Three years on from his debut showing as a guest on the couture calendar — the first designer from sub-Saharan Africa to do so — Imane Ayissi has established a foothold, and an aesthetic, in which he mixes artisanal fabrics from Africa with luxurious textiles like taffeta, bringing them together through couture.
The ease with which he does so was apparent in this collection, which seemed at one with itself.
That tied in with Ayissi’s notion of beauty, which he intended to celebrate this season. “Beauty is self-respect, self-acceptance, the environment and the mixing of world cultures,” he said backstage before the show.
Ayissi loves to integrate raffia into his designs and this season he expanded his experimentation with the medium. As well as the fringing that is now a familiar signature — on color-blocked silhouettes in allover sequins or taffeta — he played with little bundles of the material, applying them, bow-like, to his designs. On a floor-length black sleeveless coat, worn over a matching sequin column dress, the look was particularly dramatic.
All of the models — boys and girls alike — wore extra-long eyelashes crafted from the natural fiber, fluttering as they blinked on the runway, to theatrical effect.
In contrast with the bright tonal looks, a textured fabric with what appeared to be little multicolored bobbles was sculpted into a fitted gown with accentuated shoulders and ruffles enhancing the deep waistline, before descending into a train. Little circles of fabric in various shades were made into a graphic blanket-like mesh to create a contemporary wide crop top and maxiskirt with a broad belt in green silk, while a tie-dye cotton was gracefully worked into minimal pencil dresses dramatized by regal trains.