Fall foliage is beautiful and all, but dressing to match the leaves that surround you (or on Instagram) doesn’t have to be the only way to rev up your autumnal-to-wintry color palette — nor do you have to match the shadows as they grow longer just because the shadows are, well, growing longer.
Anum Bashir, founder of Desert Mannequin, MR contributor and one-time Where’s Waldo impersonator, reminded me of this when she sent me photos of her outfits from Lagos Fashion Week, shot in Lagos, Nigeria. Styled in pieces from designers who were showing (like Kenneth Ize, Lisa Folawiyo, Maki Oh and Orange Culture), she gave me a few ideas where layering, print-mixing, eyewear and laughing are concerned, no matter the weather. Below, a few late autumnal ideas that do not involve a single pair of jeans or cable knit sweater.
Wear a Striped Blazer Over a Dress You Might Otherwise Save For Summer
I am not sure if this is a personal problem, but I have one dress that stares me in the eye every single day like “Wear me, wear me!” But I can’t get it out of my head that it’s way too summery. Anum laughed me off here (sartorially speaking, of course, she’s very kind) by pairing a Kenneth Ize blazer with a long white dress. Her tortoise shell sandals, meanwhile, though open toe, are exactly the kind of party shoes that beg for a great song to kick to and cozy tights should the temp drop.
Now about that blazer: Lagos-born Kenneth Ize launched his eponymous menswear line in 2015. The brand is based out of Lagos and Vienna, with the fabrics, designed in-house, woven in Ilorin and the larger Lagos area. Ize says that when he launched, he sought to re-interpret examples of Nigerian artisanship to create an original perspective within luxury and fashion production. “I saw the potential in this heritage (one that has long been mobilized by West Africa’s contemporary art practices, and which have had a strong influence on me), and merged a distinct and modern design sensibility with a specifically local handcraft practices,” Ize says.
Pretend You’re Noah Calhoun and Polka Dots Are Allie Hamilton: It Wasn’t Over…It Still Isn’t Over!
Can I get a giant exhale and a “woo!” from everyone who was feeling a little worried that maybe we were done with polka dots forever after overdoing the black-and-white polka dot thing, even though we knew deep down we’d always be polka dot people in some way?
Well, with another Kenneth Ize blazer, Anum reminded me about the joys of red-and-white polka dots. (I particularly love how imperfect these ones are.) Then she went ahead and did some top-notch pattern clashing by pairing the blazer over a Maki Oh silk shirt, both of which were long enough on Anum to wear as a dress.
Let’s talk about Maki Oh, the designer of that silk shirt: You may already be familiar with her, but just in case you’re not, she launched her line in 2010 with a desire to celebrate her culture through a womanist lens. Based out of Lagos, Nigeria, she says her design ethos fuses traditional African techniques with detailed contemporary construction. Says Oh: “The brand is centered in a strong sense of identity and culture. As with traditional African garments, we create narrative pieces that function as direct channels of communication. Every piece has a meaning. I see them as pieces of a larger puzzle.”
Everybody Clash Your Prints! *Clash* *Clash* *Clash* *Clash*
Not to sound like my mom on Instagram but this, my friends, is what we call “double trouble”: All the Pretty Birds’ Tamu McPherson and Anum met up for lunch during Lagos Fashion Week and both happened to be wearing Lisa Folawiyo, hence the photo. But it’s not just your average buddy shot, is it? Oh no. This is a lesson in layering and print mixing to the max(imalism).
So what do you need to know? Okay: How about, first and foremost, that little pony critters on corduroys (particularly these ones by Chloé) go with anything and everything — try me — but perhaps more importantly, look no further than a plain white T to help give print mixing some breathing room. Or, like Tamu, mix prints but keep it tonally in the same family (save for a turquoise sleeve, but you knew that already).
On Lisa Folawiyo, who made Tamu’s jacket and Anum’s skirt: You’re likely familiar with her prints. She launched the brand in 2005 because she saw a “real need for a modern, fashion forward and luxurious interpretation and representation of what fashion coming out of Africa had ordinarily been seen or regarded as… For me, I design to reflect women’s truths, their desires and their aspirations, wherever they may be in the world, but via my own cultural reference points, passions, interests and stories. Everyone in a sense has a unique voice, but for me the fact that what we make is honest and from the heart is most important of all.”
You Know That Blazer You Have Trouble Wearing? A Pair of Printed Trousers Will Solve Your Problems
Tamu here continues the print-mixing master class while also demonstrating a supreme lesson in layering. (Takeaway here remains similar: If you love the idea of pattern mixing but find it a little intimidating, a monochrome of tones streamline the process.) As for Anum’s outfit, if you’ve been wondering how to make a pinstripe blazer look less office-y while still keeping it office apropos, here you go: printed pants that tie at the waist, plus a gigantic pair of sunglasses, while you’re at it.
Tamu’s wearing a dress by MaXhosa. Laduma Ngxokolo launched MaXhosa, based out of Johannesburg, in 2011. “I was seeking a new and contemporary way of interpreting my culture, which is the Xhosa people,” Laduma told Anum over email. “While for the most part our wardrobes have been Westernized, I wanted to create something that looked traditional yet contemporary.”
Tamu’s shirt, meanwhile is Orange Culture — the same Lagos-based brand as Anum’s pants. Adebayo Oke-Lawal launched the brand in 2011. “I’m very passionate about confronting stereotypes and speaking to those who have been victimized, bullied or oppressed, which is where my passion has sort of linked into the brand,” Oke-Lawal told Anum. “Orange Culture came from the idea of embracing your uniqueness and individuality and never allowing stereotypes to box you into becoming something that you are not.”
If You Accept That Eyelet Isn’t Just a Summer Thing, You Might Be Pleasantly Surprised
Okay, so maybe this particular dress is actually a little summery… But couldn’t you see this beautiful dress with a cozy sweater thrown over the shoulders? What about a SHAWL? What about a blazer per the first look in this story?
Meet Anyango Mpinga, designer of the dress, whose eponymous label, based out of Nairobi, launched in December 2015. “I wanted to create a brand that resonated with my multi-cultural identity and spiritual influences for a woman who values authenticity, a bold aesthetic and making a statement,” the designer told Anum. “I also wanted to re-imagine the whole idea of sexiness for women of different sizes and body shapes.”
Anyango also started an initiative called Free As a Human, an organization that seeks to combat human trafficking and asks those in the industry to speak up and fight against the use of child labor and forced labor. “Overall, my work supports young female survivors of trafficking at HAART Kenya. I believe that my work is more valuable when I can also serve my community. It’s the one power we have as artists and creators to really transform our society.”
Finally, Orange Plaid Just Might Be Your Answer to Tartan Before and After “The Holidays”
I am a mega tartan fan, but sometimes red and green tartan can feel too holiday-literal, to the point that I feel like I can only wear it from mid-November through the end of December. Which is why ORANGE TARTAN JUST CHANGED EVERYTHING. Thank you Rich Mnisi for this revelation, plus Anum for adding purple to it (while simultaneously making me think about gigantic square frame sunglasses).
RICH MNISI is based out of Johannesburg, South Africa. When Mnisi launched his eponymous line in 2015, he “set out to create a brand free of preconceived notions about gender and race through exploring the social and cultural treasures engraved within Africa,” he told Anum. “We’re here to tell the unique stories of then, now and soon.”
Guess what? He shot this story, too!
Photos by Rich Mnisi. Written by Amelia Diamond. Interviews and styling by Anum Bashir.