FAST 2023: ‘Haus of Utopia’ materializes Afrofuturism in aesthetic, modern collection
Chizaram Iwuanyanwu (left) and Bisola Amudipe (right) pose in an elevator opening. The two student-designers will be presenting their joint collection, “Haus of Utopia,” on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Bisola Amudipe and Chizaram Iwuanyanwu. Photo illustration by Isabella Lee/Illustrations director)
By Sanjana Chadive
May 25, 2023 9:10 p.m.
Bisola Amudipe and Chizaram Iwuanyanwu are embellishing the present with the future.
For their second Fashion and Student Trends at UCLA collaboration, designers Amudipe, a third-year pre-international development studies student, and Iwuanyanwu, a fourth-year psychobiology student, have curated the collection “Haus of Utopia.” Iwuanyanwu said the line revolves around Afrofuturism, an aesthetic that explores utopian theories, the fantastical and the reclamation of African culture. In alignment with this idea, many of the pieces are rooted in science fiction concepts, such as space and superheroism, she said.
“It’s (Afrofuturism is) a fantasy, so when it comes to our line, our pieces might be based on a space leader or a space goddess — something that is just futuristic,” Iwuanyanwu said.
Amudipe said she, along with Iwuanyanwu, chose to represent Afrofuturism on the runway because they wanted to explore a new creative avenue in their work. In the past, she said they had primarily designed outfits with ankara, a traditional African wax fabric defined by a vibrant color palette, for previous collections. However, this fabric type is a very minor detail in “Haus of Utopia,” Iwuanyanwu said. Instead, she said this year’s designs are characterized by mostly denim and iridescent organza fabric to provide a trendier, more modern flare.
“It’s like giving some pieces a new life, which is where the futurism comes in,” Iwuanyanwu said. “It’s like a future for those pieces.”
Both Nigerian, the duo aims to illuminate their culture through various means on the runway, Amudipe said. For example, she said one of the male models will be wearing a traditional agbada, a loose fitting robe which originates from the Yoruba tribe, where Amudipe is from. Additionally, she said models are set to strut to music rooted in Afrobeats. The tracklist includes “Everyday” by Wizkid, “Addicted” by Rema, “Amina” by Mavins, “Imagine” by Doja Cat and “Django Jane” by Janelle Monae, Amudipe said. The choice to use American artists was a purposeful one, she said, as it highlights the ever-present cosmopolitan influence of Africa.
When choosing models, Amudipe said she and Iwuanyanwu paid close attention to their walks. Feminine models, Iwuanyanwu said, who strided the stage with a slower, more sultry air fit the aesthetic of Afrofuturism. In contrast, she said she looked for a more directed and pointed walk in masculine models. Additionally, Iwuanyanwu said she also took note of what they wore outside of practice. For instance, prospective models who had an edgier style were more likely to showcase the pieces in “Haus of Utopia,” she said.
Fourth-year physiological student and model Dina Addis, who is originally from Ethiopia, said she is proud to be representing Nigerian culture. Set to don a green and white crochet dress reminiscent of the Nigerian flag, Addis said she is empowered whenever she puts her outfit on, as she can feel Amudipe and Iwuanyanwu’s passion sewn into their collection.
Furthermore, no two African countries, Addis said, are alike. For instance, she said Ethiopian garments are predominantly made from white fabric whereas Nigerian ones are crafted from more colorful materials. Nevertheless, as an immigrant, she said she empathizes with the designers’ sentiment about representing the rich diversity of their culture.
“It might be very hard to notice, but I hope they (audience) notice the integration of East Africa and West Africa,” Addis said. “Me – coming from East Africa representing and wearing a West African design – wearing their flag. I feel like that’s a very cool mix and if they recognize that, it would be a very important thing to me.”
As “Haus of Utopia” is her final FAST collection, Iwuanyanwu said she hopes audiences will understand the creative freedom she and Amudipe took with their collection while still incorporating elements of their culture. Furthermore, Amudipe said she wants people to perceive the American denim coupled with Ankara as an homage to both Africa and America. Ultimately, the unconventional, Afrofuturistic outfits signify how underrepresented communities must always put in extra effort to make their voices heard, she said.
“(It’s hard) just being able to stand out. … It’s definitely hard getting your voice across, so we definitely hope that this line speaks for itself as our past line has, but in a much more creative sense,” Amudipe said.