01 February 2011



I love textiles, mixing pattern, color, beautiful tailoring- it is no wonder that designer DURO OLOWU has captured my attention and imagination. His brilliant mix of all the above makes him one of the most uniquely creative designers today. I think of him as the independent filmmaker-no fitting a collection into a capsule and loading it up with whatever everyone else is got going, DURO is one of those ORIGINALS. I highlighted his Fall 2010 Collection and said;  All work of fashion designer DURO OLOWU is captivating, it is an artist inhabiting his craft at its highest.  Afterward, I found out DURO and his assistant were reading along here at little augury. I'm so glad DURO consented to answer some questions and allow me to give his design  philosophy the little augury slant with this interview.

Thanks Duro!

You've said-

“My job is not about dictating to women what they should wear, it's about presenting them with beautiful options.” 

When I look over your last four collections there is a continuum.  I love the sense of extending a wardrobe  from season to season-Your clothes feel like ART-Your clients are collecting. Do you agree?"

DO: It's funny you mention this because many women I meet at trunk shows etc tell me they 'collect' as opposed to buy my clothes.

 DURO OLOWU's photograph by Zete Marton courtesy of Duro Olowu

ALL Spring and Summer 2011 Collection photos by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

DO:Its rather interesting because when I am working I don't see the clothes as art. I work on making  each garment  functional and practical . Of course there is the fantastical/artistic element to many of the styles where I play with various fabrics and techniques as well as colour, applique etc.   

I suppose my aesthetic is what makes some people see the pieces as more than just clothes but also as visually stimulating pieces.

What or Who is inspiring you Now?

DO:Women I see everyday and everywhere, regardless of age. That innate sense of elegance , sensuality and grace that you find in certain women whether you are on a street in London,  Lagos , Rome,  New york or  Paris is terribly inspiring.

photograph by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

DO: I also like the fact that younger women have adopted a less obviously sexy style of dressing which is still flirtatious  but intelligent and strong. More mysterious and alluring. 

Of course textiles, art and music always make me play more with my ideas.

 The photographs of Roy Decarava, Erwin Blumenfeld and J D Ojeikere; 

paintings by  Mark Bradford and Alice Neel and  Hurvin Anderson 

Mark Bradford here

about Hurvin Anderson here 
image from here

Furniture and objects by Maria Pergay.

images from Demisch Danant here & from ID here

What movie could you watch over and over again for inspiration? You mention Romy Schneider in a Vogue video-Seriously gorgeous and marvelous on film. 

Who else in celluloid has influenced your design sense?

Mbissine Therese Diop in Ousamanne Sembene's  "Black Girl"

 Romy Schneider in "Innocents with dirty hands"

Abbey Lincoln in " The Trouble with Ivy"
 Diana Ross in "Lady Sings the Blues" 
Gena Rowland in "Gloria" and "Opening night, " Two weeks in Another Town" with Kirk Douglas and Cyd Charisse ( it was the follow up to the movie "The Bad and the Beautiful")
Stephane Audran in "La Femme Infidele"
Ruby Dee in "Raisin in the Sun"
Tilda Swinton in "Orlando" 

Luchino Visconti's  "Rocco and his brothers"

I can certainly see my Netflix queue expanding. Music also plays a part in your inspiration too. What were you listening when the Spring 2011 collection was being conceived ?

DO:Fela Kuti ( as always), Marian Anderson, Joao Gilberto, Peggy Lee , Janelle Monae , the John Adams soundtrack to the film "I am Love"  and Donny Hathaway.
Your clothes are spirited, but there is a serious element to them as well. Who shaped your design aesthetic?

DO: So many people and places from my earliest childhood days until now have and continue to influence my aesthetic. I don't feel you can develop and maintain a strong aesthetic without somehow taking all of the circumstances of your life, both past and present,  and making them relevant to the future. 

