Before African Fashion Week Nigeria, we doubt anyone had heard of French based Nigerian design label O’Saunders. The Fashion Week brought in a handful of big names, and O’Saunders who came out of relative obscurity to deliver one of the showcase’s crowd and critic pleasers with a reams and reams of hand painted fabric cut into delightful silhouettes. Because of AFWN’s constraints, Olabisi Saunders, the creative director behind the label only showed a limited line up of looks and we decided to refrain from doing a review based solely on that, and wait for the actual collection.
And now it has arrived, complete with a fitting if a tad pretentious theme ‘Les Jardins de Reves de Marie’.
“The graciousness, whimsy vibrancy and extravagance nature of Marie Antoinette’s beautiful gardens, which she nurtured and groomed for many years despite her being a very influential and controversial woman during the Victorian era.”
This is how the label describes it’s inspirations behind the collection, which is all well and good. The idea behind the collection is solid, and the hand painted motifs of the dresses actually helps create a dreamlike quality to the pieces, the fading of the colours, the primal and somewhat simplistic paintings, the contrast of vivid and sorbet colours all done in organzas, ribbed knits and rich plain weave cotton.
However, the prints are as far as Saunders goes in her quest to distill the essence of Marie Antoinette’s essence. The collection while well tailored, is a repetition of design quirks we have seen a thousand times before. The unique prints manage to elevate some of the designs (especially the purple and saffron dress) but for the rest, it feels almost a let-down to waste such beautiful fabrics.
It was also an extremely misguided idea for the label to use the mannequins it did for the editorial. The material from which the mannequin was made is extremely reflective, effectively drawing attention and distracting from the clothing we’ve supposed to look at. I am all for experimenting, but there is a reason people use models for photoshoots. Mannequins simply cannot animate a dress the way a real person can.
O’saunders is a genius with prints, but her construction is going to need some work if she will find herself a niche in this market. And finally, the clothes she showed were too many and should have been pared down to ensure the only the best stayed. Marie Antoinette’s garden thrived because she had the fortitude to prune the weak branches, that’s another thing O’saunders can learn from her.
Designer: @o.saunders1 | +2349094899085
Styling/art direction: @thestyleinfidel
Styling assistance: @samuelnoon | @assholebydesign
Set design: Seun Awotunde @mzphabulousity