The IAMISIGO mission is to decolonise the mind thoroughly. Creative director Babu Ogisi finds little-known historical stories in remote African communities and applies these to fibres and garments, “as a form of silent protest to post and neo-colonialism”. Babu who is based between Lagos, Nairobi and Accra says: “All of my materials, props are sourced and created in Africa.”
By working with traditional and sustainable textiles, Babu keeps history alive but also passes on “information for the future through preservation of techniques and expression through matter”. Babu, who grew up in London and Paris, told Indie Mag that she harnesses the communicative power of clothes with every collection she produces”.
Her concern is not only with history and stories, but with the environment. Babu said at the time of her SS 2020 launch that we need to support Africa’s eco-system and find ways to change fashion’s unsustainable status quo.
The SS collection included garments made of bark cloth and recycled PVC. On the IAMSIGO’s Instagram account, bark cloth is described as “an ancient heritage fabric, created from the inner bark of the Mutuba tree found in Kampala, Uganda. The bark is peeled off and manipulated to get out strips to make straps; a process that entails beating, stretching and soaking of the fibres, making this one of the most sustainable fibres in the world.”
The work was done in collaboration with Ugandan-based bark cloth historian Fred Mutebi. Bark cloth is a connecting thread between past, present and future generations of Africans, while the recycled PVC guides us to reflect on the relationship between fashion, sustainability and waste and how this affects Africa’s eco-system.
IAMISIGO’s new AW20 collection, Chasing Evil, is about the exploitation of Congo. Through research in Bukavu and Kinshasa, Babu wanted to understand how a rich and strong country can use fashion to overcome post-war trauma, post-colonial exploitation and neo-colonialism. The press release explains that “Through indigenous spirituality, we discover a connecting link with the Congolese mystical idol Nkisi Nkondi, an aggressive fetish figurine commonly used to affirm oaths and to protect communities from evildoers and enemies. We find that the only way to chase evil is through unity across borders and truly believing in the works of our hands. Thereby examining the act of placing particular importance in physical appearance or dressing up as an act or form of a protection and in essence a fetish.”
With a strong reference to the colours and forms of the popular Congolese Sapeur sub-culture and Congolese raffia clothes, a distinguishing character of this collection is the use of many natural and textured surfaces. There is the dried palm leaf raffia from Congo and Nigeria woven with unbleached cotton from Uganda, as well as woven acrylic dyed yarn and cotton, and dyed recycled cotton and deconstructed recycled garments.
Below are some highlights from IAMISIGO’s AW20 collection, styled by Kenyan creative director and fashion curator Sunny Dolat.
Creative Direction: Babu Ogisi
Photography: Maganga Mwagogo
Stylist: Sunny Dolat
Model: Gabriella Duduh
Make up: Jamie Kimani
Jewellery: Brian Kivuti (using camel bone and recycled silver)