Fashion has gone beyond regular tops and bottoms; and by tops and bottoms, we mean those basic two/three-piece shirts and pants. Fashion deconstruction is an art form that almost goes against the basic purpose of clothing, anti-fashion some might even say. It’s the creation of high contextual and conceptual, mostly unconventional silhouettes that may or may not flatter the body.
It is usually inspired by individualistic ability to tell stories, counterculture, uncover taboo, rebel against traditional forms in art, fudge (f**k) gender roles and explicit nudity, disseminate popular forms of history, social and political ideas, or reference time and period.
While deconstructing fashion may seem to render clothes distasteful or unusable, it often refuses negative critiques because of its dialogue with the issues it addresses whether directly or indirectly.
In the business of fashion deconstruction, Lagos Fashion Week 2021 featured designers showcasing their Spring Summer ’22 collection involving lots of irregular cut-outs, patterns, aesthetic and silhouette play. This was the first physical showcase Post Covid-19 after what seemed like a decade of wait. This year also marks the 10th year anniversary of shaping the future of fashion in Africa since the show first started.
Moda Culture profiles 7 Designers who are knee-deep in the business of fashion deconstruction, with influences taken from the “streets of Balmoral” (i.e the showcases on the criss-cross runway tent) from designers like Kiko Romeo, Niuku, Cynthia Abila, Maxivive, Nkwo, JZO and Emmy Kasbit.
Whether it be deconstructing stereotypes, social reforms, rebelling against socio-economic or political ideologies, referencing Culture, Time or Era, or just for the fun of it, these designers are to be watched out for when it comes to deconstructing.
KikoRomeo, a Kenyan label that offers sustainable, contemporary designs crafted by local artisans using traditional hand-dyeing techniques, has been igniting the fashion space and putting the Kenyan scene on the road map. The nod to Kenyan culture which can be noted in the brand’s quirky details that pay tribute to the country’s art and music scene is led by a mother-daughter design duo; Ann and Iona McCreath.
Kiko Romeo’s SS ’22 collection featured 22 looks as a part of a continuing series that explores the Swahili and their forgotten parts. This was done in a bid to understand through art and fashion, the influence Swahili had over the continent and the rest of the globe, and unpack the level of advancement in their civilization and how from leading a vital role in trade and global interaction, they came to have much of their history silenced.
The showcase gave us actual summer-spring energy, with designs involving floral prints, swimwear, and free-flowing dyed and silk fabrics that oozed so much beach vibe. Akili Ni Mali (the name of the collection) also featured hoodies, jumpsuits and our favourite – deconstructed Jackets and Blazers with elements such as ropes, wool, leather and cut-outs on what seemed like deadstock fabrics.
What started off as an experiment in different areas of the fashion industry has become recognition and representation of the Fulani, Mauritanian and African culture and fashion among the Parisian and now, Japanese cultures. NIUKU was birthed in 2013 by Kadiata Diallo, a Mauritanian who worked her way up to success. From finishing as a student in “Studio BERÇOT”, to becoming the first African woman to be named as a finalist in the ANDAM FASHION AWARD creative label section in 2017, the laureate of the Maison Mode Méditerranée prize in Marseille, and getting recognition of French Ministry of Culture in 2018.
For her SS ’22 showcase, she paid a tribute to her late paternal grandmother “the Original Niuku”. She had heard stories about her grandmother and was inspired by all of it which led to the creation of her prints and collection called “Sacred Woods“, a place she’d visit to hand-dye her fabrics with plant-based dye. NIUKU’s runway consisted of a sugarcane and indigo colour dye scheme, with a total of 13 strong looks that had a clear gradient of brown, burnt orange, yellow and turquoise green mix. It resonated with the pure energies the Sacred Wood in Casamansa would give her.
Of course, the yellow and burnt orange deconstructed pieces were our favorites. NIUKU is definitely one Mauritanian label with a strong and rich cultural aesthetic play.
Cynthia Abila is a premium, eponymous Nigerian-based fashion label created by Cynthia Otiyo-Abila in 2016, for women who love to travel and explore diverse cultures worldwide, while holding passionately to their roots. She hopes to help every woman announce her ethnicity proudly, subsequently giving African ethnic identities the prestige they are truly deserving of.
Cynthia Abila’s showcase started with a cut-out, layered, raffia fringe dress and a mask. The collection was a nod to the forgotten gods of Igbo land. An array of lively colours such as red, burnt orange, yellow, cyan, pink, mustard and purple, as well as irregular cuts and patterns, showed the contrast between the old sorrowful age in Igbo land where women were expected to be a cultural manipulative tool, and the modern times where women have a voice, enjoy freedom and exhibit nonconformity.
The details used in referencing the gods were products of her signature Agwu prints and the centuries-old techniques of handmade fabric production, hand beading, and adornment by utilizing a network of artisans in local communities. Going by what we have seen in this 12-look showcase, Cynthia Abila is undoubtedly in the business of fashion deconstruction and deconstructing stereotypes.
