One of the hottest trends for spring 2011 is clothing accented with African fabrics, patterns, and textiles. I'm a big fan of the look, which was exhibited on the runway by Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. spring line at New York Fashion Week. It's always a pleasure, however, to give shine to an authentic African designer like Wayne Illuyomade (pronounced ill lu yo mod day).
I had an email chat with Wayne, whose contemporary dress line, House Rossil, will be introduced to the fashionista-buying public via a series of trunk shows. The first scheduled trunk show will be in Washington, D.C. this weekend, Jan. 28-30 at Maris Elaine Gallery at the National Harbor.
ESW: What is the significance of the name House Rossil?
I decided to name the company after my parents who were my first fashion inspiration as a child and also because of the non-stop support they have always and continue to provide to my siblings and myself. "Rossil" is a combination of my father's initials, my mother's initials, and the first two letters of our family name.
ESW: How long have you been a designer and what inspires your designs?
This is a tough one. I have always been interested in the aesthetics of all things I interact with. I was first enamored with residential architecture, then later turned my attention to re-designing common automobiles in the way I would like to see them. In college, I began to focus on clothing and women's wear in particular. I wasn't happy with the general perception of African-inspired fashion and particularly disliked the overly jungle or safari-inspired themes that were predominant whenever African fashion was the topic the in the 80's, 90's, and even more recently. Luckily, the perception is changing slowly as many designers are beginning to see the beauty of many of these textiles and colors.
ESW: What can buyers expect to find at your first trunk show?
As a small designer with a new and unique product, we have chosen direct customer interaction via our trunk shows as a way of getting to know our customers and vice-versa. However, our small size also mandates that we are unable to carry large inventories and as such, our trunk shows are mainly an opportunity for our potential customers to see our line and pre-order items directly from us. Many of the textiles used for our dresses are available in limited quantities, so our customers get truly unique items at discounted prices when pre-ordering. We will also have some limited inventory at some of the shows.
ESW: You design for women with curves. What is the size range?
One of the issues that was brought to my attention by many women, including my wife and muse, was the difficulty in finding cuts that accommodate the curves of real women, generally and particularly finding such dresses that utilize African-inspired prints. This inspired our choice of fit models for the UtBT House Rossil line in particular. Further research also indicated that this issue was applicable across the size range of women's clothing. Curvy women come in all sizes and proportions. So our approach was to focus on the fit and take-on a segment at a time. Our initial sizes will range from 2 to 14. We will expand our size range later this year as we ramp up our pattern-making and production capabilities. Our intention is to provide a great fit at size 4 and size 16.
ESW: How do you feel about African textiles and fabrics being incorporated into mainstream fashion? For instance, Gwen Stefani used a lot of African prints in her spring 2011 collection for L.A.M.B.
I have noticed the increasing use of these textiles and I welcome it. Part of my inspiration is a desire to expand the acceptance of these textiles and styles into the fashion mainstream. Fashion is indeed psychological and a communication of one's values and self-worth. And for better or worse, mainstream fashion houses are indeed aspirational for many -- especially on the African continent. In my opinion, it must do something positive for those young girls in Africa to see a little of themselves in the fashion and music idols they love from so far away.
Seeing Beyonce or Gwen Stefani in the textiles they are familiar with might make them realize simple fact: that that can grow up to be just as big as their idols. This can only be a positive thing. In an age when we have a first lady and fashion icon in the White House whose name is Obama, these textiles coming into the mainstream is an idea whose time has come.