We’ve spoken at length about how alt Nigerian designer Kola Kuddus occupies an interesting niche in Nigerian fashion. As part of the old guard of designers that came to fame in the late 90’s – early 2000’s (think Mudi, Frank Osodi and Zizi Cardow) Kuddus made most of his fame and his clientele as a bespoke traditional menswear service, dressing a much older and financially buoyant demographic. His target demographic values excellent tailoring and impeccable fit over innovative design and overarching themes. So to see the designer continue to push himself and limits of traditional Nigerian menswear is inspiring.
The label’s new collection debuted at the South Africa Menswear Week Spring 17 showcase is it’s most thematic in years. Inspired by the concept of migration and the roads and topography of Lagos, the label creates complex abstract motifs of roads and paths done by layering fabric, inserts in contrast colours and deft embroidery. Vague outlines of Lagos skyline and its iconic clover leaf dais of roads are represented as are less specific road motifs. Using asymmetry and deft construction, Kuddus makes these roads come alive, ending as asymmetric tongues hanging off the hems of tunics, or pleated ruffles on shirts.
The most interesting of all pieces shown is a skeletan representation of the National Theatre at Iganmu embroidered vertically onto a tunic, incase there were any doubts that the motifs this season were inspired by Eko. But even this level of complexity doesn’t distract us from the realisation that ultimately Kola Kuddus is a Kaftan and tunic brand, and that this is the aesthetic it has chosen and is sticking to. Which is a shame, because with the kind of subtlety Kola Kuddus is capable of, an unexpected shift in the label’s base identity could open it up to a much wider market and bring it much deserved critical acclaim.
For now, we’ll take what we can get, which is traditional menswear that ignores all the tropes and forges it’s own path.
Simon Deiner/SDR Photo