February 11, 2008
In three short seasons of showing on the London runway, Duro Olowu's command of a vibrant form of personal chic has grown to such a degree, you'd scarcely believe this is a designer who operates out of Portobello Road. His Fall collection was such a confident mix of multi-patterned couture, African batik print, and sophisticated styling that it evoked something of Yves Saint Laurent's gift for magicking wildly improbable color combinations into the epitome of easy-to-wear elegance. "Lush color and superluxury for winter," he called it, adding, "Really, it's about inner beauty and personal style." Olowu used vivid camouflage prints in several different colorways for tailored jackets and pants, chintzy roses for coats, and multicolored lamés on sloppy kimono coats; he also showed drop-waisted shifts and a newly sophisticated Empire-line interpretation of his signature patchwork dresses. There was a stately grace about his long, tiered peasant skirts, topped with either a crimson long-line cardigan or a taffeta riding jacket. It's a long way from that single breezy boho dress that launched his career, but in his focus on a grown-up customer who wants to stand apart in a sea of recessionary sobriety, Olowu offered an intelligent reading of the current mood.