I don't think I'll ever encounter an instance where the indirect results of polygyny were so positive but here it is. Buki Akib is a Nigerian born knitwear designer, who graduated from Central Saint Martins and has long held a fascination for Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti and his twenty seven wives (he married and divorced them quite rapidly as an assertion of his Yorouba identity in face of a rapidly Westernised Nigeria). Therefore Buki created a capsule menswear collection inspired by Fela and his exuberant manner, demonstrating her knowledge of African wax prints, traditional Yorouba hand woven textiles and combining that with traditional knitwear techniques.
Moving on from Fela to his Wives, Buki has created a bag collection in their honour, which is currently being sold exclusively at Darkroom on Lamb's Conduit Street, feted by a collaborative window installation. Buki names the bags after a few of the wives – the Tola clutch, the Sandra and the Funmilayo bag – and adorns each one with an explosive combination of Yorouba hand weaving from South Western Nigera, long and sensual strands of gold lurex and a vibrant palette of sand, aubergine and pistachio.
Buki also showcased her Fela collection at the Arise fashion week, which I wrote about with the help of Patternity. I questioned whether asserting recognisable "Africana" aesthetics in an African-originated designer's work is the only real way of having a valid voice? Buki has a more all-embracing approach towards her work where there are no shackles to her culture. "I myself feel content to using African fabrics coming from a textile background and more so because I am constantly learning and questioning the traditional techniques and interpreting the method to a contemporary level. It's positive to see how the international scene is starting to take note that African fashion does have a place in the industry. There is still a long way to go, but I truly believe, designers from the continent and diaspora are bringing a fresh perspective to fashion now."
Buki is right about there being a long way to go. We may have been battered to death with visions of Africana through the eyes of Western fashion brands who look upon the continent as a source of travel-based inspiration but genuinely African-rooted and African-derived fashion on the international scene is still very much hard to come by. Hence why collaborative efforts such as this one between Buki and Darkroom are much appreciated.