(DO)You really don't quite know where you are  going when designing a collection until you can put your finger on  where  you are coming from.  So for instance, my fabrics are designed usually referencing my memories of prints and colors worn by people around me while growing up as well as the interiors of cultures and places I know well or am eager to discover.(DURO OLOWU Fall 2009 style.com)

On that note, Do your homes reflect the same fusion of styles your designs do? 

DO:In many ways yes. London much more so because I have lived here for a while  tend to move things back and forth between my studio and our home. So furniture, fabrics, books and objects are very present in the flat because I have a tendency to "find" things".  In New York we have a much larger space in Harlem and my wife usually gets the chance to edit things before they get past the doorman which really helps keep me in check !

I know you have named Yves Saint Laurent as a designer you most admire, Why?

DO:When I was growing up women really wore YSL rive gauche. It was accessible yet desirable ,not just an expensive bourgeois pret a porter label. It was also very well made.  Women wore it because they were attracted to his vision and felt the clothes were designed with them in mind, to help them feel beautiful and independent.  And his sense of colour was masterful and free. He was also,  perhaps along with Paco Rabanne, one of the  first designers to use many black and asian models in high fashion both on runway and in editorial . 

YSL & muses, and Saint Laurent rive gauche ads featuring IMAN

(DO)The world of international chic he captured has always been very inspiring and important to me. Each time I see someone in vintage YSL they carry the same aura. 

(DO)I feel that is part of my job as a designer; to try and create recognizable collections  that people will find alluring.  It confirmed what I have always felt about life, fashion and inspiration. 

 "Beauty and style come from everywhere and travel well ." 

Spring and Summer 2011 Collection photos by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

Personally, you must want to dress creatively. I see some Men's Wear in you Spring collection, are they unisex? I would totally wear those great shirts.  Is there more of that to come in the next collection? What labels  do you wear

DO:One tries to dress creatively but it is getting more and more difficult. I don't really buy known labels as much as I did a few years ago  because many have started to make clothes that are too of a season. Once you hit 40 you want to look interesting but smart. So I tend to mix up my older Margiela clothes with suits I have made and my own label shirts or with those from Huntsman , J Crew or  Harvie and Hudson. When I am in Lagos I also  wear my traditional yoruba top and pants (buba and sokoto) made by my fathers tailor in guinea brocade, ankara or dutch wax fabrics . I have also have started wearing Bass Weejuns and Sebago loafers again because they are super chic and super comfortable on any continent, with or without socks.

I love color, You love color! Do women really crave it and aren't they a little afraid of it? 

 S/S 2011 Collection
images from style.com

DO:Women embrace color if it is presented in a natural way. Even the most vibrant clashes of color or juxtaposition of print needs to be flattering and light to be able to wear it with confidence. And this is the thing - Confidence. It's really what makes the hues come alive. It helps to have an emotional connection with color and print.

Michelle Obama wearing DURO OLOWU

I've read the sunglasses print is your own, other prints are vintage and limited? Talk a bit about your fabric selection process? Do you start with a design that sends you off in a particular direction with fabrics,  or Do you find a fabric that sends you off to the designs?

Spring and Summer 2011 Collection photos by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

DO:I start with a design that generally sends me off in a particular direction. For SS/2011 I was really looking for ways to evoke a feeling of clarity and confidence for the kind of woman that wears my clothes.  An old magazine with a  cover by Penn I found in Portobello market featuring an assemblage of sunglasses somehow inspired the more  graphic spectacles print I designed for next season. A sort of National Geographic take on crisp urban chic .

That idea of "urban chic" pervades this collection. You are showing black. Why do you think so many women "fall back" on wearing black? That said-the black suit in your Spring collection is one of my two or three favorites- very chic.

Spring and Summer 2011 Collection photos by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

DO:Black is a safe option for women. I think it looks very good  in the summer, especially  on sharply tailored pieces ( like the silk shantung peplum jacket, swing skirt and cropped trousers in my spring collection) accessorized with statement jewellery or accessories. But the predominance of black over the last few years may have been a reflection of a state of mind in the world. Perhaps  a fear of emotion and passion. 

