Labrum’s SS22 show opened with the velvety voice of singer/songwriter Thabo, accompanied by musical collective Balimaya Project whose High Life sound conjured up an unparalleled level of joy at the Central London show space. Through the vivacious percussions and woodwinds, one of the strongest forms of self-expression – music – complimentary to the clothes elevated what could have been a classic catwalk to a jubilant spectacle, bridging the gap between Western and West African culture.
Dubbed The Sound Of Movement, Labrum London’s latest offering came alive with kaleidoscopic colour, graphic intrigue, and West African pride. Elements of sartorial prestige endured, transcending the bounds of exquisite craftsmanship by bringing new meaning to bespoke tailoring.
Channelling Labrum’s tagline, ‘Designed by an immigrant’, the collection brought us back to 1970’s culture and the style of both Caribbean and African immigrants in Britain.
Classic British cuts, expertly tailored as co-ord suits and frocks, were merged with West African elements, such as assertive tribal mask motifs, to create a compelling narrative depicting our advancing cultural hybridity.
Discernable in the traditional African silhouettes which were emphasized with flared sleeves and large celebratory collars, as well as drop shoulders which embody Agbada style in the Freetown shirt, from beginning to end it was a homage to African diasporic dress. The designer also threw in striking tie-dye accents for a touch of sartorial splendour.
“Labrum’s goal is to not only create work that embodies the modern-day members of the African diaspora, but to converse fluidly the stories of those that came before them too,” the brand explained in a statement. In line with this proclamation, tales of community, politics and music were woven together in a vibrant display rooted in simplicity and reverent beauty. As the narrative transpired, the collection moved from smart, colour-blocked suits and graphic gowns to slinky, asymmetric frocks with square necklines coupled with geometrically beaded handbags –– all in scarlet, plum, winter white or jet black. Pastoral prints built from baby blue, sage green and mellow yellow emerged as pacifying focal points. Each look was paired with an ornamental headpiece, many of which positioned a playful take on the traditional headwrap.
There were also illustrative prints intricately reworked from primordial hand-drawings, depicting the village life customary to Sierra Leone and familiar to designer Foday Dumbuya from his birthplace in Freetown. Raring to go on holiday with lockdown restrictions finally availing, sharp, jet setter aesthetics mirrored a perspective undeniably rendered this SS22 season.
The soulful fashions on display were very much in tune with the Sierra Leonean spirit and the sophisticated silhouettes we’ve come to expect from Labrum’s founder and creative director Foday. The collection was designed in collaboration with The Madam Wokie Skills Development Initiative, a philanthropic organisation based in Sierra Leone, in a bid to support local artisans. Inspired by gender-based inequalities attributed to Foday’s mother country, the initiative works to provide economic empowerment for women, their objective being to impart practical skills while motivating students by providing them with female role models who have ascended to positions of power and influence despite the adversities they have faced.
Labrum’s goal is to not only create work that embodies the modern-day members of the African diaspora, but to converse fluidly the stories of those that came before them too,
It is incredibly rare to see people smiling and dancing at an event as pretentious as a fashion show, but Labrum London managed to lift the spirits of everyone involved and even received a standing ovation from much of the audience. As Thabo articulated his first verse and Balimaya Project took to percussion, I found it hard not to catch the contagion of smiles spreading rapidly throughout the room. But it wasn’t just the sonic stimulation that made Labrum’s show such a dynamic display. The production of the show was also elevated by wall-length screens displaying prismatic, computerized graphics making the show completely immersive and stimulating to the senses in unexpected ways. According to set designer, artist, and long-time friend of Labrum, Yinka Ilori, “The set design for the show was inspired by the layered richness of the woven fabrics presented in Labrum’s new collection.” He adds, “In this installation, you will see 15 stools that have been sandwiched together to mimic the construction of the cotton. The stools combine with the immersive motion graphics that will take you on a joyous journey while you watch the presentation.”
Just by being in the room, I was infected by its lively energy. Labrum’s show really brought the spirit of West Africa into the small show space at the Old-Selfridges Hotel. Unparalleled in its atmosphere, Labrum’s SS22 collection was undeniably engaging and especially striking were the monochromatic tribal mask motifs stamped on the posterior of an overcoat and the elongated segment of a dress.
The Sound Of Movement adequately captured the artistry and culture that has trickled out of Sierra Leone in particular and managed this by manifesting the mood that has its home in West African with every sound and each elegant garment.
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