I fell in love with Paris-based Malian designer Lamine Kouyaté’s Xuly Bët Funkin’ Fashion Factory back in the nineties. He was ahead of the Western curve on re-purposing fabrics, indeed actual garments in his designs. With his merrowed edges and interesting patchwork he was funky progenitor to the likes of the fly ladies of Harriet’s Alter Ego. I wore a faux fur jacket that I’d bought from him until it was threadbare–oh how I miss that piece!
I was amped upon learning that he would be one of four designers (including Nigeria’s Tiffany Amber, South Africa’s Stoned Cherrie and Nigeria’s Momo) showing under the Arise Magazine-sponsored African Fashion Collective during Fall ’09 Fashion Week. In an industry not known to be particularly inclined toward featuring models of color in any great numbers during the twice yearly cavalcade of fashion in Bryant Park (especially for the Fall shows), post-election, post-Vogue Italia Black Issue, post-Bethann Hardison’s crusade for casting diversity, certainly there’d be a sea of black faces, both on and off the runway. And at this show, there was: Alek Wek, Chanel Iman, Jaunel, Liya Kibede, Nnenna, Oluchi, Sessilee Lopez, Ubah and the lone male Tyson Beckford. The Terminator-inspired video for Grace Jones’ new release, Corporate Cannibals, featuring the distorted black and white visage of Grace, opened the show. It was great to see the sauntering Stacey MacKenzie’s return to the catwalk, but the crowd went wild when Grace herself, a scintillating 60-years-old with great gams, assumed the stage in a Xuly Bët hooded dress, neckline down-to-there and hemline up-to-there.
Backstage: Grace Jones upclose and personal in Xuly Bët, Work! Liya Kebede in Momo’s demure ensemble of animal prints. Photos: New York Times
Ruching reigns at Xuly Bët: Oluchi in a sizzling dress with a clever spin on the ubiquitous “Ghana must go” bag. Photo: Getty Images
Model superstars, Alek Wek and Tyson Beckford rock Xuly Bët’s signature red stitching. Photo: Getty Images
Folake Folarin-Coker’s use of Ankara fabric at Tiffany Amber. Photos: Robert Mitra for WWD
Neutrals paired with vivid brights at Stoned Cherrie. Photos Robert Mitra for WWD.
Fit and Flair: feminine looks from Fati Abisuela for MOMO Photos: Robert Mitra for WWD.
Check the London Telegraph for video coverage.