Focus On: Petit Kouraj

After discovering Petit Kouraj some time ago on Instagram, those bags are still on my mind, so I thought it’s worth sharing! The label – the name translates as “little courage” in Haitian Creole – is the creative child of fashion stylist, Nasrin Jean-Baptiste. Born in London to Haitian immigrants, Jean-Baptiste amassed over a decade’s worth of experience as an international fashion stylist before creating her brand. An innate desire to create something meaningful lead Jean-Baptiste to develop a luxury bag line full of unique personality; both lively and chic – qualities quite uncommon within conventional brands. Following a trip to her native country of Haiti in 2018, she was immediately inspired to do something that frightened her – acting from her core, and with the help of a little courage, Petit Kouraj was born. Based in Brooklyn (and handmade in Haiti in partnership with D.O.T Haiti, women-lead organization which works closely with local artisans to provide opportunities, education and vocation training), each of Petit Kouraj’s bags are lovingly handmade using organic cotton net bags, 100% leather handles and rayon fringe. Each strand of fringe is individually sewn 656 times to create the large bags and 342 times for the mini. It’s a labor of love, and it takes 8-12 hours of manual labour to complete a single bag. Petit Kouraj signature accessories are fun, whimsical stand-alone pieces of wearable art that celebrates love for haute-knitwear and identity. Shop them here! And here are some of my favourites:

All photos courtesy of Petit Couraj.

Focus On: Nicholas Daley

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Nicholas Daley’s keen sense for fashion is matched by his taste in music. After spring-summer 2020’s live jazz performance, he upped the ante for the autumn-winter 2020 line-up with a fashion show that kicked off an entire night of events at Earth, the landmark East London venue. His musician girlfriend Nabihah Iqbal came up with the title of the new collection, “The Abstract Truth,” and shared billing with U.K. dub legend Mala among other artists at the after-party. “I like my shows to be about community, it’s always a friends and family affair,” said Daley speaking backstage between sets. To warm up the crowd for the fashion portion of the evening, he enlisted a trio of young South London musicians – Rago Foot, Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu – to perform a live score. Borrowing from the world of experimental jazz and psychedelic rock, the music gave song to the wide-ranging references in the new collection, including afro-futurism and the black abstract art movement of the 1970s. He was particularly drawn to the work of Frank Bowler whose first major retrospective opened at the Tate this time last year. The Guyanese-born artist’s vibrant “pour paintings” came through most vividly in a show-stopping hooded poncho. Daley has a knack for spinning utility clothing with a sense of specialness. In place of camo, he used a handsome khaki green jacquard patterned with hand-drawn lines to elevate his fishing-style vests and Crombie coats. The designer’s commitment to supporting local craftspeople is ongoing. In addition to working with an English mill on the custom jacquard, he dug into the archives of Scottish tartan maker Loch Carron, unearthing two particularly striking mohair checks, both of which added a rich hand to slouchy button-down jackets and peg-leg pants. Those traditional British tropes were remixed with handfuls of neo-boho accessories – coin-trimmed necklaces and scarves, knitted crossbody bags and berets – and that magpie eclecticism felt fresh and contemporary. With models sporting Jimi Hendrix–inspired coifs, the groovier elements of the collection were nicely amplified. The musicians looked just as cool, dressed in all black and with Daley’s new oversize baker boy hats and genius coin-trimmed sneakers both made in partnership with Adidas.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Focus On: Duro Olowu

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Duro Olowu‘s bold fashion needs no introduction. Born in Lagos to a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother, Duro Olowu spent his childhood travelling between Nigeria and Europe. From an early age, his enthusiasm for fashion was inspired by the unexpected mix of fabrics, textures and draping techniques of the clothing worn by the women that surrounded him. The designer started his eponymous label at the end of 2004, and up to now he’s one of London’s favourite designers with a loyal, art-world-focused clientele (in a way, similar to Mona Kowalska’s now-closed cult A Détacher in New York). Alluring silhouettes, sharp tailoring, original prints juxtaposed with luxurious vintage fabrics in “off beat” yet harmonious combinations are Olowu’s signature. For spring-summer 2020 he drew on the work of Françoise Gilot, who is perhaps most famous for being Picasso’s romantic partner, though the 97-year-old French painter, art critic, and author is a creative force in her own right. Olowu came across a recently reissued collection of her travel sketches, and her colorful impressions of India, Senegal, and Italy from the late 1970s and early ’80s informed his new collection. One particularly eye-catching coat in that series was spliced with panels of pale pink made from vintage interior fabric that Olowu came across on a trip to Lille, in northern France. It was upcycling done with a sophisticated hand. Then, if you look at Olowu’s autumn-winter 2019 line-up, “cosmopolitan”, “chic” and “Afrique” were the three words that the designer used to describe the spirit the collection, which was inspired by Miriam Makeba, the fearless South African singer and civil rights activist. Makeba, who was known as Mama Africa to her fans, possessed a wardrobe that was purpose-built as a celebration of African pride at a time when her country was in the grip of apartheid. You could see her influence right off the bat, in a graphic knit coat with patch pockets and detachable snood (Makeba was rarely seen without a towering head wrap or hat). That motif was repeated to flattering effect on an A-line maxi dress that could have been pulled from her closet. The world of Olowu is eclectic and rich, and each collection tells a unique story. Induldge yourself in his idiosyncratic, feminine and timeless work by browsing his previous collections on his site. And if you’re in London, visit his boutique on 14 Masons Yard!

