand out.
Tiffany Amber's third outing with ARISE at NYFW offered a commercial collection, playing to designer Folake Folarin-Coker's strengths – namely long, floaty resort-wear with decadent 70s overtones. Entitled The Rhythms Of Africa, the collection featured motifs of dancing men and women and traditional drums on hand-printed silks in shades of turquoise, mustard, mint and tangerine. Maxi dresses, jumpsuits, slouchy sapeur suits, rompers and pleated day dresses deliciously accentuated waists and exposed backs. Her finale looks, worn by ARISE stalwart models Georgie Badiel and Millen Magese, were laser-cut to create undulating, Monsters Inc-like fur textures that fluttered as the girls walked.
Amaka Osakwe of Maki Oh, ARISE Magazine Fashion Week 2012 designer of the year, looked to the work of Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Wangechi Mutu to further her own journey of discovery through African textiles and female sensuality. This was a collection to make women feel powerful and men weak at the knees. Her key shapes - pencil skirts, loose tops, blouses, wide trousers and shifts – were realised in adire, hand painted with doll-like faces and eyes; velvet; and sheer textiles in shades of seashell, porcelain, maroon and indigo. But the real thrills were supplied by the ase-oke and raffia fringing, which swung in strategic tassels, creating erogenous zones across the body.
Gavin Rajah - best known for his seriously luxurious, heavily embellished eveningwear - continued to build on his reputation but also shook it up with street-wear references. Influenced by 1950s New Romanticism and the Victorian language of flowers, his pearl and sequin encrusted, bias-cut gowns in silk and lace were show-stopping thanks to their cherry blossom and cameo motifs, while his rude girl drop-crotch tracksuits were worn with boxer belts. Pinks, golds and creams dominated, making an ocean blue dressing gown-style suit and white pants worn with a batwing top stand out all the more. But most intriguing were the metallic visors with Statue of Liberty spikes and flowers all around them. Très jolie.
The finale was left to Ozwald Boateng, whose segment opened with the trailer from his documentary film A Man's Story, followed by one of the Savile Row stalwart's now-legendary epic presentations. His first wave of models came out in slim, somber black and grey suiting. Trousers were piped, collars pinned and feet encased in brogues. The second wave wore more light and airy looks, including sand and salmon linen shorts and blazers topped off with pork-pie hats and skinny ties. And the final wave was all-out colour, taking full advantage of Boateng’s seasonal collaboration with Dutch textile house Vlisco. Bright prints of shells, swirls and baroque pillars shone out from shirts and trousers and were paired with bright red, green and yellow knitwear. As always, his model casting was as telling as his tailoring with South Sudan model Ger Duany taking centre stage alongside the pierced, the tattooed and the dreadlocked.