After the whirlwind of his Paris Fashion Week debut one year ago and the announcement of his collaboration with the Karl Lagerfeld brand, reality hit hard for Kenneth Ize in October as youth protests against police brutality ended in violence in Nigeria.
It was the first time he had seen this type of clash in his country. Coming on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and a surge in violence against transgender people, the End SARS demonstrations felt like a tipping point for the designer, whose fall collection reflected his somber mood.
Titled “The Circle of Birth and Death,” it saw Ize swapping his trademark primary color palette for more muted combinations of gray, brown, mustard yellow, green and even black. Alongside his signature striped tailoring, he introduced a print featuring an Ouroboros, a circular symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.
“It’s just like a rebirth. There’s something that is changing at the moment,” he explained. “We are more aware of the problems happening now, and we demand justice.” Returning to Nigeria after the upheaval, he drove past sites in Lagos where protesters were killed by the army and police.
“At that point, I felt like I need to speak my truth through my collection and be as honest and as emotional as I can be,” he said. Ize isn’t a slogan-T-shirt kind of designer, so you had to read between the lines.
The suiting was sober: a gray striped unisex one-button jacket, or a workwear-style shirt jacket paired with color-blocked pants in a combination of gray and black. His Ouroboros print shirt, with apple green drawstring pants, was more familiarly flamboyant, as were the one-shouldered striped tunic dress and top.
As one of six finalists for this year’s Woolmark Prize, Ize used merino wool for the first time, which gave his outfits a polished feel. The launch of his Lagerfeld collection is pending, and he’s forging ahead with the construction of his factory in Nigeria. The world may be a dark place, but for this rising designer, the future looks bright.