Imane Ayissi Fall 2024 Couture: Power as Soft as a Raffia Fringe

“Raffia is Africa’s sequins,” quipped Imane Ayissi backstage as models shimmied by in opulently fringed designs from his fall couture collection.

As a material present at all-important life events as well as artworks across the continent, the collection epitomized his desire to put Africa’s crafts, know-how and couture chops on the global map.

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The first designer from sub-Saharan Africa to be on the official couture calendar, Ayissi is at the vanguard of a continent filled to the brim with rich artisanal talent and heritage, as highlighted by a 2021 exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs.

As he put it, “It’s up to us [creatives] to carve that space out.”

The designer’s approach was one of cultural soft power and mutually enriching exchanges rather than domination.

Using his signature layered silhouettes, mainly in jewel-toned monochrome, he offered a lineup that felt like a game of associations, elements drawn from Western, African and Asian cultures echoing each other.

A ruby-red wrapped dress nodded to traditional silhouettes of his homeland but also the Japanese kimono. Raffia fringes adorning the sleeves of a black gown echoed in the intricate pleats of a tiered dress. Dotted in were floral prints by Paris-based Chinese artist Wang Ying, best known for his career in diplomacy at UNESCO, on a handful of designs.

There were even associations you wouldn’t have guessed, like the gowns that drew on kaba dresses, an Empire-line shape brought to the West by colonizers.

“But you also find the same shape in lawyer attire, clergy vestments and even gospel robes,” he pointed out. “That’s another common point between people.”

Ayissi explained that while it was first introduced to change local customs, particularly when it came to showing the female body, local women had soon appropriated it.

“We have to show to the world that there is talent in Africa, that we have substance and materials,” he continued. With all eyes on Paris Couture Week, he certainly offered a compelling argument.

For more couture fall 2024 reviews, click here.

Launch Gallery: Imane Ayissi Fall 2024 Couture

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