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DURO OLOWU

“Ease doesn’t have to mean track pants.” Duro Olowu

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Duro Olowu is well known for dressing women in the art world. The muses he looks to for inspiration reflect the discerning tastes of his stylish clientele. This season he drew on the work of Françoise Gilot, who is perhaps most famous for being Picasso’s romantic partner, though the 97-year-old French painter, art critic, and author is a creative force in her own right. Olowu came across a recently reissued collection of her travel sketches, and her colorful impressions of India, Senegal, and Italy from the late ’70s and early ’80s informed his new collection. The soft pale blue and green tones of a belted cropped jacket and maxi skirt with gently ruffled hem were evocative of the faded yet glorious frescoes you find in Venice, a nice counterpoint to the rich, saturated palette that is Olowu’s signature. One particularly eye-catching coat in that series was spliced with panels of pale pink made from vintage interior fabric that Olowu came across on a trip to Lille, in northern France. It was upcycling done with a sophisticated hand.

The designer has been working a more graphic line into his repertoire of expressive prints lately too, and this season there was an array of micro-stripe motifs collaged to flattering effect along trench coats and bias-cut silk satin dresses. In addition to Gilot’s sketches, Olowu was also looking at the photography of Beth Lesser, especially her fantastic images of the Jamaican scene of the 1980s. The wide-leg suiting in primary colors and slouchy pajama sets had an attitude and sense of ease that was straight out of the dancehall.

Olowu is a master of mixed-media dressing, and for Spring there were several terrific examples to choose from, including a languid silk georgette frock tiered with several painterly floral layers. Beyond the familiar evening silhouettes, the new apron shape with double straps and pockets jutting out at the hip cut a striking figure. With its darkly romantic assemblage of brocades, the piece offered an arresting and modern portrait of a lady.