Paris Fashion Week opens with Kenneth Ize
It says a great deal about the openness of Paris to fresh ideas when the opening show of the city’s biggest fashion week – women’s ready-to-wear - is given over to a young designer like Kenneth Ize.
The Nigerian-born and Austrian-raised Ize’s big theme was his own African origins, and the phrase 'Third World,' and the result was a moving collection based on traditional African materials reimagined in a cosmopolitan context. Staged in an upper floor of the Palais de Tokyo, the Paris museum that is the largest center of contemporary artistic creation in Europe.
Like in his debut menswear collections, the key material was aso oke, meaning top cloth, a hand-woven fabric created by the Yoruba people, with beautifully graphic grids and charming geometry.
Ize focused on intense color coordination – one sea-blue tunic and shorts even had matching Birkenstocks. Though he often completed languid aso oke pajama suits with mono-color linen waistcoats. Throughout there was a rock-star mood, even if Ize’s heroes are light years away from bling-bling. Instead he references his roots in African culture with raw fabrics and vibrant earthy colors.
Ize is also a very talented cutter, especially his marvelous men’s shirts finished with cathedral high collars, so towering they made Karl Lagerfeld’s Hilditch & Key shirts look like crewnecks.
“I am switching back and forth from Africa. And that term, Third World Country, comes into my mind always. That’s how many people see me. Even if my western friends cannot know what that means. But that term limits you because it doesn’t push you up, it brings you down. And, so this a new dawn for me,” he said in tears, as a documentary camera crew followed him around the backstage and then into a separate lounge.
Though primarily noted as a menswear designer, this collection was co-ed, and boasted fringed dresses and broad striped shirts and tunics for women in the same same fabric used for men.
“I wanted to say how important women are to the world. And how we men actually try to control their bodies which is really sad. We have been taught 'pink for women and blue for boys' and I wanted to play around that,” he added.
Pre-pandemic we wrote the someone should really name Ize creative director of a historic European house and let his talent rip. After this fine display, that remains our opinion.
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