Maxivive is a Nigerian alternative menswear brand founded by Papa Oyeyemi. He started his brand at the age of 15 and worked his way up. Maxivive has garnered its recognition in the Nigerian fashion market as a very innovative, edgy, storytelling brand; and just took a turn in Fashion Activism. Papa draws inspiration from a wide spectrum of ideas, each inspiration determining a different design or thought process but all in all, returns him to an endpoint which is his signature product design.
Maxivive’s showcase was quite an interesting one. From turning the criss-cross runway to a 2021 NYC Pride March to a reminiscence of the End SARS Parade, his whole collection screamed Activism!
Following a dark and dreary sax music that created suspense, was 20 looks that featured Cut-out jackets and hoodies, deconstructed latex blazers and lacy pants, rainbow-themed wrap skirts, robes and pants, then blood-dyed Nigerian flag-themed fabrics, that formed a tribute to the lives lost at the Lekki Toll Gate during the #EndSARS period. He also had interesting inscriptions on the fits such as “Power bottom”, “Glory hole boy”, “Hobosexual” and his first-ever logo text branding; Maxivive.
Overall, Papa’s collection as a huge creative protest to rebel against conservatism, fudge gender roles, stereotypes, explicit nudity, and disseminate conventional social and political ideas, is definitely deconstructing the very fibre of our oppressive society.
NKWO is an artisanal brand at the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement in Nigeria with the conservation of natural resources and the environment as the label’s core values. Nkwo Onwuka, the African sustainability renaissance champion behind the label focusing on textile waste reduction, creating artisanal and limited edition pieces, as well as end-of-line fabrics over the years, came up with their signature new fabric; Dakala Cloth.
Her SS ’22 showcase on the runway, “Places We Have Lived“, was a wake-up call to protect the planet. It sought to uncover a time when extreme weather conditions, war and conflict, food insecurity, and human displacement had come. It featured 13 looks; Waste Warriors she’d call them, that really blew us away. Incorporating early methods of handcrafting like weaving, beading, hand dyeing and embroidery to give new life to denim, wool, asooke, her very own Dakala cloth, Dakala strings, and general textile waste on a handloom, NKWO gave us peak deconstruction this season.
From aso-oke pieces, irregular denim silhouettes, to deconstructed denim and wool corsets, transforming their conventional uses and making the transition from tradition to modernity. This label aims to create meaningful change on the continent by involving the many parts of the expanding fashion ecosystem in a new way of working that is more mindful as it celebrates and preserves the art of creation.
While connecting affordable fashion with sustainability and attention to accessible, durable design is the fuel that propels this label, Joseph O. Ike and Ola Akindeinde; the designers behind the brand attempt to innovate and stretch the boundaries of menswear ignoring the rigid expectations around the idea of masculinity and what it permits to remain within the privileges it provides.
JZO had a very clear colour scheme for his showcase. It was an obviously well thought-out colour gradient. The 16 looks were unconventional but unique silhouettes of different source materials and colours, varying from solid colours of silk-satin two/three pieces like royal blue, burnt orange, magenta and peach, to distinctly dyed silky textiles other than the conventional Aso oke or Adire to a new generation of fashionable men.
The intricacies of this label’s deconstruction should be definitely be studied on a deeper level. From crop blazers to glove sleeves, to irregularly deconstructed suits and tops, to what even seemed like full shirt cut-outs, attached and barely hanging from the Tops. This brand prides itself in its affordable price points for excellent tailoring, durable materials and forward-thinking design while catering to specific needs like workwear and evening wear, remaining as a front runner in the menswear apparel niche.
Emmanuel Okoro, 30-year-old Nigerian and the recent winner of the inaugural African Fashion Up Prize, is the creative director of Emmy Kasbit. The label was born out of a passion to dress the unconventional man and woman with fierce sartorial instincts. Known for his devout use of the Akwete fabric (which is indigenous to people from Eastern Nigeria) for the bulk of his designs, Emmy Kasbit’s SS ’22 collection featured strong architectural silhouettes with this fabric, made by local Nigerian artisans using traditional West African weaving techniques.
Emmy Kasbit’s SS/22 collection; Ozoemena, explores the Nigerian-Biafran civil war that happened between 1967 – 1970, a conflict that resulted from political, economic, ethnic and cultural tensions. His showcase had lots of reference points to this time and period, as well as hints of pure cultural preservation. These involve the melodramatic opening number, intricate use of bold lines, vibrant colours and textures, and fun, but informative structures and text.
Some conceptual designs featured in this collection are deconstructed suits, layered pants, see-through fabrics, fringes, baker boy hats, structured jackets, and Motifs woven into fabrics.
We also couldn’t help but notice the phenomenal styling in this showcase, the bright hues, bold colours, and overall colour scheme. Emmy Kasbit is definitely on a roll and is going on to put the business of deconstruction in Lime green, butter yellow, black and off white light!