A new name in fashion: Maki Oh
Combining culture, identity, prints and colours
Osakwe lives in the Nigerian port city of Lagos, where she spent most of her childhood, "This is my home, and here everything inspires me. I hear, see, feel, breathe and feel the taste of Nigeria every day," commented the designer.
Lagos has a rich and complex culture which Maki depicts in printed fabrics for the Maki Oh collections. Taking inspiration from all around her - vintage African art which was handed down from generation to generation, and the age old use of traditional African materials. All stages of the collection were produced in Nigeria: from the cotton plantations to creating the unique fabrics.
Unlike most designers, as a child Osakwe dreamed about having other careers, "I wanted to be a lawyer, then an architect then a dancer for Femi Kuti at the new African shrine," she said, "and I wanted to do synchronized swimming and become a swimmer."
However her current career path in fashion has brought her and her mother - a designer and artist herself - closer together. When Osakwe was younger they sewed clothes together, she would sketch outfits for children and then the whole family would go to the fabric market and buy them. From these early beginnings, it is safe to say that Maki Oh's audience has significantly expanded.
Osakwe considers herself a feminist designer and says that each of her collections reflect feminist views. For example, for her last show spring/summer 14, the designer dedicated time researching and finding ones place in society, which sooner or later every woman is faced with. Whether to be as an exemplary wife and mother, living within the patriarchal home or to find a life beyond it.
Osakwe connects sharp masculine silhouettes with delicate fabrics, presenting her version of daywear combined with elements from sportswear: bringing her feminine heroine into the 'male' world. There are also dresses and aprons reminiscent of the typical housewife role, knowing their "place in the kitchen", adopting orange polka dots and warm pumpkin tones, a colour that's traditionally used for tableware in Nigeria.
The feminist approach of the designer and her devotion to exploring the colourful national traditions of her country, attracted attention from around the world. Her collections have been coveted and worn by fashion critics, stylists, buyers, and even the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, who was spotted wearing a printed navy blouse from of one Maki Oh's previous collections, during the 'Connecting Continents' seminar in South Africa.
Before the New Year Maki Osakwe shared her plans for 2014, telling American Vogue: "I'm going to continue to explore the use of textures, prints and traditional African techniques in the context of minimalism." We have high hopes.