Since Kenneth Ize’s remarkably buoyant last collection, a lot has changed. Coming on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and a surge in violence against transgender people, the Lagos’s End SARS protests – a youth-led series of peaceful demonstrations against the country’s brutal police squad broking out across the city, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 unarmed protestors at the hands of Nigerian military at Lekki Toll Gate – felt like a tipping point for the designer, whose fall collection reflected his somber mood.
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Titled “The Circle of Birth and Death”, Kenneth Ize’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection was still true to his aesthetic and played out with his signature relaxed proportions, tactile use of fabrication, and traditional weaving techniques including the hand-woven cloth aso oke, made by the Yoruba people in West Africa. However, the politics of the season – including the ongoing End SARS protests – led him in the direction of darker shades like blue, gray, brown, mustard yellow, green and even black instead of his trademark primary color palette. Alongside his signature striped tailoring, he introduced a print featuring an Ouroboros, a circular symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. This symbol symbolized the circle of life and death and signified new beginnings.
The asoke fabrics he uses in his designs, typically handwoven in flamboyant contrasts, this time reflected a quieter spirit while merino wool Ize used for the first time in this collection – he was one of six finalists for this year’s Woolmark Prize – gave his outfits a polished feel.
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