Designer Nkwo Onwuka of NKWO from Nigeria exchanged with artisan Joel Suya from Malawi to create a bespoke The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange - an initiative for established and emerging fashion talent from across the Commonwealth’s 53 countries to showcase the power and potential of artisan fashion skills to deliver new networks, trade links and highlight sustainability.
This look was created with organic British wool and embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals. The look was designed by Nkwo and named ‘Spirit of the Dance’. It is made from asooke, a hand-loomed cloth woven by a group of women based in Kogi state in central Nigeria, according to a traditional craft of the Yoruba people. The piece was inspired by a secretive religion indigenous to Malawi, called Nyau. During a special ceremony, attendees wear wooden masks and act out spirits of the dead, in order to communicate with them. Avec Amour’s Angela Fuka Mpando sourced an expert wood carver from Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi, and home to the country’s commercial industries. Carving is a traditional craft in Malawi, skills being passed from father to son. The carver produced 12 miniature masks that have been sewn into the dress and tiny upcycled mirrored embellishments are scattered over the skirt.
The project was launched by Commonwealth Secretary General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland and Livia Firth, founder of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age and supported by Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.