Nigerian menswear designers fall into two neat categories; the classicist suit makers and the innovators. Menswear designer Kola Kuddus is a guardian of sorts because he is both and neither. But it was always such a small niche, that many designers could actually afford to do this.
With the Lagos Fashion and Design Week fashion incubator programme discovering more designers and thrusting them into the vanguard of Nigerian menswear, everyone is changing tactics. To our amazement and delight, Kola Kuddus is changing too. The designer who was first invited in July last year to show at the South African Menswear week, put out a collection this season that had some element of his past aesthetic; menswear reworked for the 21st century Nigerian man. That is his niche and it has come to define him as a brand.
But he also left his comfort zone, playing with androgyny, territory you’d normally expect from brands like Orange Culture and Kelechi Odu to venture in. Done in Orange (a huge trend this season that cut across all four Nigerian designers who showed), powder blue, grey and brown, Kuddus sent skrousers, skirts, kilts and oversized kaftans down the runway, layering them in interesting ways to distort silhouettes.
Kuddus also played with draping, layering sari like panels of contrasting cloth across shirts and jackets. There were belted shorts with tie detailing at the hip area, oversized jackets cinched with a belt at the waist, all detailing that you would normally expect in womenswear but reworked for men. The effect is an understated collection that quietly affirms that androgyny in the hands of the right designer can be practical instead of a flight of whimsy.
SA Menswear Week AW 16
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town, WC, South Africa.