Monday, March 4, 2024

Duro Olowu Launches New Exhibition & Book, ‘Making & Unmaking’

This weekend, top Nigerian-Jamaican designer Duro Olowu has opened a new exhibition and launched a book – both titled “Making & Unmaking”.

Though showcasing creativity and style, the UK-based, Lagos-born designer’s makes another move from fashion and towards art, with this latest show following his 2014 exhibition and pop-up boutique, entitled “More Material”  which showcased the artists’ eclectic collection of African art, textiles and printed designs.

A look inside the 2014 exhibition "More Material"
A look inside Duro’s 2014 exhibition “More Material”

It was at a talk Mr Olowu lead at the Tate in London, that Camden Art Centre director Jenni Lomax approached the designer to curate another show – Duro explaining to W Magazine;

“‘Sure,’ I thought. Thinking it would just be a small thing in one of their little galleries.”

In actual fact, the show takes over the entire building as part of the centre’s annual artist-curated exhibition, which Duro is the first fashion designer ever to produce.

Under Duro’s direction, 60 artists, including painters, textile designers, photographers and sculptors are in showcase, with Yinka Shonibare MBE, Chris Ofili, Kehinde Wiley, Grace Wales Bonner and Ibrahim El-Salahi among in the lineup.

Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare
Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare MBE

The designer, who counts Beyonce and Michelle Obama as clients, and style icon Iris Ipfel as a friend (the creative describing Duro as “a renaissance man” who is “intellectual and street-smart”), explained to W;

“The show isn’t about artists who use textiles, it’s about seeing an artists’ process. It’s balancing a tension from a ritualistic practice. So many artists I admire do that. I see what their process is.

"Cordes Sauvages/Hidden Blue" by Sheila Hicks (2014)
“Cordes Sauvages/Hidden Blue” by Sheila Hicks (2014)

It’s like that whole ritual of weaving; it’s very personal – almost like a chant. I wanted to imbue the space with that.”

Speaking of his work, 50-year-old Mr Olowu tells of his parents’ experience in coming to London in the ’50s – his mother hailing from Jamaica and his father from Nigeria, and joining hundreds of thousands of migrants who made up the ‘Windrush Generation’ following the Second World War.

Oluwu explained;

“When these guys came to England all they had was the way they presented themselves. There was such a sense of pride, nothing out of place. That’s what interests me – it’s not fashion, it’s culture.

"Open Letter" (1958) by Anni Albers
“Open Letter” (1958) by Anni Albers

I always want people to look at my work and have an idea of what was going on in other aspects of life.”


Alongside the exhibition, an accompanying book, also titled Making & Unmaking has been published by the Camdem Arts Centre and Ridinghouse, and includes an evaluation of works ranging from the 1920s to present day.

For the tome, Duro has selected material by over 70 artists for discussion, including textiles, paintings, sculptures, photography and collage, on which Mr Olowu reveals his thoughts on their shared themes of gender, race, beauty, sexuality and the body.

Untitled work by Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, from the "Musclemen series" (2012)
Untitled work by Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, from the “Musclemen series” (2012)

Speaking of his own work in fashion, which has been much-loved since he launched his eponymous label in 2004, Mr Olowu said;

“I don’t think I need to rebel to make a point – I think I need to do what I do well.

Fabric is the most important thing. I design my own textiles, which are all made in England or Italy, and then I add in a rare vintage fabric into the design.

A look from Duro Olowu's Spring/Summer'16 collection lookbook
A look from Duro Olowu’s Spring/Summer’16 collection lookbook

I like very contemporary things, but I also appreciate things that were made in a certain period that haven’t dated, because that’s really hard to do.”

To get an up close look at the creative’s eye, we at SPICE suggest you attend the exhibition before it closes on September 18th 2016.

There is also a range of talks and events available to attend throughout its duration, though the collection of artwork Duro Olowu has curated is reason enough to head to the “Making & Unmaking exhibition”, should you be in London this Summer.

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