Nigerian fashion designer, Kenneth Ize talks about how he is redefining African luxury.
On how he makes a busy schedule work by enthusiastically embracing multi-tasking, Ize told CNN Style: “As a younger brand and as a millennial, I am in the space to do more things … and not have anybody (telling me) how to do it,” he said.
“The actual beauty people can see in the work is (because) we have freedom to create what we want to create. And the whole point for me is about being really real.”
Ize explains the importance of authenticity and heritage to his work, including him modernizing the ancient craft of aso oke handweaving, a technique developed by the Yoruba people of south-western Nigeria.
He describes his hopes for the craft to be taught more widely: “The goal now is to actually bring weaving into the Nigerian school curriculum… But we also want to train adults, so we are building a site in Ilorin, as I want people to be able to come to my home country and learn something.”
Speaking about the benefits of educational and cultural exchanges, with his experience of studying at Vienna’s Institute of Design, and the need for more diversity in fashion Ize said: “At the same time we are teaching people … we are shifting the narrative.”
He continues, highlighting the importance of his garments to demonstrate “the stories that we as Nigerians have to tell.”
Citing the experiences and stories from Nigeria influencing his designs, he explains the narrative behind his latest men’s collection:
“For this season’s menswear, it’s a story about what happens after Christmas, a time when our parents — I mean the privileged ones — gave us pocket money, so there are new coats in the wardrobe.”
CNN Style highlights that for lots of his customers, Ize’s clothes might be their first engagement with high-fashion made in Africa, which, as a continent, has long been excluded from conversations about luxury. Ize said: “I believe I am a professional in this industry and I force myself to do more each season… I am telling the international audience it’s possible here.”