Ignore the click-baitey headline, or don’t. Either way it is actually true. Chechi Arinze is one of the sixteen finalists chosen for the British Council supported Fashion Focus incubator for 2015’s Lagos Fashion and Design Week and among those in the know, one of the few designers we actually hoped would surprise us.
Chechi Arinze is no amateur. She is a second generation designer- her Guyanese Mother owns Audari, a fashion house where Chechi began her dabbling in fashion,- with seven years of practical design experience and a five year old Ready To Wear label ‘Eznira’ behind her. This isn’t her first rodeo with fashion competitions either, she was the first runner up for Ade Bakare’s inaugural Young Designer competition in 2009 and was part of the ten man finalist group for the Bella Naija run The Making. This is aside her stint as part of the Mai Atafo design team which allowed her gain valuable experience with styling, design and illustration. Arinze has certainly had more experience than most.
So it is somewhat surprising that Arinze is even participating in the LFDW Fashion Focus programme, and even more so that she isn’t bringing anything new to the table.
One of the goals of the LFDW Fashion Focus incubator programme is to find Nigeria’s next generation of designers, and give them a platform to be their most experimental, innovative selves. They are unhindered by accessibility, (the capsule collection ideally are supposed to be exhibition only) and they are guaranteed a time slot, as well as extensive mentoring from several carefully chosen industry professionals. Arinze has been around too long to be participating here.
But that is a discussion for another article, let’s talk clothes.
The five piece collection has many of the classic Chechi Arinze design quirks that become immediately obvious once you reference her past work. There is beading, something Arinze does to spruce up ordinary looks, but none of the dedication or dexterity that has defined labels like Ere Dappa or Lisa Folawiyo. Instead we get a small sprinkling of beads on pedestrian dresses and jumpsuits. One look in particular, a two-tone pair of flared pants, is so badly conceived that the collection could have done without it altogether. Same for the organza maxi skirt with thigh high slits that ends up a rumpled mess on the runway. When will everyone get the memo that no one uses Organza as the primary fabric for clothing anymore? It just doesn’t work.
The only piece that is truly interesting is a wrap blouse and pencil skirt ensemble that impresses only because it is a classic silhouette that flatters most body types. It is quite telling that Arinze’s simplest piece is her best. Her years of experience simply do not translate in this collection. Is there really anything more disappointing than that?