When it comes to the unusual fabric Kenneth is using, he says he purposely employed Nigerian artisans to make the aso oke fabric. For him, it’s about preserving a heritage craft that’s been around for centuries. Kenneth is essentially taking a dying craft and propelling it unto the future of fashion by putting it on full display in his collections. To add to that, he’s using traditional tailoring techniques that are usually not seen with this material, making garments like double-breasted coats, flared trousers and blazers. You can see the marks of tailoring in the sleek, funneled tops, structured dresses, and sharp-cut coats. To further capitalize on using local artisans, Kenneth also worked with Vienna-based lacemakers for the first time in this collection.
This season, the designer took specific inspiration from his mother and the way she dressed when he was growing up — mixing bold colors, eclectic shapes, and matching various prints and patterns from her outfits to her accessories, from her shoes to her hats down to her bags. Kenneth was specifically thinking about the way his mother approached dressing when she went to church.
“Honestly speaking, I was really never not going to be a designer,” he says. “I just love clothes.” Growing up, one of his biggest inspirations was choosing fabrics with his mother for her handmade outfits. “I went to Nigeria with my mom and we got fabric for some outfits when I was a kid. Because in Nigeria, you have special outfits that you wear for different occasions. We went to the tailor, and we were talking about how we were going to cut it. I remember using my hands to cut the pieces. My family just really believed in everything I wanted to do.” The Viennese lace in the collection, is, in particular, a nod to the designer’s mother as it’s custom for West African women to source lace from Vienna for special occasion outfits.
Kenneth also attributes his wild sense of color, which has become immediately recognizable, to his mother. “It’s just something that is related to my house,” the designer explains. “My mum did a lot of mix-and-match, just the way she put everything together.”
As for what’s next for the designer, he wants to continue to grow the brand even more. “I’m open to investors because I want to do a lot more in the next five years. I want to tap into a furniture line next year. I want to tap into a book. I just want to tap into so many things, so I guess for me to be able to achieve that, I need to be open.”
Showing at Paris Fashion Week was just the beginning for him. “Growing up, I didn’t really see anyone that was really doing this,” explains Kenneth. “I’d just like to change people’s perspective and be very inclusive. It was just the perfect time to show in Paris and also inspire the African youth like myself.”