Despite the downpour outside Spring Studios, the vibe at Studio One Eighty Nine’s spring 2024 show was in a word: uplifted.
Together, native New Yorkers Abrima Erwiah and actress Rosario Dawson make up the design duo behind the African-influenced slow fashion label that celebrated a decade in existence on Sunday. The collection was aptly titled “Evolution: A Decade of Style & Sustainability.”
“I think we’ve only scratched the surface,” Erwiah said, in a backstage interview alongside Dawson. “Because of the way we do it really small and we do it person by person, obviously scaling is not as quick as it can be in terms of trying to make a a big impact. In terms of our potential and capacity, we’ve only just scratched the surface. I think we’re going up,” she said.
Dawson agreed and reflected back on the years of creation that have brought a whole host of collaborators along for the ride. “A lot of this season is about regeneration, rebirth and regrowth — coming from that space and stepping into the future,” she said. “Some of these kids were in the womb when we started. [It’s powerful to] see them now and how they’re growing and developing as models….We’re playing with new things. It has been fun for all the artisans to show where we’re at now, what we’re capable of and what we can take on.”
Artisan collaborators were pictured in a grid portrait as the show’s backdrop. The opening poem about Indigo’s spiritual purpose was read by V (formerly Eve Ensler, who wrote “The Vagina Monologues” in 1996) and a drumbeat of expressive dances were strung in as intermissions. The show equated to joy plus impact. Every detail was an opportunity to communicate a message, be it sounds of solidarity for 9/11 which occurred during fashion week 22 years ago, or the dancers’ subtle “vote” T-shirts.
Priorities were set on making utility fashion something museum-worthy, Erwiah said. Signature bold patterns, like the brand’s “The Crossroads Print” (a zebra print), marked a recurring theme throughout.
New electric colors, patterns and styles emerged in the same bold stroke in which the brand is known, always borrowing influence from Nigeria and Ghana. Cutouts and skin-baring options from racerback tanks to modern, cropped boxy silhouettes appeared in the signature hand-batik, artisanal woven cloth fabrics. Pattern play infused a sense of fun into utility sets and gave the impression that, really, anything goes. Models — of every age and background — exuded this sense of wardrobe freedom, dancing and smiling down the runway. Attendees tapped and grooved along to the music including mixes from Lion Babe, Los Rakas and more.
If there’s one takeaway, it’s to feel immense responsibility to reach for the boldest hideouts in one’s closet. Pair electric pink zebra stripes with jade-toned diamond trousers and white Docs. It all works.