Nkwo Onwuka’s Nkwo has always set itself apart as one of the most innovative Nigerian labels thanks to its diligence in advancing fashion through unorthodox silhouettes, superb construction and continuous innovation. For the SS16 collection, ‘Modernity’, Onwuka pushed boundaries even further, marrying traditional styles with modern edginess for a new, interesting take on urban denim. Onwuka describes the process behind the new collection as thus:
The inspiration for this collection was doing Africa modern. I have been doing a lot of work/research with artisans in Nigeria, many of whom are probably the last in their line of craft. A lot of the handicrafts are being lost as there is a general lack of understanding of just how valuable these traditions are. Some of the processes are time consuming and outdated and the artisans and their children feel that a more ‘Western” way of life is the best way forward. I feel that a deeper understanding of these traditions will move us towards innovation and a new way of thinking that is not Western but truly modern and that is what inspired the collection.
For the clothing our starting point was a modern interpretation of a classic and traditional style of dress, the buba and iro (for women) and the buba and sokoto (for men)- pronounced “boo-bah and ee-roh/sho-koh-toh”. The look, which consists of a simple wide-sleeved top and wrapper or trousers is a long-standing part of traditional West African culture, predominant among the Yoruba people of South West Nigeria.
Onwuka eschews atypical construction, choosing instead to make her silhouettes almost exclusively by draping denim and cotton pieces. She also uses several techniques, including distressing to create intricate geometric detailing on the denim and cotton pieces. With the use of distressed denim, organza embellished with decorative panels of raffia and hand-made lace, aso-oke (a local handwoven textile) while sticking to the label’s preference for using blue hues almost exclusively in it’s work. The result is a collection that is almost inimitable, that is distinctively African, but also undeniably modern. A true colossus straddling two worlds.
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