Tolu Coker is a Nigerian fashion designer, who’s work focuses on her identity, embracing and expressing her dual heritage, as well as addressing the current political and social climate.
Needless to say, Coker’s collection definitely lived up to the surrounding hype as winner of the AW19 Merit Award. The show begun with a sentimental compilation of family home videos, setting the scene for a very personal collection. By merging together her Nigerian roots with a Western culture full of graffiti, hip hop, and models dancing down the runway, Coker immersed the audience into the casual welcoming environment. Undoubtedly, the tribal headpieces and jewellery provided by Lydia Hartshorn and Sofiane Zourbir paired with the urban vibe worked together for a highly inspiring show. It acknowledged and appreciated Coker’s heritage and childhood thoroughly and beautifully. The jewellery included heavily embellished headpieces, wire and chain hair pieces, and diamanté sunglasses, which referenced her culture whilst retaining a modern and fresh aesthetic.
The choice of models fitted to the theme and clothing perfectly. The way they danced and wore the clothes rather than let the clothes wear them (a common theme in high fashion today) heightened my appreciation for the looks overall, and gave a more exciting impression of the designer and her work to a newer audience. The show opened with a model alongside a golden bicycle, acting as a catalyst for audience interest almost instantly. The womenswear pieces that followed featured block floral patterns, intricate bursts of colour, and impeccable structure. The introduction of unique textures on unconventional parts of the body, such as fleece on the back pockets of the trousers, added interest on top of the striking prints. Although the garments at first glance are very casual ready-to-wear pieces, the amount of thought gone into the print and material set each clothing apart, and mirrored Coker’s innovative mindset and hands-on attitude in terms of designing.
The menswear pieces, again, did not disappoint. Graffiti influences and recycled leathers paired together resulted in a very modern twist on 90’s streetwear, and its association with hip hop culture. The male models carried boomboxes as bags and wore hats with similar to the clothing, tying the looks together as fully realised visions, reminiscent of Coker’s past living in Nigeria. The subtle links to her background made it all feel rather sentimental and personal, an intimacy with Tolu Coker beyond her identity as a creative. You can tell she has immersed herself, both as an individual and artist into the collection entirely.
Both menswear and womenswear pieces were complimented with chain eyewear and gold chains hanging from the models, which not only reinforced the theme present throughout the show, but also sparked a goddess-like, ethereal flair to the looks, whilst, once again keeping a modern and current edge. The finale piece featured an sheer gown, adorned with a bold floral print towards the bottom, exhibiting that use of unconventionality and sustainability Coker is known for. Accompanied with the elaborate headwear, the look homaged her roots with its nods to tribal culture, hypnotising the audience with its innate beauty. Mark my words, big things are coming for Tolu Coker – her mark on the fashion world will be undeniable, and already is.
Words By Ava Frances J, Images By Muyuan Qin
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*All images are the intellectual property of Muyuan Qin licensed to Ragged Culture Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.*