Ayo Van Elmar is one of the few new age Nigerian designers with actual formal training in fashion design and as such, her work is closely watched by us as a precursor to what might become the trends of the coming fashion years.
Since she debuted as part of the Lagos Fashion and Design Week showcase in 2013, she has continued to rework traditional silhouettes using ankara with varying degrees of success, showing at unconventional spaces.
Since debuting her work at the February 2016 edition of the Lagos B.O.A.T club, we wondered if she was finally going to shed the comfortable crutch of African inspired Dutch Wax that has been a significant part of her work portfolio. If the editorial images and fashion film she put out for her new collection ‘Fish Bone’ is anything to go by, that quantum shift is still a pipe dream.
Featuring dancer and singer Korra Obidi, Van Elmar shows us a sensual, almost suggestive side of her label, with a collection full of sheer pieces, oversized culottes, full skirts and Peter Pan collared shirts.
The tailoring on the new collection passes mettle as do the fabric choices and colour palette. Mauve and forest green contrast each other so well, and Ayo Van Elmar plays up drama by adding detailing in brightly coloured ankara to otherwise conservative pieces. If this collection were by an untrained Nigerian designer, we would be impressed.
But instead, what this collection gives us is a mixture of disappointment and despair. There is none of the experimentation we’ve come to expect from Van Elmar, no deft construction that leaves us awestruck, no silhouettes that come left of field and force us to take a second and third look.
Instead what we get is a fairly ordinary offering of staples that other Nigerian designers have worked into distaste. Peplum jackets and belts, culottes and especially wide band ankara full skirts that should stay the exclusive preserve of roadside tailors. There seems to be a laziness, a near absence of thought behind the collection.
All we got were well tailored clothes and no soul or story.