This look was created with organic British wool and embellished with Swarovski upcycled crystals. The look was designed by Nkwo and named ‘Spirit of the Dance’. It is made from asooke, a hand-loomed cloth woven by a group of women based in Kogi state in central Nigeria, according to a traditional craft of the Yoruba people. The piece was inspired by a secretive religion indigenous to Malawi, called Nyau. During a special ceremony, attendees wear wooden masks and act out spirits of the dead, in order to communicate with them. Avec Amour’s Angela Fuka Mpando sourced an expert wood carver from Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi, and home to the country’s commercial industries. Carving is a traditional craft in Malawi, skills being passed from father to son. The carver produced 12 miniature masks that have been sewn into the dress and tiny upcycled mirrored embellishments are scattered over the skirt.Lucian Matis
Such is the power of Nkwo Onwuka that she sits at the forefront of the emergence of a new African fabric called Dakala Cloth, developed in the Nkwo studios as a means of textile waste reduction. Stemming from a childhood obsession with dolls and sewing and with a plan to make traditional African hand crafted textiles relevant to a new generation of fashionistas, Nkwo Onwuka launched her artisanal brand NKWO in 2012. The idea was not just to be ‘fashionable’ for its own sake but also for the benefits it would bring to her own country by working with small scale manufacturers and producers, enabling the growth of sustainable businesses. Nkwo has a lot to say about Africa, both through her clothes and the media and her energy is derived from a desire to explore and experiment with innovative techniques as a way of preserving traditional craft skills. Nkwo’s first African print collection was sold on ASOS, the biggest online fashion store in the UK and she now focuses on producing collections using modern interpretations of weaving, beading, hand-dyeing and embroidery that celebrate the richness and diversity of African culture.
Angela Fuka Mpando of Avec Amour is a connector of like-minded souls. She works with craftspeople throughout Malawi, both designers and artisans, bringing them to the attention of international retailers and consumers. Her belief in her country’s rich heritage is matched only by her desire to bring economic empowerment to her homeland. Joel Suya is a Malawian wood carver, who hand carved 12 exquisite traditional masks for this collaboration. Joel’s wood carving journey began when he joined his brother selling wood carvings, later teaching himself to sand and polish, and eventually being guided by an established craftsman who taught him to chisel, file and carve. From difficult beginnings selling his crafts through others, Joel is now growing his own independent business.