Thursday 11th March

| BY Paul Toner

Kenneth Ize: Ready-to-wear AW21

The vivid hues that have come to define Kenneth Ize’s brand were largely absent this season. His traditional Nigerian aso oke-stripes now came in brown as opposed to red, black instead of purple, and a more muted yellow than one you’d find adorning the walls of a primary school.

“This season is just all about honesty, I wanted to express how I’ve been feeling,” Ize explains over a phone call. Admittedly, the Lagos-based designer has had a challenging few months. Covid has brought numerous delays to the construction of his factory in Ilorin, Nigeria – which is going to be the biggest weaving factory in the country – and he describes the past four months, being in Lagos during EndSARS, as “hell.” Though in treacherous times, he has been able to find solace. “What happened with EndSARS, with the youth protesting, marks a rebirth of the country,” Ize affirms. “Actually, it shows a rebirth of the continent in general, it shows that something is going to change and that we are aware of our problems and want solutions.”

Calling his collection The Circle of Birth and Death, this idea of rebirth led Ize to look at the ouroboros (an ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail), which appears across shirts and women’s twinsets. These are paired alongside relaxed suit jackets, asymmetric vests and emerald green trousers that pool lavishly over the ankle. As well, tribal body paint informed painterly swirls across chocolate brown tunics, shirt dresses and woollen, flared jumpsuits. Ize is up for the International Woolmark Prize; this being the first time he’s ever worked with wool.

“I had this old mentality that I couldn’t work with wool because I work in an African country, so everything has to be flexible and easy,” he says. “But, it’s been amazing weaving wool fabric because it’s also very light and soft. There’s an airy part that comes out that feels like cashmere, it can really be exciting.” 

Photography by Joshua Woods.