“I’m not a religious person,” explains Nigeria-born, Vienna-raised Kenneth Ize, before reciting John 3:16. A hangover from a youth spent in catholic churches in Lagos, the verse may not guide his choices, but his sartorial memories from the time certainly do. Ize describes the vibrant traditional dress his mother wore to church (and the matching outfits she insisted Ize and his brother wear) as the starting point for the collection he showed on 24 February at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo — his debut at the French fashion week.

Ize, who relaunched his eponymous label in 2016 with menswear, now shows on the women’s schedule with dual-gender collections, thanks to the fact that a majority of his men’s pieces were actually being bought by women. The 29-year-old is now based back in Lagos, but divides his time between Vienna (where he studied at Austria’s University of Applied Arts under the tutelage of Hussein Chalayan), Paris, Italy and Nigeria, where he works with artisans in the craft of aso oke handweaving, a technique developed by the Yoruba people to create the traditional cloth for special occasions.

Photography Jamie Stoker 

From this vibrant cloth, he cuts boldly tailored separates that have already found fans such as Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell and Donald Glover.

Speaking to Vogue from Vicenza, Italy, while overseeing the final touches of production of his AW20 collection, Ize reveals the story behind his Paris Fashion Week debut.

On fostering social enterprise

“When I moved back to Nigeria [in 2016], I was shocked by how many resources we had, not just natural resources, but artisans creating things with their hands. And then I fell in love with aso oke cloth because it doesn’t consume electricity to create, just a person and the fibre. [The artisans] are incredible; they empower me to open my mind, to think faster, to approach things in different ways and find solutions to problems. I started listening to the stories from the craftspeople and it broke my heart to see that you can have so much talent and you can’t feed yourself from it.”

Photography Jamie Stoker 

On the ideas and inspiration behind his AW20 collection

“I tried to reflect back to the time when [my family and I] were in Africa and how things changed all of a sudden when we moved to Europe. My mother stopped wearing African outfits every day, only wearing them on Sundays. On Mondays, she would go to work in corporate clothing and be a completely different person. She was always so looking forward to Sundays because it was the only time she could really express where she was from and her culture.”



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