Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,
Last week I attended the ‘Constellation Africa’ show – a special project hosted by Fondazione Pitti Discovery and ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative to promote talented designers from the continent. The strongest feeling I had was that these four selected designers, coming from outside the major fashion centres [and even the minor fashion capitals] had to work even harder to prove their place. And the result was not far from spectacular.
Maxhosa by Laduma is a South African knitwear brand that uses colour and line in a way that’s completely fresh. The designer, Laduma Ngxokolo, references traditional symbols and patterns from Xhosa people, but recontextualises them in modern and wearable garments. The black and white geometry with pale blue edging was particularly strong. This was the best display of knitwear I’ve seen in a long time.
Projecto Mental focuses on tailoring from the unique perspective of Angolan designers Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga and Shunnoz Fiel who started the brand in 2004. In the aftermath of Angola’s horrendous civil war, there’s a sense of freedom through experimentation in their suiting, without being too avant-garde to alienate a strong international following. Shoes were odd (one green shoe + one pink) and colours were combined in a challenging, though completely welcomed way.
Diane and I met Bayo (Adebayo Oke-Lawal) from Orange Culture last year and admired his use of softened pastels that was peacefully challenging to the norms of menswear, especially considering his Nigerian origins. This season Orange Culture continued to push ideas of traditional masculinity with a nod to 70s fluidity and Nigerian silhouettes.
Dent de Man works with classic British tailoring and Java textiles for an identifiable look. Designer Alexis Temomanin from the Ivory Coast/UK celebrates the all-over print, and I for one was convinced. He also pushed these ideas into streetwear, giving variation and crossover relevance to his aesthetic.
Beyond design specifics, if I only look at the use of print and colour, every designer presented something exciting here. But also, they really knew what they were doing in every other aspect; the casting was excellent and the music was on point. I haven’t been attending Pitti for that long, but this was by far one of the best presentations I’ve seen in Florence in the last two years.
(Images courtesy of Pitti Immagine)