Collages by Edward Kanarecki, look-book photos from different Duro Olowu‘s collections.

Focus On: Thebe Magugu

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Thebe Magugu staged his debut presentation at Paris fashion week after scooping the prestigious LVMH prize last autumn. The first African designer to win in the competition’s seven-year history, Magugu paid homage to his homeland with a photo exhibition entitled Ipopeng Ext, after an area in Kimberley, South Africa, the city in which he grew up. Fittingly, the name itself translates as “to beautify oneself.” Elegant and evocative portraits of Magugu’s local community lined the walls of the museum; they had been captured by two of the continent’s most celebrated young image makers: South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman and Sierra Leone–born stylist Ib Kamara. “These people and places were my earliest references,” said Magugu gesturing to a picture of his cousin Smangaliso posing in his neighborhood church wearing a fluffy light blue sweaterdress. Exquisite reminders of Magugu’s childhood were threaded throughout the collection, including a photoprint of his aunt’s iron roof that was abstracted to look like distressed denim on a marabou-feather-trimmed button-down with matching pants. Inspired by a retro tablecloth, the carnation-print trench coat had a characterful charm that was just as striking. Magugu’s uncle Nephtaly was pictured on a motorcycle dressed in a collared shirt that was covered in an illustration of two black women consoling each other by the Johannesburg-based artist Phathu Nembilwi. Beyond telling a very personal story, Magugu’s clothes are often a form of social commentary, particularly as it pertains to women’s rights in South Africa. As the designer explained, the print was a subtle political statement on the country’s rising femicide rate. Perhaps equally radical is Magugu’s unwavering commitment to producing in South Africa. The new logo satchel was handcrafted by artisans in Johannesburg, while his latest knitwear offerings were all made in Cape Town. Magugu is poised to export his special made-in-Africa vision across the globe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos courtesy of Thebe Magugu.

Focus On: Kenneth Ize

In support for the Black community, I continue celebrating and highlighting the talented individuals that shape fashion today. Take notes! Kenneth Ize made his official debut at Paris fashion week this season, though his eponymous label has been making waves on the international circuit for the past few seasons. The Austrian-Nigerian designer was an LVMH prize finalist this past September, having first caught the world’s attention at Lagos Fashion Week a few months earlier. Images of Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam striding down Ize’s runway in his signature handwoven checks, a traditional Nigerian fabric known as asoke, caused a global social media frenzy within minutes. Both super-models were present at his autumn-winter 2020 show – Hammam opened, while Campbell closed what was a truly impressive first outing for Ize. The designer is best known for his men’s tailoring, though he kicked things off on a distinctly feminine note with a quilted striped miniskirt and matching funnel-neck zippered jacket. Ize is also inspired by workwear – think carpenter pants spun from silk and fringed at the hem. Adwoa Aboah looked especially striking in one of his quilted boilersuits. Ize has been working with a small circle of asoke weavers in Nigeria with the hopes of preserving the centuries-old craft from the brink of extinction. For autumn-winter 2020, he expanded on that commitment to local artisanship by collaborating with Austrian lace-makers in Vienna where he was born and raised. The green and orange lace tunics and suiting were a nod to Ize’s mother, who, like many West African women, would source Viennese lace to make custom outfits for special occasions. The collection was largely inspired by her meticulous approach to Sunday best in particular; the devil was in the details here, with matching fringed bucket bags and clutches made in collaboration with Austrian accessories label Sagan. It’s exquisite transcultural fashion experiments like these that will make Ize’s brand stand out in the fashion crowd. Discover more of Kenneth’s work here!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.