A few months I spoke about the fashion phenomenon that is Kenneth Ize and the fact that he was among the finalists for the LVMH prize in 2019, well now I am back again to speak about this incredible man and how he has made history yet again at Paris Fashion Week by being one of several African fashion designers that had prominent shows and events in the City of Lights. Already named to the prestigious BOF 500, Kenneth Ize has come a long way since starting his brand in 2013, I am so proud to be African right now!!
“To me, Paris is where people come together,” Kenneth tells Teen Vogue a few days after his debut show. “Paris is the capital of fashion. [Many]Nigerians cannot travel outside the country, so it’s not easy to actually show what you can do outside of our country. So for me, it was about having a conversation. I really wanted to make people jump into conversations that they might be thinking about [but] not speaking about yet.”
The History of Kenneth Ize
Lagosian designer Mr Kenneth Ize launched his label in Nigeria in 2013 after graduating from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. “I just wanted it right then!” he remembers. “I wanted to have my own brand as soon as I found my aesthetic.” Ize then went on to present his first-ever Spring/Summer collection at Lagos Fashion week in which unisex garments constructed using traditional African practices told a rich narrative of a diverse culture [“largely personal stories expressed through clothes”].
After his S/S 14 collection, he took a two-year break. During this time Kenneth returned to the University of Applied Arts, where he studied his master’s. His big breakthrough came in January 2019, when he took a risk by exhibiting his menswear collection at a friend’s apartment. “I panicked because I wasn’t sure how to get industry people there, so I posted a photo of the showroom on Instagram and some press and buyers started messaging me,” he says. The gamble paid off: “I went from working by the commission to eight stockists. For Spring/Summer 2020 I almost doubled my stockists again.” In just one season, Ize’s turnover more than doubled from around €60,000 to €150,000. It’s crazy how much things can change in a year and he is proof that it literally takes one leap of faith to change your life forever! I’m going to share one of my favourite quotes with you guys and one I think you should all follow whenever you think about following your dreams – “if you do not respect time, time will not respect you.” Interpret it as you will but always keep it in mind when you say you’ll start something tomorrow or in a weeks time. START NOW!
Ize’s AW20 collection — which was presented on the opening night of Paris Fashion Week — is based on the things he witnessed aged around 4 while attending Catholic services in Lagos with his mother. “Even after all the time I spent in church, I still can’t remember a single verse from the Bible, but I do remember my mother’s clothes. She was very experimental with her elaborate three-piece suits in lemon and lime and big shoulder pads. When everyone lined up to give thanks — seeing all these head wraps and jewellery — it was like a fashion show to me.”
The clothes in the collection are simply cut, allowing the textiles to take centre stage, showing us that less really is more. Colourways take inspiration from traditional Nigerian cuisines, such as the dark green and golden yellow of egusi soup. Ize is hoping his Paris debut will attract the attention of a third critical group: potential investors. “This show is about telling people that Kenneth Ize is open to outside investment,” he says. “I’m not a business person; everything I know I’ve learnt from looking and listening on the job. The reality is you need money in order to grow and develop.” So many African Designers lack investment hence why they can’t see past fashion weeks or sustain their businesses so I truly hope that Kenneth gets the investors he needs to create a lucrative business!
See every look from the show – https://hypebae.com/2020/2/kenneth-ize-fall-winter-show-paris-fashion-week-collection-lvmh-prize-2019-finalist