Explore the exchange story of designer NKWO from Nigeria and artisan Joel Suya from Malawi and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018.
'Spirit of the Dance'
Nkwo has a lot to say about Africa, both through her clothes and the media and her energy is derived from a desire to explore and experiment with innovative techniques as a way of preserving traditional craft skills.
Celebration of African culture
Nkwo’s first African print collection was sold on ASOS, and she now focuses on producing collections using modern interpretations of weaving, beading, hand-dyeing and embroidery that celebrate the richness and diversity of African culture.
Introduced by Avec Amour
Angela Fuka Mpando of Avec Amour is a connector of like-minded souls. She works with craftspeople throughout Malawi, both designers and artisans, bringing them to the attention of international retailers and consumers. Her belief in her country’s rich heritage is matched only by her desire to bring economic empowerment to her homeland.
"We got selected for the Wool Edit by Woolmark International, one of the sponsors of Fashion Exchange. It proved to be a bit of a challenge at first and it took a while to figure out how to incorporate wool into the look. Eventually it was hand spun into a ‘wool crumble’ which was then stitched onto the piece by hand."
Choosing the fabric
"The fabric we choose to use for our piece is also-one (ah-SHAW-okay), a hand loomed cloth, woven by the Yoruba people of western and southwestern Nigeria. Aso Oke was traditionally woven with locally grown cotton or anapphe wild silk but nowadays, the cotton and silk are often replaced by rayon and metallic lurex."
The zero waste front panel of the piece is in keeping with our sustainability project where for the past year we have been researching and developing innovative techniques for incorporating sustainable practices into our clothing production, with particular reference to waste reduction."
Wood carver Joel Suya produced 12 miniature masks that have been sewn into the dress and tiny upcycled mirrored embellishments are scattered over the skirt.
"One of the traditional crafts of Malawi is wood carving, especially masks and we decided to work with a wood carver to produce mini masks that we would use to embellish our piece. Finding an artisan to partner with for the project was really a struggle, but well worth the wait. We finally made contact with a Malawian social enterprise called Avec Amour, who liaised with the woodcarver and in less than a week, our 12 mini masks were done.”
This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.
The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.
More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at http://eco-age.com/commonwealth-fashion-exchange/