"Allure." That was the result that Duro Olowu claimed he was seeking in a collection whose means to that end seductively embraced a varied spectrum of womanhood: from Renée Perle, the hauntingly beautiful muse of early twentieth-century photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue, to the Jamaican immigrants (Olowu's mother among them) who arrived in England in the fifties on a boat called the Windrush, to the London cousins the designer played with on childhood trips from Nigeria.
Olowu molded these inspirations into a languid presentation whose subtle steaminess was ably assisted by another torrid New York night. But there was real spine to the languor. Olowu invoked the make-do ingenuity of the Windrush women, cobbling together a dress from fabric ends—lamés, laces, and florals—and throwing a man's evening jacket over the whole thing (but lining it with leopard for maximum effect). "Prim and proper in the Montego Bay style," the designer called it. "Practicality mixed with the need to look right." Except, in his case he was mixing vintage Leonard fabrics with his own graphic prints. And what a mix! Reference points to the contrary, there was a feel of YSL and seventies Ungaro in sinuous, jazzed-up dresses that flared, floated, or sported cascades of ruffles. That optimistic spirit was the essence of the collection. "Smiling through the hard times," Olowu said. "And freedom—for Lartigue's women, the freedom from corsets; for the Windrush women, the promise of a new life." If there was a political subtext there, it felt just right.