The first bit of advice every insider with at least a decade’s worth of experience in the fashion industry will give when asked about how to navigate fashion design is this:
“If you’re smart, you’ll focus on womenswear.”
There is logic behind this statement.
With nearly two centuries of breaking glass ceilings and social conventions, designing clothes for women is one of the most challenging but also expressive forms of art. Everything is permissible; wonky silhouettes, post futurist clothing that change when exposed to external stimuli, even aggressive nudity. There are opportunities for expression of self that menswear designers can only ever dream about. Especially in a place like Nigeria where the collective opinions of a whole are held in far higher regard than the possibilities dreamt up by a future seeing few.
It is with this in mind that Nigerian menswear designers are given a long leash when it comes to unimaginative design. We overlook the fact that once we subtract the quality of tailoring they offer us, and the sometimes interesting choice of fabric they offer us, they are simply offering us iterations of the same suit. Emerging menswear designer Jason Porsche’s Resort collection called ‘Kairos Vs Chronos’, recently released, offers us an opportunity to draw the line separating a bespoke tailor and a designer.
A collection with a title that references Greek mythology, especially the wildly interesting myth of Chronos, one cannot be faulted for expecting references to Greek mythology, in fabric choices or even style or silhouette.
What we get instead is a thinly veiled repetition of Porsche’s Spring 16 collection. Duo tone blazers, tuxedo jacket dresses and shawl lapel blazers in bright colours. Some of the pieces are exact replicas with the colours simply changed. There is no regard for the potential buyer, no incentive for us to reach into our pockets and spend thousands of naira on a replica of last season’s clothes from the same label.
This has become a regular grouse we have with emerging designers; too many of them are safe to the point of debilitating boredom. This collection would not garner a second glance in a department store or a retailer’s catalog, and if it did, there would simply be nothing to distinguish it as Jason Porsche from the several hundred other cookie cutter emerging designers that churn out well tailored sewn-by-numbers suits.
We would much rather a great idea that didn’t quite stick the landing than a mediocre one that never even left the ground.