Duro Olowu's show has finally brought the talent that's been cooking away in his Portobello Road store, OG2, into full sight. A Nigerian with a sophisticated eye for mixing splashily printed vintage couture fabrics with seventies-style tailoring and hoards of exceptional jewelry, he has steadily built a businessand many friendsaround the first signature wide-sleeved, high-waisted patchwork dress he designed two years ago. Today's violet and bright-green African-print velvet coats instantly captured the essence of his appeal in their exuberantly luxurious swing.
"I wanted it to have practical volume," he said, "a regal normality. I called it 'Bamako Pompadour.'" Bamako is the capital of Mali, which, he explained, "had an empire of huge wealth and intellectand beautiful women."
If it was smart to lay a foundation for a couple of years before deciding to show, the move also raised the bar for Olowu, setting him the task of proving he can do more than just that one dress. He pulled that off by orchestrating a total look, from leather headband visors to necklaces made from recycled belt buckles and beads to shiny patent shoes and bootsall sourced from craftspeople he found around London. His new squared-off agbada dress, in fluid brown, black, and gray color-blocked jersey, had an easy, drapey elegance that looked fresh. And though a too long section of gamekeeper tailoring in the middle broke the spell a bit, that was only a minor beginner's demerit in a collection that brought a welcome shot of energy to London's shows.