Nigerian born Togolese designer Grace Wallace first came into our purview with her collection commissioned by the high commission of Togo in celebration of the contributions of Immigrants to the country’s growth. But Wallace has three collections that have proved the breadth of her talent and her growth over the years. Her new collection ‘Le Sahara’ builds on the designer’s preference for African inspired wax prints and silhouette that flatter the African woman’s body, and juxtaposes it against the dark beauty of the Sahara desert that fringes the northernmost parts of the country.
Perhaps, it might be time for Grace Wallace to let go of the familiar and chart new territory. The collection she debuts is in and of itself quite formulaic, and reminiscent of the designs that have become quite common place in traditional weddings and celebrations across the continent. The use of Ankara doesn’t do the designer any favors and further buttresses the similarities between her work and that of tailors across Africa. Even the sheer kaftans she does, remind us of Senegal’s grand bou-bous. Nothing is able to elevate the collection, not the beaded embellishments, the sheer zig-zag panelling or the contrast piping. Nothing except the actual campaign itself.
Wallace takes the term ‘Le Sahara’ very seriously, because she assembles a team and trudges straight into the heart of the desert to shoot her campaign for the new collection. The wavy dunes, lit naturally by evening sun cast a magic tint on the clothes, transforming them from their pedestrian leanings into something, magical, much like the Disney princesses. The photography work is stellar, and Wallace proves once and for all that even in Africa, a lot of imagination and the willingness to inconvenience self in the pursuit of the perfect image can mean great things for a label
I hope everyone learns that lesson.
Photography: Oronce H. Photography
Retouching: Oronce Hounkponou Retoucher
Models: Anastassia Nastia Idriss & Elynka Kimmy
Assistants: Ange Adimou & Abdel Saïdi