Amidst all the craze of the different fashion weeks and weekends in Lagos, it’s obvious that there is a system in the way fashion, design and runway shows are interpreted this season. Change is afoot, with the new wave of talent pumped into the system and some seasonal favourites injecting fresh aesthetic to the way we think and live.
One of these designers making a positive difference with fashion is Omar Salam the Creative Director of Sukeina. The brand is at its core quintessentially African – Omar was born to a Senegalese father, however, the brand name is a homage to his mother who is his main source of creativity.
In Lagos last week for GTBank Fashion Weekend 2018, Omar presented the brand’s latest collection Gates and it was inspiring to hear him speak so passionately about the collection. Sukeina is a New York-based brand, however, the designer stands out from his immediate oeuvre, provoking and piercing the veil of a topic that has been talked a lot about but with little action to follow especially in Nigeria.
The collection is feminist without having to announce it. According to him:
“Gates” celebrates the power and strength of a woman. Women are the very essence of our existence, we owe our existence to women and they shouldn’t be relegated to just home duties alone – they are capable of being at the top of whatever they do and that is what this collection aims to portray.
The pieces from the collection impressively tie in to the message Omar hopes to relate. On the runway, the Spring/Summer 2019 pieces were lusciously all-around artistic, elegant and powerful – “I wanted to create pieces for every woman to feel strong in,” he said, “wherever she finds herself, at work, at home, with friends, the Sukeina woman is resilient. She is kind and uplifting, but she is strong.”
The first looks were intricate lace and fringe offerings with flattering embroidery on the waist and chest followed by Sukeina’s origami folds that have been present for a few seasons now. There followed lots of looks in black and then red — each one effectively a different character sketch: a black lace and mesh bodysuit which had a soft bow at the neck was paired with voluminous-hip pants and a mini mesh dress laced up through a plunging V neckline; an amazing white and black turtleneck mini dress with fine fringe ruffle spilling from the front and icing the cake somewhere near the end of the show, a red-carpet ready asymmetric dress with thin straps and an off-the-shoulder pink cape.
His background in design and art was apparent in the structure and rhythm of this collection – each model wore accessorised headpieces screaming loudly “I am not my hair”. The bold makeup was another high point of the show, dark smokey eyes met heavily defined cheekbones – after all, a woman can wear as much makeup as she wants.
In Nigeria, feminism is still a delicate topic, and fashion (clothing) is a tool that works to encourage women’s rights and lead conversations dedicated to garnering a greater force for positive change in the way women are viewed in the dynamics of the society.
This tale of devine femininity as told by Omar at the GTBank Fashion Weekend 2018 will not be forgotten in a long while. All women in the crowd must have had a moment when they pictured themselves in at least one of the pieces presented.
In a season were there’s been so much expression of our culture, beliefs and frustrations through dressmaking and craft skills with an overview to making the world a better place, whether it’s through environmental pursuits or social efforts, Omar just took it to the ultimate. It was as accomplished, as complexly crafted and as simple as that.