A menswear fashion week offers the rarest of opportunities for an emerging menswear label to create the most avantgarde, fashion forward clothing possible. This hasn’t been possible at the established menswear fashion showcase where emphasis quickly shifts from innovation to retail value. So the Accra Mens Fashion Week in it’s debut season seemed the perfect platform for us to see menswear in Africa advanced. After all Ghana is known for it’s fashion forward communities. Menswear label Jay Ray skipped the innovation phase and went straight to marketability.
The design duo behind the label decided instead of having to go through the time consuming process of crafting entire ensembles around an abstract idea or inspiration, they would stick to one article of clothing, and explore all the possibilities of that single item. This idea is not that novel as brands like Grey Projects in Nigeria have released collections like that. Jay Ray decided to focus their creative potential on the dress shirt, in particular, the African inspired print wax shirt.
Ankara shirts enjoyed a wave of popularity in the late 2ooo’s as many West Africans turned inwards for fashion inspiration. This wave created hundreds of boutique brands that catered to this demand, which waned when proper fashion labels began to draw local and international attention.
Jay Ray revisits this trend, offering us a whooping twenty iterations of the ankara print shirt. Long sleeved, short sleeved and sleeveless, colour blocked, pleated, collared and collarless, contemporary shirts and tunics; Jay Ray tackles it all tying the entire collection together with ankara prints. The sheer single mindedness is impressive and commercially, this tack makes a lot of sense.
But having a platform this big and choosing to do this with it suggests tunnel vision that might prove detrimental to the brand in future, but we’ll have to wait for their next collection to see for sure.