Of all the names to turn up on the short list for the brand-new LVMH Prize, Maki Oh
is perhaps the most surprising. Designer Maki Osakwe's presence on the list is richly deserved, but as a designer based in Lagos, she remains outside the range of fashion industry groupthink. That makes her something other than a usual suspect for a Paris-based fashion competition, but it also helps account for the utter distinctiveness of her work. Osakwe always premises her collections on a story, and this one, she explained, came from her imagining a woman at her mirror, reciting the song lyrics, "Tell me I'm the only one, even if you choke." As Osakwe went on to say, that vignette presents the question: Is this woman mad or not? And thus the collection toyed with themes of madness and un-madness, love and anti-love, and other states that fluctuate and are a matter of perception. All this was transmitted through Osakwe's most elevated and accomplished collection yet. This time out, she emphasized relatively easy silhouettes—a pair of track pants, a soft silk blouse, a lean tailored dress with some slouch to it. The clothes felt like clothes
rather than looks. Further, Osakwe really upped her textile game this season, developing a traditional Nigerian aso-oke material with Lurex thread; pulling luxe gobs of fringe out of selvedge; and translating prints, such as her Yoruba translation of those song lyrics, into hand-appliquéd lettering. There's a certain naïveté to Osakwe's work and you sense the hand of the artisan, but the intelligence and aesthetic sophistication guiding her process is so keen, the pieces never come off as artsy-craftsy. Well done.