In times where diversity remains a topic of discussion most especially in fashion, South African brand Mille Collines takes a stand with their new AW17 Collection: We Become One.
Shown at Salt River Studios, Cape Town, on 7 April 2017 as part of African Fashion International (AFI) – Official Page MercedesBenz Fashion Week Cape Town, the collection is a proof that diverse cultures and creative expression can produce a harmonious whole. A good example comes from the founders – Ines Mille and cofounder and creative director Marc Collines moved from Spain to set up shop in Kigali, Rwanda, before relocating to Cape Town and joining forces with Kenyan designer Namnyak Odupoy.
“In a world where differences are increasingly emphasised and where people are divided and separated, it seemed fitting to celebrate the rich beauty that comes from combining many different influences. We wanted to celebrate the fact that, despite parochial thinking in some quarters, the world is becoming more of a mélange every day,” says founder and director of mille collines, Inés Mille. “Therefore the theme for this collection is ‘we become one’.”
With social, political and economic imbalances we see in the world, the collection comes at such a great moment as a reminder that we do become one.
“This collection takes its inspiration from the Swahili that live along Africa’s east coast. We were especially drawn to the fact that the Swahili culture is made up of African, Persian and Arab influences expressed in the wood carvings in their architecture, the colourful kanga they wear and their natural woven hats and carpets,” says Collines. “It is an example of how the world is coming together and how new interpretations of culture are coming alive today.”
Milles Collines collection is essentially simple from the outset. Yellow, blue and grey play key roles in the presentation bringing everyday comfort and harmony with a strong African influence. The collection is relaxed and flowy but not careless. Inspired by coastal breeze, the fabrics are predominantly crepes, matt satins and cottons contrasted with layers of heavier cotton knit jacquard. Taking their cue from the vibrant kanga designs, the tunic and shirt dresses, knitted jackets and relaxed trousers are more colourful than previous ranges. Lively prints offset neutral fabrics like the intricate wood carvings that adorn the Lamu architecture and touches of bold banana yellow and turquoise evoke the colours of the sea and beach.
Mille collines fans will be happy to know that their typical monochrome and neutral shades of grey and sand are there too and live alongside the new vibrant blue and green designs with bold prints. The prints were done in collaboration with Japanese designer Tomoko Kotsuji who has been working on the continent and particularly in Kenya and Senegal. Her Japanese influence has brought a whole new element and restrained character to traditional Swahili kanga designs.
The new range of extra-large Maxi straw hats were conceived and created by Crystal Birch, designer, stylist and milliner extraordinaire. “We love her creativity and how she is pushing the limits of headgear with innovative shapes, proportions and materials,” says Mille. The show opened with a range of flowy, printed dresses in very fresh colours accessorised with Birch’s hats. In a further nod to East Africa, the hats appeared styled together with draped fabrics as head coverings, evoking the Islamic dress and culture of the region.
All models wore sneakers from spree.co.za, which brought a street feel to the collection and is in line with mille collines’ urban character and the designers’ commitment to creating wearable, practical ready-towear fashion.
The garments, accessories and jewellery will be released in a series of capsule collections with the first becoming available immediately after the show and the last in May 2017. The collection will be available at mille collines’ stores in Nairobi, Kenya as well as online at millecollinesafrica.com
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Photography credits: Jonx Pillemar
Show producer: Deon Redman Creative Production