Fashion Unpicked: couture ensemble by Imane Ayissi

Join Senior Curator Christine Checinska as she examines couturier Imane Ayissi's striking raffia-trimmed fuchsia ensemble.

Comprised of silk palazzo trousers and a satin cape fringed with luxuriously long, pink-dyed Madagascan raffia, this ensemble creates a mesmerising sound when worn. Rectangular in shape, the cape is ingeniously draped around the back and shoulders, creating an elegant, fluid shape.

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The ensemble is part of Ayissi's Mbek Idourrou collection, designed for Autumn/Winter 2019. Translating as 'he or she who wears a garment that is impressive', the saying references the idea that clothes reflect not only the social status of the wearer, but also the success of their community. With this collection Ayissi explored the role of volume in creating presence, taking inspiration from the Sengalese grand boubou (rectangular piece of fabric folded in half with a neck opening), and Japanese kimono.

Model wearing fuchsia pink satin trousers, and fuchsia pink cape with raffia trim
Mbeuk Idourrou collection, by Imane Ayissi, Autumn/Winter 2019, Paris, France. © Photo Fabrice Malard. Courtesy of Imane Ayissi

Born in Cameroon in 1969 to champion boxer Jean-Baptiste Ayissi Ntsama and Julienne Honorine Eyenga Ayissi – the first Miss Cameroon, Imane Ayissi founded his eponymous label in Paris in 2004. Known for his glamorous collections which mix beautiful textiles from the continent with classic French couture techniques and silhouettes, his pieces have been worn by names such as Zendaya and Angela Bassett. His designs sit at the crossroads of fashion systems, connecting Africa and its global diaspora alongside artisanal craft-making and haute couture. He illustrates that African fashions are beyond definition, and that creatives can – and do – choose their own paths.

Man wearing black hat and black shirt, styling a model wearing a light pink voluminous dress
Imane Ayissi styling a model. © Fabrice Malard

Showcasing, under the golden crown moulding of a Parisian building during Haute Couture Week, luxurious contemporary garments made of textiles woven by artisans in Cameroon, Ghana or Nigeria is for me the best way of showing that African know-how is just as sophisticated and as valuable as artisanship in the rest of the world.

Imane Ayissi, 2021
Header image: Fabrice Malard / Courtesy of Imane Ayissi