Imane Ayissi’s message this season was one of kinship. With his “Madzang” collection — named after the Ewondo word for a relative or other close person — he created dialogues between cultures with pairings of outfits, the two realized with different fabrics.
“I thought it would be interesting to compare the different cultures of the world and explore what links us. In textiles, there are lots of similarities,” he said. Stripes, indigo dyes and embroidery, for example, are used across the globe in a multitude of ways, he noted, drawing parallels with how humans emulate each others’ behavior when they feel a rapport. “It shows that humanity is interlinked.”
In one pairing, a merino wool coat with a fabric woven in the Quaker tradition from the U.S. echoed a design made from a Kente fabric from Ghana, for which the designer had sent the fine wool to be woven especially.
This was the principle for each pair of outfits; the motifs and colorways echoing each other, similar yet different, the textures of the fibers used resulting in subtle differences in shape and allure.
Part of Ayissi’s ambition is to infuse innovation into traditional textile manufacturing in Africa and create growth avenues for the future. Here, he highlighted the essence of the fabrics. For example, he didn’t try to hide the demarcations between strips of cloth made on small, traditional looms, rather by making them a design feature.
A skirt suit handwoven in cotton and kapok in Gambia and one in Linton tweed from the U.K., both dyed indigo, had subtle differences of cut, but were alike in essence. Boxy men’s striped suits, one with Faso Dan Fani cotton from Burkina Faso, the other woven in Japan, were surprisingly similar. An evening dress in brut organic cotton from Cameroon, cut on the bias with a fringed V neckline, had a raw elegance, and rubbed shoulders with a more classic design in silk satin made in Italy. Another standout gown, printed with a lace pattern using the Adire Eloko technique — covering parts of the cloth with a starch paste before dying — conversed with its non-identical twin in Sophie Hallette lace.
The range of materials and techniques he employed was just as pro-diversity as his messaging: chainmail vests evoking Paco Rabanne were made from discs of bark and cork, macramé dresses crafted from Malagasy raffia and French linen, layered capes from raffia and silk and sequined tuxedo suits embroidered with recycled plastic beads that are usually reserved for necklaces.