Having a passion for diverse cultures, female empowerment and sustainability, the founder of the slow fashion brand wants to popularise the fused style of African prints and Asian traditional costumes under the umbrella of conscious fashion consumption

Peacock-patterned prints on a ruffled cheongsam, hibiscus flowers on a multi-purpose kimono and a lion-dance inspired ruffled pants? Welcome to OliveAnkara's newest Afro-Asian Ajo Aye ‘21 collection.

Having launched on October 9, the Yorùbá name of the collection translates to ‘Colourful Journey’ in English and it serves as a continuation of the brand's oeuvre of bright and emphatic colours that are prominent in most African fashion.

As the slow fashion label's first sustainable, Afro-Asian fusion collection for women, the series aptly expounds upon the founder and designer Ifeoma Ubby's love for the environment, her passion for fashion from a diversity of global cultures and her mission to inspire women to celebrate female empowerment and bold femininity through her designs.

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Photo: Ifeoma Ubby/OliveAnkara
Above Photo: Ifeoma Ubby/OliveAnkara

Born and raised in Venice, Italy, Ubby’s love for African fashion blossomed early in childhood, for which her Nigerian family takes most of the credit. Within a tight-knit African community in Italy, she was exposed to the many facets of West African culture, from its traditions and folklore to the meaning behind its vibrant colours.

After moving to Singapore for a promising career in Molecular Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Centre, she decided to move into the world of fashion through the creation of OliveAnkara after noticing an absence of African culture in Singapore when she had trouble sourcing for an African dress for her wedding—where she combined her passion for fashion with a mission to expose more Singaporeans to the African style.

Whilst integrating her Italian background with her African ancestry in the name of her brand, she also seeks to incorporate Asian influences in this new collection as a point of connection and familiarity with the people of the continent she now calls home. She also aims to spread awareness about fashion's impact on the environment with her brand achieving a near zero-waste operation and the prioritising of pieces that are of quality and unique, rather than mass production, which ensures that her carbon footprint is kept at a minimum.

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Photo: OliveAnkara
Above Photo: OliveAnkara
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Photo: OliveAnkara
Above Photo: OliveAnkara
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Photo: Blue Ewa Naibu/OliveAnkara
Above Photo: Blue Ewa Naibu/OliveAnkara

As the 'Colourful Journey' collection tells the narrative of Ubby's West African heritage, Italian upbringing, and Asian journey thus far, her designs are a unique amalgamation of cultural footnotes of the world as they transcend the boundaries of geographic separation, and they unapologetically highlight the beauty in every culture and in every modern woman.

Working with textile designers, Hyun-Jin Yoo and Patrizia Bosisio, Ubby ideates fusion between elegant Japanese motifs and vivid Ankara styles and colours with two original prints in this collection: the Ewa Naibu and the Asa Hana.

The peacock of Ewa Naibu (Ewa: beauty in Yorùbá, Naibu: inside in Japanese) represents grace, freedom, love, dignity, and courage. The peacock in West Africa also serves as a reminder that nothing should be taken too seriously, to be present and stay centred on what “is”. Ewa Naibu draws on inner beauty with the seigaiha, a Japanese motif used to illustrate seas and oceans which signifies the incarnation of purity and the pliant simplicity of life.

Her Suijin Kimono dress appositely shows the harmony between cultures where the Ewa Naibu flows like the pure, undulating waves of water in Suijin. The afromono dress is kindled by the Japanese mythology surrounding the Shinto god, the benevolent divinity of water.

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Photo: OliveAnkara
Above Photo: OliveAnkara
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Photo: Green Asa Hana/OliveAnkara
Above Photo: Green Asa Hana/OliveAnkara

Spurred by OliveAnkara’s belief in enjoying beautiful moments of the present, Asa Hana (Asa: cultural in Yorùbá, Hana: blossom in Japanese) is a tale of two flowers, the hibiscus and the ginkgo, in which they symbolise the joy of happiness in a marriage, and are associated with fame, glory and wealth. The short-lived hibiscus flower is a metaphor for youth, fame, and beauty, and a nudge to enjoy life in all its aspects despite its ephemerality.

The different colours of Asa Hana also stand for various qualities: yellow flowers represent happiness and good luck, blue for knowledge, white blooms stand for purity and the female, while red symbolises love and passion.

This has in turn inspired the Guiying lion dance pants that is based on Mu Guiying, a legendary Chinese heroine known for her extraordinary martial arts and dedication to family and country. The symbolism of the Asa Hana print is further bolstered by the lion-dance style, as the ritual is performed to bring luck.

With the meaningful stories and legends behind each creation of the new collection, each print is reused and minimal waste is created as leftover prints are made into headscarves, headwraps, rings, bangles, face masks and bucket hats, thus reinforcing the brand's philosophy of alleviating our impact on Mother Earth.

The collection is available from October 9, 2021 at the OliveAnkara Showroom (#01-02, 79 Chay Yan Street, Tiong Bahru, Singapore 160079) and on their website.

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