Designer and creative director of Yemzi Elizabeth “Yemzi”Akingbade, and I meet on a midsummer’s day at BAM’S African festival, this event brought so many vibrant people together on that light summer’s day. As I meet her in person the bright color print harem pants with a touch of sportswear in silk drew me to her design card and she took a picture. I was immediately interested in her clothing design and the woman who brought Africa- Athletic and chic embellishment embodied in silk.
Months later I welcomed myself to the world of Yemzi through the eyes of a Yoruba woman her patterns printed on silk showcased her Nigerian culture and British design. The finest silk sateen and silk chiffon that moves with your body and immediately shapes to you. The silk Herum pants that are new age
not cotton this season is just the beginning of comfort meets luxury, the overall design deemed “Dungaree’s” are the dresser version’s of an American classic. Her clothing can make any woman feel confident and pleasant wrapped in softness with a bit of armor.
Yemzi’s wing bomber jackets, Botton up shirt/dress and the wrap skirt look by look suddenly made me a fan of her clothing. My favorite is the new twist on a classic bra the SPbra all wrapped in silk fabric. A pleasant twist to the classic bralette, an African Yoruba mixed print with a British streetwear twist. I paired the long dress shirt with Eki Famous jewelry’s wrapped around my neck and denims paired with a Micheal Kores heels.
I also wore the oversized sports wing bomber jacket with long sleeves. The yellow and black knit cuff’s set tightly on my wrist reminding me of an Adidas tracksuit wrapped in softness. If you know me you know I love a good bra and silk clothing, this shirtdress and Spbra (spiffy little silk bra) gave me chills, and a new way to define lounge wear / Tre chic.
S/S 17 Down and Out in London and Lago’s video was shot in a war bunker. Inspired by the book Down and Out in London and Paris by George Orwell. The models are tall, slender and status only adding to the beauty of the silk collection and movement of the chiffon effortlessly in the air as they walk through the tiny space.
The 1990’s VHS films the two models in the bunker, it coordinate’s two separate styles of athletic and dressier styles deemed as “street- luxe bohemian fashion” as Yemzi infuses these styles as one. I see the two girls as a beam of light, exquisite looking in the dim light of the golden bunker. The scarred white paint above and below their brow’s showing the strength of being African and the heritage that is the face and reflection of the clothing. The music of Fela Kuti’s is an inspiration and so are his wives, style icons and queen’s. Hairstyles with cornrows and architecture that extends from the head as afro beats play’s the man who was an activist and musician who bought about afro beats I see a correspondence between the two styles and music suddenly. A story of diligence, of overcoming, of survival mixed with beauty. Black silk / dark navy silk bring forth her diligence in design. As Elizabeth attends University for her Master’s Degree in London and working a summer job she created this stunning collection. The labor and love in design are seen. From bright color and prints to darker color fabrics with a blast of color prints. See the color has not faded from her previous collection but sits on top in multiple patterns and colors.
- Why is the silk fabric so important to you ?
I purposely use natural fabrics, before silk it was bamboo, tencel and organic cotton. I like fabrics that breath and are environmentally friendly. I have sourced a silk which can be digitally printed with my artwork, is of high quality and durability so I’m really happy with it and so are my customers. The luster on the silk sateen is so nice too!
- What are the stereo types about African fashion you would like to breakthrough ?
I find it really ridiculous when people struggle to find the connection between my work and Africa. Do I need to use Vlisco fabric and sew iro and buba to be an African designer? I want people to understand that African fashion, like its people is diverse and multifaceted so get to know because the African fashion sector is growing from strength to strength each season and it’s consumption in the West won’t be confined within niche stores and small capsule collections for many more years.
- Are there any trends that stand out in your mind?
I live for the mixing of high and low fashion. I come from a very humble background but I’ve always had a taste for luxury pieces and of cause whenever I could afford to purchase pieces it would be styled with my everyday high-street wardrobe. Now this is a trend with the whole streetwear Virgil Abloh aesthetic and the UK grime scene where chavs and council estate are the DNA of emerging brands like A-COLD-WALL and Caitlin Price.
- Is there any sole memory from your past that shows up in your designs?
I wouldn’t say a sole memory, but a sole experience of being a Black-British girl being raised by an English family. In every collection, I explore this hybrid through the themes, silhouettes, and styling. The fashion prints so far have focused on the West African influence.
Special Thanks to Eki for Jewelry :http://ekisfamous.com
Special Thanks to Nathen Valentine Photography