Another Friday another party at Alara, but this one was for VliscoandCo X Lagos a collaborative series that is putting a spotlight on print for the Millennial generation. So what do a 171 year old Dutch fabric company and the Super Cool Kids of African fashion, film and design have in common?
The Vliscoandco project was ambitious in scale and scope and curated and directed in conjunction with the ground-breaking A White Space Creative Agency or AWCA as it is more commonly known. At its source the project is an exploration of identity, and celebrating the power of collaboration when a heritage brand dares to dance with modernity. Tokyo James, one of the designers selected to be part of the collaboration shared his thoughts on the project’s premise:
“I saw it as a really good challenge. Actually it was also the fact that I would be making history as the first menswear brand on the continent for Vlisco to ever collaborate with. It was about championing a new era for Vlisco and I was honoured and thankful that this heritage brand of 170 years would think of me…it was quite exciting.”
James for his part rose to the challenge, presenting a series of sleek, slim fit suiting, covetable jackets and coat- for-days and a long form trad-tunic that had an over-sized pocket which had script that read as a public service announcement for all in attendance: “RIP to the brand you use to wear their days are over.” Generation Next had indeed spoken. But one would expect nothing less from a designer who has consistently shown collections that seek to push a distinct discourse around masculinity, aesthetics and embracing cultural diversity and influences.
The final tableau with the models giving ultimate #SquadGoals the menswear edition cemented, James’ central thesis of renewal and a fearless quest to reflect contemporary sensibilities:
“I think the future of Ankara is a situation whereby it’s going to be a combination between the old and the new. The old looking at the future and the new interpreting the old and in a fresh new way. ”
Abiola Olusola initially approached the project with caution: “I wasn’t sure initially because I have never worked with Ankara and the fabric doesn’t necessarily call to me. But when a company like Vlisco that has been around emails you I’m not sure it’s wise to say no lol.” she recalls candidly. However, it was precisely because she was not wedded to certain notions and associations that she was able to create a collection for the confident modern woman. The silhouette varied from structured with hints of Edwardiana to modern deconstruction with trails on hems and easy tunic like shapes in contrasting fabrics. The Girl-About-Town’s uniform had just been given a serious reboot and became a wardrobe of must-wears
Unlike James, Olusola’s fabrics were not custom made: “[The process was] quite flexible and [Vlisco] gave me as much creative freedom as possible although I wasn’t able to select the fabrics which was a huge challenge for me but it was also exciting to collaborate in that sense as I had to let go of a bit of control.” In distilling the future for Ankara Olusola is ebullient: “I think Ankara is still very present in my generation. What is exciting is how the traditional and colorful prints are now being used in other types of fabrics like silk… with this Vlisco and co project we were able to re-imagine old Ankara in a very modern way by way of design.”
In addition to the live presentation there was a screening of “An Alien In Town” a short film directed by Daniel Obasi, an artist who up til now has been principally known for his photography and art direction, but created a haunting piece that dissected what it meant to belong. Our ‘Alien’ also made an appearance in Olusola’s presentation: sitting in a corner, mute, blue and unsmiling. We were also treated to an interactive session with Karo Akpokiere in conversation with writer Ayodele Arigbabu , in a recreated studio titled ‘6 Stories of Disintergration’. The illustrations and sketches re-imagined new methodologies for re-creating classic Vlisco patter
On a wider level the Vliscoandco collaboration represents a larger trend which has seen heritage brands globally seeking to reinvent, reaching out to younger talent to help in the process. Oftentimes as is witnessed in the Vliscoandco event last Friday one doesn’t see so much of an overturning, as a redefining and re-purposing of the old to fit what the new or younger customer desires. Developing into different fabrics as Vlisco has is also an exciting decision for a company which has become inextricably linked with Dutch Wax. But for those of us who continued to sip on cocktails after the presentations were done there was one basic thought that was top of mind and front and centre: I WANT THOSE CLOTHES NOW.