Kenneth Ize's Pan-African pride is literally tangible. The LVMH Prize-nominated designer's body of work is almost entirely informed by exquisite Nigerian asoke fabric, making every Kenneth Ize garment a celebration of his native country. To better support the needs of the women weavers whom he employs, Ize recently partnered with nmbello Studio founder Nifemi Marcus-Bello to overhaul the traditional loom design, creating thoughtfully useful tools that are at the heart of a forthcoming exhibition in Accra, Ghana.
Presented alongside the Accra-based African Fashion Foundation (AFF) and the Impact Fund for African Creatives (IFFAC), The Kenneth Ize Loom Exhibition is an extension of the showcase Ize and Marcus-Bello held at Copenhagen's International Fashion Fair in 2019, expanded with a short film, design sketches, and interviews with the women who develop Ize's textiles. It's less about Ize, the designer, and more about Ize, the ardent proponent of Nigerian craft, as the presentation takes special care to highlight the women's assiduous process in favor of, say, lookbooks or runway presentations. Here, the focus is purely on the makers.
nmbello Studio took extreme care when reconsidering the sacred loom of yore, working hand-in-hand with Ize and his third-generation weavers to piece together an object that's almost as artful as the fabrics that it helps form. Basic components were retained while inefficiencies were addressed. For instance, the new looms are far more stable than before and easier to deconstruct and transport. They also boast revamped stools that easily store rolls of thread and ergonomic handles for easy carrying. The result is an artful update to a heritage shape, recognizable yet steeped in its legacy.
"We are extremely excited to be sponsoring this event in partnership with the AFF to showcase the impactful work which our fellow Kenneth has been doing with the rural women of Nigeria," Roberta Annan, IFFAC CEO, said in a statement. "This is an example of the type of work that IFFAC is committed to doing where we holistically develop and catalyze the African creative segments across formal and informal sectors. As we continue to engage with our partners we look forward to more exciting announcements in coming months."
The Kenneth Ize Loom Exhibition runs from May 22 to 24 in Accra's Mhoseenu Galleria.