Spring and Summer 2011 Collection photos by Hermano Silva - courtesy of Duro Olowu

DO:Things have changed a lot now and colour and print have come to the fore in a very interesting way. Before women waited to go on holiday to somewhere hot to wear prints and colour as an escape. Now Rain or shine, summer or fall , you see women in print and colour a lot in North Armerica and Europe because  they need the same sense of  joie de vivre regardless of where they are. 

The heritage and authenticity of your brand is evident, what is next for DURO OLOWU?

DO:I am very excited about my Masons Yard boutique  in London's St James's which is going very well so  am looking to perhaps opening a similar  space in New York soon. Also developing the menswear collection and my furnishing textiles as well as a small collection of handbags. I would also like to collaborate more with certain artists whose work I admire like Juergen Teller with whom I worked as fashion director on two projects for TANK magazine and SELF SERVICE magazine. 

"It's a choice for immediate, fleeting success or long-lasting work and success. And I chose the second"

NY Mag Mark Bradford here
NYTimes Roy DeCarava here
Erwin Blumenfeld here
JD Ojeikere here
Duro's Spring 2011 Collection at style.com here
Video with Duro at Vogue here
DURO at Vogue on Abraham fabrics here



  1. Fabulous post!!! I enjoyed the fashion, the movies..the clothes are stunning

  2. FABULOUS interview - great questions answers and fashion. And oh that necklace!

  3. What brilliant clothes and fabrics. I must confess I had never heard of Duro, and after reading this post I am now a convertee!

  4. Fabulous post, one I will keep returning to, his work is amazing. Thank you.

  5. So refreshing. I absolutely love his colours and prints - the way he mixes them is really fresh. More importantly, and as Michelle Obama illustrates, women of any age could wear many of these outfits. The skirt length isn't too short, the length of pants is discreet yet playful. He does remind me of vintage YSL and it doesn't get any better than that. I'll spend more time on this post and go through the videos. I'd never heard of him before but now will look to him for inspiration. Great post!

  6. He really has his pulse on a new look. I see a discipline to his colorful masterpieces from all the inspirations he gathers around him when he is creating and that is true genius. This is a terrific coup for you as well little a. Well done.A.

  7. Dear Gaye, what fabulous prints! I'm in love with the first two. The vintage YSL shots are stunning too xx

  8. Absolutely phenomenal post! So much good stuff here that I shall have to digest in bites, as taking it all in at once is causing me head to spin!!

  9. Great interview... and usual superb augmentation from little augury

  10. A wonderful interview - fabulous images too!

  11. The more I study Duro's work the more exciting it is- the classic lines with the fusion of fantastic fabrics. the "chinoiserie" silver skirt is inspired! thanks for the great comments. I love featuring special talent and glad to make the introduction to those who are New to Duro.-Gaye

  12. How amazing! Duro is so talented and charming. You've created a great weave here Gaye... just a wonderful post about such a star. Love his work! Kudos to you for selecting the perfect examples of his inspirations.

  13. Wondering if he needs a model. A 50 year old model.
    I would happily be a muse or guinea pig. What gorgeus international clothing. Color, patterns and cut.

  14. Barbara and Patricia, I do think these clothes because of the simplicity of line work perfectly for US. The shifts, the long gowns- fantastic. I so glad you like and Patricia- the "international" puts it well.

  15. Incredible post. I applaud how DURO OLOWU draw inspiration from women of all ages and from all stages of his life. What a remarkable man. He may not think his clothing is art, but it truly is. You've also attributed to my ever growing Netflix list as well. Thank you, a joy to read.

  16. Easily one of the most exciting and insightful interviews I've ever read. Duro Olowu is magnificent. Love, love, love! Very nicely done!

  17. What talent! enjoying your blog very much. Thank you!

  18. keep up with his latest at NY Fashion week coming up - http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/daily/110210-duro-olowu-at-new-york-.aspx

  19. All new to me and the designer is in a league of his own especially in this day and age. This is a great interview by the way.



Related Posts with Thumbnails