When Orire Omatsola, creative director at Re Bahia announced in August 2015 via Instagram that she was rehauling her label, everyone wondered what that meant. Omatsola’s Re Bahia had been one of the first Nigerian labels to openly declare itself minimalist and follow through, in a time when everyone was cashing out on the ankara/african fabric trend.
Then it was announced on the Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2015 schedule that the brand was showing for the first time under its new name Re Lagos.
Omatsola was kidding about that rehaul.
There was colour on the Re Lagos runway, a lot of it. Olamide Ogundele opened the show in a blush pink Kabaslot jacket and a sky high mini, like nothing ever seen from Re Bahia. And the surprises kept coming. The collection seemed inspired by classic Romanov gypsy culture and dress, the silhouette titled in favor of volume. Models traipsed the runway in off-shoulder gypsy blouses and layered dresses done in flimsy neon gauze. Boxy aso oke jackets and pants with Omatsola’s signature Kabaslot techniue were also a recurring theme on the collection done in complementary colours. A four minute stream of visual stimulants.
Omatsola’s genius is evident in individual pieces, an aso-0ke fringed skirt modelled by Nikki Anyasi that is so succinctly done, it looks like it belongs on some couture runway in Paris. A 3D printed lace house coat that is delicate and beautiful and interesting enough to demand premium Naira, a white drawstring jumpsuit that distils the minimalist essence of Re Bahia and gives us instant nostalgia and of course, Omatsola taking the classic oleku silhouette and reworking it with her Kabaslot technique into afrofuturist high fashion armour.
If there was anything evident with the new collection, it was the problem that the ReBahia brand has always had, an inability to commit to an idea and see it to its logical conclusion. The Kabaslot pieces and the gauze pieces seemed like they belonged in two different collections and even the styling could do little to convince us otherwise.
There is a gauzy layered candy dress that could have benefited from being reworked in heavier fabric with better draping quality. And no one can forget the crop blouse and pants ensemble that was only frilled one side and looked like a gross error than a deliberate design choice. Omatsola’s ideas are rock solid, but her execution always starts strong and derails spectacularly half way in.
Re Lagos’s first collection is a strong start, but maybe the Re. Lagos’s future collections will benefit from a little sacrifice of creative liberties for design integrity; or just maybe an artistic director.