Seven winners have emerged at the 2019 edition of the Vlisco Fashion Fund. About 100 candidates recently sat through interviews and sewing tests for a place in the 2019 Vlisco Fashion Fund contest. 21 nominees were each given funding and Vlisco fabrics with which they created a collection of 5 outfits and an accompanying photography campaign. The contestants completed the challenge in November.
The Vlisco Fashion Fund supports emerging designers and tailors in the process of establishing a career in the fashion industry. By sharing knowledge, expertise and access to an expanded network, by striving to support promising creatives in strengthening their skills and developing their own fashion labels in Central and West Africa. With focus on Nigeria, DRC Congo, Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast and Ghana and this year 2019, the diaspora.
27-year-old fashion designer and freelance fashion illustrator, Jessica Nwalozie, has won the Vlisco fashion fund 2019. She won for her creative thought process, her fabric manipulation techniques and ability to play with shapes to create a 3D interpretation of her concept. “My brand, Jessica James, is about creating experiences and not just a couple of beautiful garments,” Nwalozie said.
An enduring childhood memory for Jessica Nwalozie was seeing her mother dress up in front of a mirror, and how the clothes brought about a change from within. Her collection represents the complexities of a woman’s life. Seemingly simple garments contain surprise elements – when viewed from different angles, they take on a new look. Inspiration for Nwalozie were the patterns on the Vlisco fabric, storytelling and the shape of a mushroom.
When developing the new collection, Sogbossie had many things in mind. The modern woman avant-gardist with her exuberance, drama and femininity; Vlisco’s dazzling fabrics, such as the Gallery of Poems, and even the corset of a little black dress. Mostly, though, the inspiration came from the cult of twins in Benin where twins are seen as deities. They say that the twins do not die, they go to get firewood in the forest. This collection is in memory of SOGBOSSI BOKONON-GANTA Clement AGOSSOU and his twin AGOSSI.
Martha Kabaso’s collection is called AFROPOLITAN, a term constructed from the name Africa and a Greek word (polits) which means citizen. Her five looks represent the traits of a strong African woman, who is a leader and not afraid of taking risks. She is outgoing and fun, loyal towards family, hardworking and a queen. One of the iconic looks is the model wearing a three-piece suit, standing in a field of corn, from which pap/nshima is made – a well-known dish in African countries.
Florentine Mwema Bukasa’s goal was to demonstrate fabric manipulation, introduce other materials as highlights, and play with the Vlisco fabric to create new ways of wearing it. From mixing and matching different prints, puffy sleeves, cut-outs, bows and fabric manipulation. What about a jumpsuit disguised as a two-piece, with boning and a bow tie? For an asymmetrical strapless dress, its diagonals continued right down to the button. And Bukasa completed her narrative with a beaded wedding gown, topped off with flowers in wax print.
Vegetables and fruits shine in Kodjovi’s collection. The link that unites the content of the designs can be explained through the fruit trees (cocoa tree, papaya, pineapple), the vegetable (in this case, lettuce salad) and the hibiscus flower (the flower of love). All elements converge in a plant world.
Sonia Nangbo’s collection was inspired by current environmental issues. Plastic, wax print and pearls tell the story of the commoner, Grace, in five outfits. A Prince, in search of a wife, held a contest where the winner would personify originality, beauty and refinement. Dressed in transparent vinyl, Grace rose above the other 1001 competitors and hypnotised the king. They were wed. This union shows that wax print and transparent vinyl can be an ecological solution, while being both pleasant and beautiful to wear.
The collection ‘CLEARSTORY’ examines how architecture can be expressed through fashion. The inspiration came from five vibrant Vlisco designs featuring geometric shapes, colours, grids and lines. CLEARSTORY targets working-class women who like to make bold statements through fashion. The photoshoot concept was to make the outfits stand out, hence the grey background. Some of the techniques used are draping, origami, fabric manipulation and vortex.
Vlisco Nigeria’s Marketing Manager Adeola Chu-Osakwe said “The seven winners will each receive career funding equivalent of €5,000, plus a two-week master class abroad.”
Chu-Osakwe also said the VFF prize funding must be invested back into the winners’ businesses.
“It might be used to set up a studio or purchase new equipment, for example.”