BEST OF ISSUE ONE: Once upon a time in Lagos…
If Maki Oh was a book it would contain many whimsical and intelligent chapters. And each chapter would tell its own story about an alluring, independent young woman on an amazing adventure. And each of these strong characters would wear wondrous clothing imbued with hidden messages and stealthy sex appeal. And so it is with every one of designer Amaka Osakwe’s magical Maki Oh collections.
For AW17 Osakwe’s heroine was a seamstress, who treks across Lagos on a logo and graffiti-covered danfo bus to see her lover. She wears traffic-stopping PVC trousers and slogan T-shirts with racy cut-outs, louche velvet blazers with “Oh” embroideries, jeans that dip suggestively at the navel and dressing-gown coats that hint at the postcoital.
For SS18 we meet a schoolgirl in mid-90s Nigeria who plays suwe (a kind of hopscotch game) at lunchtime, and then goes home to watch fables on the TV show Tales By Moonlight. She dons oversized jackets seemingly stolen from her father’s wardrobe, frothy tulle party frocks, better called “auntie-give-me-cake” dresses by Osakwe, loose rompers and asymmetric separates covered in stars and moons.
“A lot of what I’ve done has been a first for any Africa- based designer, so it feels great to be paving a new trail”
For AW18, the narrative begins with Alakoba, which is Yoruba for “an individual who gets others in trouble”. This saucy minx saunters back from work “on a clear-skied Thursday evening, slips into comfortable garb and unveils her lazy sensuality”, Osakwe says. Her weapons of seduction include lingerie-influenced lace slips, ripple-hemmed short skirts, rouched wrappers and checked blazers thrown over metallic negligees. The mood is ‘Look but don’t touch’.
The designer’s real-life trajectory has been something of a fairytale in itself. Having grown up in Lagos and studied fashion in the UK, Osakwe returned home to launch her label for AW10, and instantly garnered attention for her reinvention of adire, a traditional Nigerian indigo resist-dyed fabric, into a luxurious material. Like the original, which employs hundreds of meaningful symbols, her silky, inky take on adire creates its own artful and ever-growing language, and has become her signature.
Osakwe was shortlisted for the LVMH Prize 2014, and is now a hot ticket at New York Fashion Week. She’s also stocked on Moda Operandi and Farfetch, had pieces acquired by museums including FIT and Vitra, and been worn by an impressive line of famous femmes —hello Michelle Obama, Lupita Nyong’o, Lady Gaga, Amandla Stenberg and Solange. “A lot of what I’ve done has been a first for any Africa-based designer, so it feels great to be paving a new trail,” she says. “It’s daunting, too, because I don’t have a blueprint to follow. It’s important not to get overwhelmed or complacent; to keep pushing the brand forward.” And then she woke up, it was not all a dream...
This feature was originally published in issue one of Nataal magazine. To discover more, and buy a copy, click here
Styling Ian McRae
Creative direction Inyegumena Nosegbe
Set design Ase Fisher
Hair Nigella Miller
Make-up Raisa Flowers
Models Adot Gak and Raschelle Osbourne at D1
Photography assistance Rahim Fortune
Set design assistance Asé Fisher
Styling assistance Emmanuel Udeme
Words Helen Jennings
Published on 08/01/2019