FEARLESS FASHION: Statement-making looks from both up-and-coming and established designers
Written by Chloe Gellar
By the time he was a teenager, Lebanese-born Ziad Nakad knew that he wanted to work in fashion. Fascinated by eccentric fabrics, intricate beading and the mystery of sheer embroideries, he incorporated these into early designs he sketched for family members. With the encouragement of his family, Nakad pursued formal education in dressmaking while apprenticing with masters of couture, and in 1997 his dreams took flight when he was invited to show in the Beirut International Fashion Show. Nakad's dreamy couture confections, cut to flatter and embellished to perfection, quickly garnered global attention, and women around the world can now sport his sophisticated styles.
For his SS21 collection, Nakad sought refuge from news of the explosion in Beirut, from the pandemic, and from the inability to travel by crafting a collection ripe with color and symbolism. He calls the pieces "slightly frivolous" in an attempt to recall the carefree life pre-COVID. All hand-embroidered in the designer's atelier, the collection's pièce de résistance, an opulent wedding gown, required three full months of work, or, from Nakad's perspective, "three months of escape." ziadnakad.com, Photography Greg Alexander, courtesy of Méphistophélès Productions
A contemporary womenswear brand founded by Kanyinsola Onalaja following her graduation from Istituto Marangoni in 2014, the label aims to bridge the gap between Kanyinsola's Nigerian heritage and flair for artisan crafts with Italian design aesthetics against the formality of British fashion. Recognized early as a person to watch in the industry, in 2009, she was named the FDA Young Designer of the Year.
An underlying concept within all Onalaja collections always remains "Our Heritage Re-Imagined – The Africa We Don't See." The use of traditional fabrics such as Aso-oke fabric (from the indigenous Yoruba Tribe), the Tinko hand embroidery technique from the Hausa Tribe of Northern Nigeria, and other traditional basket weaving techniques play a key role within each of her collections and are juxtaposed with modern techniques and materials. Abstraction, often found within African art, is prominent in the designer's choice of patterns and embellishment. Onalaja and her mother are responsible for creating hand-painted details. onalaja.com, Photography courtesy of Onalaja
Who is the woman that chooses to wear ME369? The creative minds behind the playful brand, ripe with cheerful slogans, definitively respond that she is ageless, with a strong personality and life experience. She is flexible. She leads a diverse life, understands that everything is dynamic, and she “goes with the flow.” She is impeccable but never gives up on comfort. She loves vacations, restaurants, sports – the good life! She is not spoilt. She is full of contradictions, has many sides, and lives in peace with each one of them. Her colorfulness, courage, and her abilities shine on others. She is not arrogant, “she talks the talk.” She is a spirit with a unique point of view. She knows how to focus on what is important with a holistic mindset. She is full of passion, loving, bold, a true optimist, and has no boundaries. She is a winning combination of modesty, power, beauty, humanity, and ambition. me369fashion.com, Photography by Greg Alexander, courtesy of Méphistophélès Productions
Since 2013, Dallas-based Lindsey McClain and Jamie Coulter have been churning out a curated selection of feminine kaftans and kimono-inspired dresses designed to take you seamlessly from day-to-night. The statement investment pieces feature retro florals achieved through various mediums, including print and macramé, which bring a creative look to its staple silhouettes. laviestylehouse.com, Photography courtesy of La Vie Style House
During the darkest hours of the COVID lockdown in Europe, Paris-based designer Farhad Re holed up in his atelier to transform no less than 500 yards of milky-colored silk organza into a 15 piece collection that revisits the myth of Pygmalion, the eternal story of an artist who falls in love with his creation. Trained as an architect at the University of Rome, Farhad applies a sculptural approach to his couture creations. He works almost exclusively with silk organza, a material he favors for its ability to be sculpted while still maintaining an ethereal feeling.
For his SS21 collection, Farhad concentrated on creating a light and architectural silhouette. The bespoke pieces boast hand-formed geometric shapes and represent his notions of purity of renewal and freedom. Farhad says he is attached to the very essence of freedom through his personal history as his Persian mother fled her country to regain the privilege to think and dress as she saw fit. farhadre.fr/, Photography by Iris Brosch, courtesy of Méphistophélès Productions
This UK-based womenswear brand is owned by award-winning British/Nigerian journalist Didi Akinyelure. She says her inspiration stems from growing up watching the avant-garde fashion choices made by her grandmother and her mother, who owns a corporate tailoring business. Didi's love for edgy fashion pieces began in her teens, leading her to launch a fashion blog in 2011 and the April & Alex brand in 2018. Didi says April & Alex's mission is to create high-quality, contemporary womenswear that emphasizes boldness and shines a light on women's empowerment.
The SS21 collection is named 'Audaz,' a Latin word meaning "bold." "The 'Audax' woman is willing to take risks while not being afraid of the unconventional," said Didi. "She is heroic, fearless, unflinching, courageous, and is not afraid to deviate from what is usual or proper." aprilandalex.co.uk, Photography by TY Bello & Luis Monteiro