Accustomed to tackling weighty political and gender issues in his work, Kenneth Ize was in a lighter mood for spring, returning to the runway with a collection that he described as a celebration of women.
The gender-fluid display at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris was dense with his signature plaid fabric, inspired by the aso oke cloth woven by the Yoruba people. It came in tonal variations, including a butterscotch yellow floor-length slipdress with silky fringes, and in colorful checks, which clashed with striped T-shirts and vintage geometric motifs.
Ize also sprinkled in some deadstock fabric he found up in Italy, where his production is based. He used a leopard motif for a men’s sleeveless shirt with a fringe apron in front, worn with matching shorts, and a ‘70s jersey for zippered running jackets.
The set was dotted with art works by Nigerian artist Bunmi Agusto, including a tapestry painted on one of Ize’s striped cloths, showing a long-throated figure swallowing an agama lizard.
“The show was just a celebration of the new dawn, what is new in my country,” Ize said backstage. “Bunmi is a very young artist that is very new to my country, and it feels so interesting for me.”
Agusto, who last year graduated from Central Saint Martins in London, said it was her first time collaborating with a fashion designer. “We’re both talking about migration and displacement and cultural theory in general,” she noted. “My work mostly focuses on hybridity and world-building out of that.”
Those themes are intrinsically present in the work of Ize, who grew up between Nigeria and Austria. But this season’s outing felt less cohesive, and the spotlight on women was not explicit. Even his debut bridal look, an ivory sleeveless sheath dotted with gilded brooches, was buried in the lineup, instead of closing the show.
Perhaps, like all autobiographical work, this season simply reflects a more tranquil period in the designer’s life — as the gentle soundtrack of tweeting birds and live clarinet attested.