Ifeoma Onyido’s Iola was one of the sixteen design labels chosen to show at the Lagos Fashion and Design Week as part of the British Council supported Fashion Focus programme. That is a lot of pressure on any designer’s shoulders, even more so when you consider the designers are expected to show a capsule collection of no more than 10 looks, a sparse palette on which to show your design capabilities.
The collection Onyido showed was very spartan in its composition, she only showed five looks, each carefully curated around the idea of simplicity. The collection carried a certain ease about it, a certain joie de vivre that ties the clothes together, that and the choice of a simple floral print. From her aesthetic choices, it is easy to tell that Iola is a low-concept brand, focusing on tailoring to provide its edge.
The entire collection features beautifully tailored staples that riff off the current trends. There is the collared jumpsuit with peekaboo panelling on the bust, a look that was replicated by many of the other designers who showed. Short shorts, culottes, a loose menswear inspired print tee and the holy grail, a chiffon layered maxi-dress rounds out the capsule, and it is all so straightforward, it is easy to imagine the pieces on a rack at one of the new retail stores or as a part of an online catalogue on Jumia. It was alright but nothing in the collection ever really held your attention.
If there is anything, there is the cropped pantsuit combination in the collection that stuck out sorely. Onyido’s dexterity with a sewing machine seems to dry up around this piece, the collar is gaudy and unwiedly around the model’s bustline, the button that held the flaps of the jacket straining for release. The pants fare even worse, and hang so tightly on the model that they seem made for a much smaller woman, or shrunken after a wash in the washing machine. The irony of this is that, this was the only piece in the collection that made the audience look up from their phones.
Onyido has all the tools to become a better designer, but that hinges heavily on if she can first stop caping so strongly for mass appeal.