October 09, 2012 New York
Part of what makes Osakwe so interesting is the way her designs are informed by Africa. One signature of her brand is that it's dyed by hand using a traditional process called adire. Another is her way of combining Western silhouettes and native materials and motifs—to wit, a lace-blouse-and-pencil-skirt set appliquéd with unsettling raffia eyeballs. Perhaps most significantly, though, Osakwe brings an African sense of clothes-as-storytelling to her collections: This season, for instance, her starting point was a story she made up about secrets. The eyes on Osakwe's clothes are meant to be unsettling: They're watching you. And it's no accident that the face cut into the fringe on Osakwe's terrific slipdress looks pissed off; that's the girl whose secret's been betrayed. Elsewhere, Osakwe picked up a traditional Nigerian print of spiraled squares, which was an allusion to the compounds where people live in rural Nigeria. These are places, she explained when she presented her collection by appointment, where it's impossible to keep secrets.
And so on. You can either take an interest in Osakwe's stories or you can consign them to the same "interesting…but whatever" mental pile where you put information like the fact that Osakwe was also inspired by Cy Twombly this season, and Pina Bausch. Though the African-ness of Osakwe's clothes are a non-incidental part of their appeal, they're as much a mash-up of references and obsessions as that of any designer. The thing to put in your mental "must-know" pile is that Maki Osakwe deserves to be a star.