Duro Olowu’s Jewels
London Fashion Week was the occasion to discover the new collection of Nigerian-born designer Duro Olowu and to meet him at his Fall Winter’s presentation.
After training in law, Nigerian-born Duro Olowu returned to his first love of fashion with the launch of his London-based label, winning the British Fashion Council‘s New Designer award just a year later. His vibrant prints and fluid designs have made him a firm favorite with the style set.
Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Olowu was raised in Lagos, Nigeria’s main commercial hub. He spent much of his childhood traveling to and from Nigeria and various cities in Europe. Olowu studied law in London before returning to Nigeria for several years and developing his eye for fashion. The offbeat patterns, rich textures and eclectic colors of his designs reflect both his African heritage and world view.
“My Jamaican mother used to find the tailors who carried sewing machines on their shoulders and get them to make patchwork shirts and furnishings from local fabrics mixed with others she picked up on holidays abroad. She was a big influence on how I see color and print,” Olowu told the New York Times in November 2012.
Olowu launched his first women’s wear label in October 2004 with a collection for spring and summer. Today, his designs are sold around the world to high-end concept shops like Ikram in Chicago and Biffi in Milan, and they have earned him celebrity clients like Michelle Obama, Tracee Ellis Ross, Uma Thurman and Kiera Knightley.
Olowu, who is married to Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of Studio Museum of Harlem in New York City, has won a slew of coveted fashion awards. His high-waisted, Kimono-like silk “Duro” dress was voted “Dress of the Year” in 2005 by both British and American Vogue. Olowu also won the “Best Designer of the Year” award from the British Fashion Council that same year. In 2010, he was named “Best International Designer” at the African Fashion Awards in South Africa.
Duro Oluwo’s Fall Winter 2016-2016 presentation is influenced by recent collaboration with Madison Avenue jewelers Sidney Garber. Onyx, lapis, and jade are the main colors of this latest collection. On top of that Oluwo broadly applied the idea of “preciousness” to his clothes. Olowu wanted to make garments meant to be treasured as fine jewelry which is almost standard practice for him. Oluwo’s looks are meant to be held onto. This outing was a typically Olowu-esque exercise in, let’s call it, “restrained overstatement.” That doesn’t seem like it should be a thing, but how else to describe the designer’s signature mash-up of bold colors, clashing prints, new and vintage materials, and the occasional operatic gesture, to wit this collection’s floor-length mosaic-print cape? Aside from that cape, the silhouettes here tended toward the decorous, with a slight preference for trousers and full skirts over the dresses that are Olowu’s stock-in-trade. The overall effect was brasher than usual, but that didn’t detract from the very adult sensibility of the clothes. Or, to put it in jewelry terms, this was bling of the most artful quality.
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