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August 28 2014

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Ninivah Khomo: The Cat (And Banana) Lady Takes London

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“It’s a jungle in here.” That’s the tag for Ninivah Khomo’s new shop on Walton Street in London’s Knightsbridge. The logo is a whiskered panther; a riot of animal prints turns the place into a shrine to the feline; and Michael Roberts’ interior re-creates a sun-bleached beach hut on the rim of the rain forest in Bahia, hand-stenciled palm fronds, slatted screens, and all.

It’s been six years since Khomo last had a shop, but, in one of fashion’s curious little synchronicities, the designer is re-entering the retail fray at the same moment that graphic tropical prints, succulent color, and a forties-filtered-through-seventies silhouette (bowed necklines, ruched sleeves, and tea dresses) are major Spring trends. Add a healthy helping of leopard to those three ingredients and you’ve got Ninivah’s exotic dish in a Brazil nutshell.

Most of Khomo’s spectacular prints come from Roberts’ 1998 book The Jungle ABC. The two met when she was at Central Saint Martins in the late seventies and he was fashion editor for The Sunday Times. “Great prints, great eye, great editing,” Khomo says of her friend’s graphic skills, all of them on parade in a silk georgette tea dress in an orchidaceous pink and black pattern, or a vibrant banana print that should give Miuccia a run for her money come spring. Yesterday, Roberts was meticulously cutting out little palm fronds from a swath of green felt and arranging them on the back of a black cocoon coat, a foretaste of next fall’s offerings. Currently available, a gilded leopard gown would do full justice to a haute Hollywood goddess, Joan Crawford, say, in Jungle Red nail polish. “I was never going to be a minimalist or the kind of designer who was searching for something alternative,” the designer purrs.

If the flamingos, parrots, and palm trees are right now, Khomo’s big cats have been seducing customers for decades. “It was never ethnic,” she muses. “I just always loved Biba and 1930′s glamour and Art Deco.” Input from Khomo’s glamorously leggy daughter Delilah guarantees that everything stays on the right side of retro. Leopard shorts? No wonder equally long-limbed lovelies like Charlotte Dellal are Ninivah fans.

Photo: Courtesy of Ninivah Khomo

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