With his Birds of Paradise collection, London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu combined signature patchwork pattern dresses with sharply cut, wideleg trousers, and striking capes done in multi-coloured feathers or floral embroidered silk.
This exuberant, sophisticated and glamorous look – combining a cape, trousers and top – interweaves Olowu’s fascination with western haute couture and his upbringing between Nigeria and England. The intricate cape embroidery was made in Burkina Faso, using an ancient and complex technique that he combines with a striking pair of trousers with graphic prints. “I mix fabrics and patterns in a wholly African way,” the designer states, “but it’s international chic that I believe in.” The designer recalls how this mixture has been omnipresent throughout his life. During the Biafra war, many people in Lagos were sewing to survive and his mother often commissioned pieces for the entire family. Mixing diverse fabrics, the combinations that emerged were fascinating, combining African fabric, Dutch and Austrian lace to form a fully Nigerian creation. Today, influenced by surrealism, Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Africanism and politics, Olowu believes fashion is “where you are and who you are.” He professes an international admiration of the traditional, insisting on being open to international ideas, and insists that the cross-cultural influence is ever-present. “Yves Saint-Laurent was born in Algeria,” the designer reminds us.