the secret language of prints

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“And there is a funny saying that the women who are sweating the most make the best food!”

the secret language of prints

Fashion and the uncomplicated enjoyment of a quick meal – probably two of the most indispensable things of our time that could not be more different. Maki Osakwe, Nigerian designer and founder of the fashion label Maki Oh, united these two themes in her Spring/Summer 2019 collection by taking memories of her home country for inspiration and translate it into the language of fashion.

After taking a break from New York Fashion Week, Maki Oh designer Amaka Osakwe is back in town. With her distinctive take on artisanal Nigerian fabrics, the Lagos designer has amassed a small but highly engaged fan base. In her time off, Osakwe found some much-needed headspace. She began to see the wants and needs of the globally minded, artistically inclined women who wear her clothes with fresh eyes.


After studying fashion studies at Arts University Bournemouth, Amaka “Maki” Osakwe launched her own label Maki Oh in 2010. In 2012 the designer was discovered in the US fashion scene. As one of a few African designers, she has presented her fashion regularly at New York Fashion Week. International stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna, as well as the style icon and former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama, are wearing the fashion of Maki Oh. International magazines such as the New York Times, Business of Fashion, Vogue and many more report about the designer. The fashion label shows strong cultural Identity and uses its designs as a channel for direct communication and telling stories that are shaped by cultural ties. The designer sees herself as a follower of the “Womanism”, not to be mixed up with the more common term of feminism. Dark-skinned women can often identify more with womanism, since the movement does not only deal with female equality but also with ethnic discrimination.

Traditional African elements with western silhouettes

Maki Oh stands for the combination of traditional african elements with western silhouettes, which is also evident in the “Buka Special” collection from spring 2019. Not only the chosen models but also the recurring prints that are hand-dyed with indigo colours refer to the traditional background and have a deeper meaning. These prints can be interpreted as the recognizable theme in all of Maki’s collections. Osakwe’s philosophy gives a look on classic ideals of beauty and at the same time a construct of responsibility, strength, and maintaining culture to create a complex simplicity in her looks.

The inspiration for the collection comes from Osakwe’s hometown. The so-called Bukas are small takeaway restaurants where you meet to spend the evening together. They are usually only run by women. Osakwe wants to show the strength of these women, who live in precarious positions, in her collection. The chosen materials and the design of the clothes through knots and gathers are allusions to the packaging techniques of the restaurants. Elements such as a slipdress in silk are worn with casual shirts combined with sporty sandals. Thereby acquire the necessary coolness factor and a fashionable simplicity. Statements on shirts like “Fresh Fish” create the connection between African street food and seem to be striking. The designer plays with cutouts and transparency to allow the skin to show up without making their creations too sexy.

She combines provocative elements with casual cuts and creates a balance between simple elegance and convenience. The collection deals with the dissolution of gender boundaries which is still a taboo topic in Nigeria today. By using divergent model types, such as Richie Shazam, who classifies himself as nonbinary, Maki Oh inserts more diversity and acceptance into the fashion industry.

African traditions + modern cuts

Maki Oh makes important statements on highly topical issues and draws attention to the life in Nigeria by referring to her cultural background. The label creates a mix of African traditions with the help of modern cuts interesting for the western world and gives the consumers an insight into the beauty of Africa. Because of her success at New York Fashion Week and the presence in international fashion magazines, Maki Osakwe reaches and appeals to a wide audience to transport her message to the world. “It was important for me to celebrate the full spectrum of society — after all, we all breathe the same air, eat the same food. ” – an important concept, that we should all become aware of.

MAKI OH @MONDO 2017 | POPDRUM | Music Party


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collaboration with MD.H Berlin | | fashion news by Alea Schonhardt and Meike Schallock