MAKI OH , one of our favourite Nigerian designers is out with their fall 2016 collection and they tell us a story about it;
‘Do you understand?’ Maki Oh’s Fall 2016 collection is a foray into womanism through the linguistic variations of the Nigerian word ‘ehn’. A simple expression that carries a multitude of meanings depending on intonation, ‘ehn’ contains several dimensions that are not immediately obvious in its three letters. The complexity of this word is mirrored in the complexity of being a black African woman in the world today. Despite self-imposed affirmations of being queens and being ‘magic’, when a black woman wakes up in the morning and draws breath, what immediately ensues is the daily fight against the external push to limit her dimensions. Maki Oh created the Fall 2016 collection with this resistance in mind, culminating in a celebratory acceptance of this existence, with all its denied but intrinsic beauty and nuance—‘We are here, and this is who we are, ehn!’
‘Ehn’ — ‘Yes’
The collection uses markers such as silk chiffon, pearls and ribbons to move through the assimilative performance of hyper-femininity that is required of black women, accentuated with frills and ruffles. The shapes take direct inspiration from traditional Nigerian womenswear, particularly the different voluminous blouses worn with wrappers. Black female resistance is represented in appliquéd camouflage that contrast with the light femininity of performance. Varying representations of eyes are repeated heavily throughout the collection, including a traditional Yoruba adiré print of ‘inner eyes’ that represents self-reflection and realisation. The eyes are also observing, an indication of ‘we see you’ as well as the inward ‘we see ourselves’.
The colour palette draws from the richness of Nigerian landscape—from the lush greens, to the earth tones of Nok terracotta, punctuated by bursts of pastels. Handmade bags were created in collaboration with Nigerian accessory brand, Zashadu, using locally sourced leathers. The hand-painted and hand-dyed indigo adiré motifs this season echo themes of knowing and sight. Adiré motifs may be mistaken as being indistinguishable and repetitive but it is this limited perception belying a deeper complexity that is the thread running through the collection, from the nuanced definitions of the word ‘ehn’ to the truth of black womanhood.