I am excited by the work of Amaka Osakwe. Her Maki Oh label which is at once sensual and intelligent, provokes thought.
Hello Maki, thank you for honoring Mariankihogo.com with this interview. Congratulations on the intrinsically memorable spring summer 2012 collection. The collection entitled REDS, notably draws inspiration from French artist, Henri Matisse and his use of color and form. What initially drew you to the Fauvist stylization and rawness evident in his work?
Hi Marian, thank you for having me on here. I was drawn to the Fauvists because of the ideology that the function of the artist is not to translate an observation but to express the shock of the object on his/her nature, and this one of Maki Oh’s main beliefs. I honed in on Henri Matisse when I learnt of his love affair with the colour indigo, his fascination with the female form and his love for African art and textiles. But, it really all started at indigo. Indigo is a colour that I hold very dear to my heart. The colour represents the Africa I dream of.
Your Autumn 2011-2012 offering explores the tumultuous throes of love as inspired by Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Love is a Mystery’. This season, it is Matisse’s uncanny prowess in pooling the tribal into the modern. Both the Einaudi and Matisse inspiration have an untamed but intelligent sensuality about them that seems to be an ongoing underlying theme of your work. Is this intentional and if so, what is it about the uninhibited and sensuous that compels?
Like I explained about the Fauvists, it’s the emotion and shock that these subjects evoke in me that I try to express my work and my work is one medium where my emotions can be totally unrepressed. The hedonistic color palette boasts a coral almost carnal in nature, a languid nude, sensual blues whilst texture is as equally all about the senses; velvet, silk charmeuse, silk organza’s and chiffon.
How do you balance such rich color and decadent texture so seamlessly?
This collection is about the extreme seductress. Her feminine wiles are unfathomable, but she draws one in nonetheless. Her walk, her smile, her aura all come together and make up this genius art form – the art of seduction. The colours and textures in this collection are my interpretation of the emotions that she evokes in anyone who she so much as glances at.
As with the work of Henri Matisse, you explore angular form in this new lineup. This is further reiterated with clever placement of embellishment. As a fashion designer what is more important to you, function or form?
Form over function. In the words of Henri Matisse, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them”.
Who is the quintessential Maki Oh woman and how would you like to see your designs worn?
The Maki Oh woman is a multi faceted being with a strong sense of identity.
Ideally, I will like to see Maki Oh pieces worn as conversational/communication mediums in the same way traditional Nigerian garments were worn to convey a message or tell a story. Either that, or with well-manicured nails.
Your use of Adire has become signature for each collection. Seeing that your work is not confined to the obvious, it is no surprise then that Ankara and other African prints and textiles are not employed. Tell us about your treatment of Adire and why it is a Maki Oh staple?
Maki Oh’s use of natural indigo and the Adire dyeing processes is our little contribution to preserving a dying Nigerian art. Adire is one of the few authentic Nigerian fabrics we have. Traditionally, everything from the growing of the cotton to the dyeing of the fabric was (and still is) done on Nigerian soil, and this authenticity appeals to me. Maki Oh’s adire fabrics are locally dyed in southern Nigeria using methods that have been passed down, unchanged from generation to generation. Adire has also been a staple in the collections as a means to educate the world (this includes Africans) about true African fabrics. Ankara/African print fabric does not appeal to Maki Oh’s sensibilities because it is not African.
Each collection sees you employ an indigenous feature. With spring summer 2012 it is the Nigerian local sponge. Why is it of importance for you to employ an indigenous feature per season and what was the creative process for juxtaposing the local sponge with your streamlined silhouette?
Everything in fashion has really been done before, so I strive to use indigenous materials in innovative ways, to bring something “new” to the table. Local sponge was used in the ss12 collection because as it is with everything Maki Oh, there’s a hidden meaning behind every pattern, silhouette, fabric etc. This collection tells the story of the extreme seductresses – ‘The Lagos Reds’. The root of the plant that the sponge is derived from is traditionally used as a contraceptive medicine, so I’ve used this material to serve as a social message that says ‘use a condom’. The streamlined silhouette in this collection simply serves as blank canvas used to create the story of each seductress.
Yours is an uncanny ability to make the brazen take on refined and elegant sensibility. Is this a conscious ethos?
I have always been fascinated by how the Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, took their culture and traditions and made it modern, even futuristic. I’ve tried to bring this concept into my design ethos, by taking the raw and updating it. I’m glad to hear this is translated to you as refined and elegant.
Maki Oh is synonymous with?
Conversations, complex-simplicity “simplexity”, and ethical and sustainable fashion.
Thank you to Amaka for the interview.
Explore Maki-Oh here.