Nigerian label Madam Mademoiselle Aglaia, helmed by creative director Mariam Afolabi has just put out editorial images for it’s first 2016 collection themed ‘Frida.’
Afolabi looks to Mexico and the work and life of Mexican painter and women’s right activist Frida Kahlo as inspiration for the new capsule collection. Kahlo has long been a source of inspiration to international designers across the world and renowned design labels such as Missoni, Valentino, Alberta Ferreti, Moschino and even the revered Kenzo have all taken a stab translating the genius and mystique of Kahlo into clothing. So we were interested to see where Mademoiselle Aglaia would choose to tackle the iconic artist from.
We had our first hint of foreboding when we read Afolabi’s press release explaining her inspiration.
This collection evolved from not just gaining inspiration from Frida but also the Italian culture, their dancers and the famous matadors. The headpieces and flower print fabrics used represent Frida’s look and fashion style. The consistent use of red is also a way of emphasizing the inspiration from a rose and the colour used mostly by the Italian flamenco dancers
First off, Frida Kahlo is Mexican not Italian. She lived, worked and died in Mexico. She was crippled as a teenager and suffered debilitating injury for the rest of her life. Her work was largely focused on representing Mexican life, much like her partner, painter Diego Rivera. The practice of bull fighting, from which the term Matador comes is practised in Spain, Portugal and Spanish speaking South American countries; Mexico included. Flamenco is also is a Latin American dance originating from South America. None of this is remotely Italian.
It is very telling when a designer doesn’t even take time to properly research their influences for their collection. Misrepresentation and misappropriation can only ensue.
Mademoiselle Aglaia makes very good clothing, granted. The dresses are very well made and even the decor of the shoot, by design or by stroke of luck (considering the label believes Frida Kahlo is somehow Italian) harkens to the Blue House, Kahlo’s quarters where she lived her entire life.
However, once you shed the flower crowns and the blush red dresses, there really is nothing of Frida Kahlo in the collection. Kahlo’s stark, autobiographical surrealist art documented her many horrific struggles so distinctly that there is no real artistic heir to Kahlo, even to this day.
Frida Khalo wore vibrant Mexican gypsy dresses called Tehuana for most of her life, an informed choice that helped her distance herself from her Germanic ancestry and embrace her matrilineal line. This choice defined Kahlo for the rest of her life and beyond.
Instead we are offered a pastiche of vaguely Spanish inspired dresses, sunflower headdresses which are definitely not Mexican, – Kahlo’s headdresses were usually made of wild flowers and bougainvillea- and skirts embellished with cloth flowers.
Perhaps most indicative of the disconnect between Afolabi and the work and legacy of Frida Kahlo is the printed dress shirt one of the male models wear. It has a day-glo pop art print of the Mona Lisa, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, a male Italian painter born nearly five centuries before Kahlo. How telling it is, that in a collection supposed to reference a female painter, a male painter is honoured instead.
Instagram: Mademoiselle Aglaia | @mademoiselle.aglaia
Photography: Emmanuel Oyeleke | @emmanueloyeleke
Make up Artist: Artistry By Tolani | @artistry_by_tolani
Stylist: Moses Ebite | @moashystyling
Female Model: Melissa Devidal of Few Models Management | @mel_devidal
Male Model: Victor Chima of Few Models Management
Hair: Golden Touch Salon
Nails: Nail box, The Style Loft