It was a quiet London Fashion Week, but Ahluwalia brought a riot of celebratory colour to the sunken, leafy Salters’ Hall Garden in London on Sunday. Her SS23 show was entitled ‘Africa is Limitless’ and was an exploration of all the myriad facets of African culture, from all its 54 (or 56 if you recognise the two disputed areas of Somaliland and Western Sahara) countries.
“Africa as a continent is always spoken about homogeneously,” said the Indian-Nigerian designer. “I wanted to look into every African nation, A-Z, Algeria to Zimbabwe, and celebrate the cultures and the differences between the countries.”
Avoiding any hackneyed tropes of national colours or flag motifs, the show was inspired by everything from African musicians and album covers from Cote d’Ivoire, to the Congo’s colourfully dressed Sapeurs. The influence of the latter was evident in joyously fuchsia, orange and apple green tailoring complete with Ahluwalia’s signature wave motif.
Colourful jacquard knit pieces took inspiration from vintage Tunisian blankets and watercolour-on-wood paintings from Mauritius. Men wore football-inspired shirts and side-stripe track pants with an appealing ease, and a watery blue and green silk bowling shirt and shorts set offered an effortlessly cool summer wardrobe solution.
The womenswear, which Ahluwalia only introduced last season, felt particularly strong; and featured a bevy of one-shouldered and ruched party-ready minis and body conscious co-ords inspired by the drape of traditional Somalian dresses and the saris worn in Kenya. Headwraps dripping with crystals, diamante encrusted party eyebrows and a toe-tapping African playlist imbued a sense of celebration.
With so many menswear brands having chosen to show at the gender-neutral London Fashion Week in February, this weekend’s schedule has been quiet. Martine Rose closed Sunday’s proceedings with the only other physical show that day, held in a nightclub venue under arches near Vauxhall’s Pleasure Gardens.
Her vision for 2023 was altogether less flamboyant, and centred on a grungy, vintage-inspired wardrobe that riffed on themes of American workwear, BDSM and football. Skin-tight t-shirts, exposed trouser zips dangling with keychains, track jackets and distressed denim caps and leather jackets will all appeal to the Balenciaga-loving club kid.