Six months ago, Duro Olowu visited Saint-Louis in Senegal, a fishing town steeped in the kind of history that he likes: a beautiful place akin to the French Riviera, where in the mid–twentieth century two very different cultures—African and European—found a common ground through dressing well, recorded in the portrait photography from the time. It’s one of Olowu’s gifts as a designer that he can alight on a destination like Saint-Louis and take something from it that feels meaningful and true without it ever looking like cultural appropriation. And that leads us to another of his gifts—making gorgeous clothes with an unabashed joy worked into every stitch. One of the highlights of his take on next spring: a long ball skirt pieced together with his own spin on 1970s circle-print silk and a brocade appliquéd with crimped strips of brocade, a technique that Olowu came across on that trip earlier this year.
Elsewhere, there were yet more of the things that defy what Olowu calls “castaway clothes,” fashion that’s here today and gone tomorrow. “I’m always hoping,” he said, “that someone will take something from one season and wear it with something from another.” Under consideration for longterm endorsement is a gorgeous forties-esque draped bodice dress in a silk-rayon crepe colored in off shades of pastel pink and blue (a nod to somewhere else, Cornwall, home to the St Ives School pottery movement of the 1950s). There are yet more of his bias-cut, fluttery silk-and-georgette layered dresses, now slipped under the likes of a graphic patchworked silk cape or a multicolored dream coat of feathers. Some of these offered up a clue to another inspiration that Olowu was feeling: The cover of the 1973 self-titled album by the Pointer Sisters. It’s certainly true that Anita, Ruth, Bonnie, and June look fabulous in their draped dresses and platforms. If you plan to check it out, listen first to Olowu’s favorite track, “Yes We Can Can.”
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