For the first time during NYFW, the banner show, Made In Africa 2020, offered a set of eclectic and very pretty runway presentations from a pair of contemporary African designers, each with their own sort of message, at Spring Studios. And, while the groupings on the runway were completely different from the point of view of the designer’s individual viewpoint and statement, each premiere grouping had one common thread; i.e., speaking about/to the African connection between clothing, culture, tradition, aesthetics, et al, as a means of both beautification and body adornment.
“Every African person, every black person, is a king and a queen, and they should look at themselves in that way and never diminish themselves among society,” South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo said of the ‘We Are Kings and Queens’ theme for the Spring, Summer 2020 womenswear and menswear collections, under his label, Maxhosa Africa.Up until this week, Ngxokolo’s kaftans were in Bloomingdale’s (windows and specialty shop devoted to a tight group of African designers) as part of a pop-up inspired by Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King,
Throughout his new line, which for this editor is truly dandified and exciting, Ngxokolo stayed right on target with the theme, “We Are Kings and Queens” — showcasing a fresh take on his trademark vibrant colors (this time inspired by the colors of the South African flag). On his first NYC runway, the designer sent his models out in a dizzying array of moods and styles, all in the name of melding traditional African prints with a hip, modern/ancient touch. Here, white painted faces, reminiscent of the African tribal culture; wrapped and draped ruanas, capes, shawls; big, bold, gold rings, huge cuffs, bangles; traditional beadwork patterns across wraps and headwear.
Think “Coming To America 2 and Black Panther, since the designer’s work is involved with both films. But, what really puts the entire grouping into orbit are the kinds of different and dizzying; bright, bold, wild, often upside down and mixed-up, zigzags and graphic prints, shapes, silhouettes, etc., which Beyoncé highlighted when she blogged about Maxhosa in 2016.
Just about everything on this runway works, via a super-cool, super jazzy, totally fun, off the beat, fantasmagoric riff, which mostly always takes viewers into a sort of rich, royal, wowser, candy land, made up of varied parts and parcels of Missoni, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci, Hermes… and, well you get the drift here.
Eliana Murargy’s, “Basking in the Osun River” grouping, directs her muse to “experience a re-birth in the sweet waters of West Africa, channel her protective deity, pay homage to the Aje; honor, as the woman who yields cosmic powers and her force of creation and sustainer of life.” Delicate, day to evening clothes feature fine tailoring and refined fit via flowing shapes, detailed silhouettes; hard-edged, soft, nubby fabrications in a myriad of rosé, beige, blue, pink, stark white, black; touches of vivid sparkles, textures, accents.
Highlights across the grouping: Luxurious, pleated gowns, flowy coats; pantsuits; sexy, tight, silver and pleather dresses with a defined inter-galatic quality, rendered in a range of vegan leather, natural cottons, silks and tweeds, bespeak Murargy’s take on a global, lifestyle brand, embracing strong African roots and a strong artisan craft. Everything comes full circle, via the hand-picked group of West African tailors, whose hand-crafting, finishing and details, complete the circle, resulting in a contemporary notion of what feminine beauty signifies for muses of all backgrounds and faces.
While the runway collection had some really good moments, hyped further via some out of the box, ethno-centric models wearing the clothing and accessories – the wrapped turbans, clear shoes, bold jewelry as standouts – the overall show came across as lackluster, tedious, boring, and repetitive. Without the strong editing, which was sorely needed here, there were just too many lookalike garments from one to the next; hard to discern, digest.
Sadly, the “best of the bunch” garments, which did appear from time to time, got lost in the crowd; never really had the chance to star and shine as brightly as they could or should have. And, what was going on with all of the depressing, funeral dirge music, which set such a bizarre tone to this show? Did nobody even realize that some quirky, pumped up, American, African house music could have taken care of business;, in terms of complementing the garments on the runway and giving viewers a fun, upbeat experience; definitely not the case in any which way on this runway.
– By Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg