Haute Couture For Black People

Loza Maleombho brings a contemporary spin to traditional African craftsmanship creating Black haute couture.

Raised between Abidjan and Washington, D.C., Brazilian-born Loza Maleombho injects cosmopolitan dash into native Ivorian designs with her haute couture eponymous ready-to-wear and accessories collections.

Vibrant hues, musk constructions and pattern and fabric play are part of the identity of the label, which was founded in New York. With her workshop now based in the Ivory Coast, the award-win­ning designer is making it her mission to provide local sustain­able development there.

EBONY magazine puts a spotlight on the gifted couturier, who highlights our resplendent cultural bearings in a bold way.

What differentiates your brand from others?

My label is original in the sense that it bridges Ivorian traditions with modern haute couture. The sil­houettes celebrate the paradox of the old and the new and the different cultural and traditional elements, but more specifically, the synergies, the contradictions and similarities between Ivorian tribal aesthetics and New York’s urban fashion. The Ivory Coast counts 60 ethnicities/tribes to draw inspiration from, and the streets of New York are a melting pot that offer an open mind to any trend possible in fashion—which is enough mate­rial for me to create countless monographs between the two.

You’ve talked about trying to change the narrative on Afri­can fashion. How so?

The philosophy of the brand hangs on one quote by Theo­dore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” To me, this dictum, which ripples down from the conception of my collection to its production process, means any challenge or constraint that may limit our ability to progress is an opportunity to be creative. We work with artisans who have mastered their craft for generations and find ways to communicate their trade to the new set, with fashionable items that arc on trend. By creating a bridge between African fashion and the world, we’re spreading the traditional values of the continent on a global scale.

Let’s discuss your late 2016 and early 2017 collections, which were an ode to Queen Pokou, the legendary Ivorian queen who ruled over a fac­tion of the powerful Ashanti tribe.

Queen Pokou was also founder of the Baule tribe. I am part Ashanti on my mother’s side, and I noticed during my re­search there weren’t many representations of our notorious queen, so I decided to create my own modern interpretation of her. For my autumn-winter 2016 presentation, I used a real Ashanti crown and jewel, with other tribal hints such us kente cloth, handwoven by artisans. For the spring-summer 2017 collection, I expanded the concept further by employing Baule-inspired tribal masks and mixed wax prints with organza to continue my exploration of the regal yet urban stylization of the African empress.

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