Collection Review: Onalaja SS16 is experimental but functional

It is obvious that Kanyinsola Onalaja the creative director at Onalaja is professionally trained.

It was obvious the minute the first face stepped on the runway in a blush pink sheer organza blouse with bell sleeves and exaggerated ruching worn under a billowy A-line skirt with a repeat motif of bees in a bouquet of roses. The blouse was actually flattering on the model, its lines are smooth not boxy and ungainly; a mean feat because organza is notoriously hard to wrestle into a flattering shape. It was the perfect introduction.

With a degree in fashion design from the prestigious Instituto Maragoni London and several international awards including an FDA young designer of the year award and three years doing business in the UK, Kanyinsola had a lot to prove packing up and breaking into the Nigerian market with a new collection after a year hiatus to study 3D design in Rome. This she does through an exploration of colours, textile printing and fabric manipulation. The result is refined but experimental and most important, wearable.

Symbiosis seems the underlying theme behind the collection and this is portrayed through two major characters; honey bees and flowers. Prints that feature them dominate the entire collection, vibrant oranges and yellow bulbs scattered across a sleeveless evening gown, small black insects speckle a strappy dress with oversized cup detailing that references JW Anderson’s recent work, 3D rose petals flutter on a peplum blouse. The insect references are also subtle, featuring as metallic accessories; earrings and brooches. Onalaja obsesses with the detailing till you are in no doubt who the stars of her new collection are.

But where she truly shines is in the quality of her tailoring. The lines are crisp and the clothes drape beautifully. The quality of her tailoring allows her play safe with classic silhouettes; a hot pink smoking jacket and several loose jacket dresses and a mill of body con dress.

But it also allows her comfortably attempt more daring ideas like a metallic jacket, tube blouse and peach and coral skirt with intricate layers of ruching sewn in layers like jellyfish tentacles, and pull it off completely. The true star of the collection is a glittery plum strappy sheet dress that shimmers like a constellation of stars as the model walks down the runway. The construction is so deft that it takes a while to realise the dress is actually panelled. Such is the quality of the construction.

The Onalaja SS16 collection is Kanyinsola Onalaja reinterpreting her design ideas for a tropical, cosmopolitan climates and and while it might take her sometime to truly immerse herself, she has had a stellar head start.

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