Arriving at the Paris Tennis Club on March 2 for the Off-White fall-winter 2023-2024 fashion show, the guests took their places in a setting covered in ocher earth. Here, however, there is no allusion to a court where to work on his backhand… It is more the arid soil of Sierra Leone, his native country, than Ibrahim Kamara, new “director of art and image” of the brand, wanted to convene. The reminiscences of “slum” at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean where he grew up speaking Krio also influenced his creations.
The mossy expanses have mutated into unknit green waistcoats or jacquard coats; worn sheet metal or raw concrete, in dresses with tie-dye patterns; the beloved annual parade, this “sort of carnival” where his mother took him from the age of 4, emerges at the bend of a look, one of the strongest of the show: an aubergine and orange jacket-bermuda set, in a sport-couture spirit, zipped but completely embroidered with beads.
For the hard-working 33-year-old, this show is the first he’s been able to fully oversee as a clothing designer. And this, after ten years spent exercising his talents as a designer, that is to say, staging and composing a look with pieces imagined by others, both for major houses and in the fashion series of magazines (System, W, Vogue, but also M The magazine of the World, with which he collaborates occasionally). A lightning ascent that he evokes without misery, his ears pricked with naive curls in the shape of pink flowers. “The truth is that I was not aware of our poverty. I had a happy childhood. I played outside at night until 10 p.m. I was drawing. »
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Thirty years later, there is Ibrahim Kamara – who calls himself “Ib” – in charge of one of the most acrobatic missions in the contemporary fashion industry: to build legitimacy as a designer, without prior experience in design, and at the helm of the label founded by the American Virgil Abloh, a prolific and iconoclastic jack-of-all-trades, appointed in 2018 as head of men’s fashion at Louis Vuitton and struck down by cancer in 2021, at the age of 41. . The successor says in his soft voice that he did not hesitate for a second to accept the position: “It’s a lot of responsibilities but ones that I cherish. » After all, who better than him knew the ” way of thinking “ from Abloh? pleaded his defenders.
“V”, as he abbreviates Virgil, had asked him directly by Instagram, in 2020, to offer to help him as a stylist, both at Off-White and at Louis Vuitton – the LVMH group has been the majority shareholder since July 2021 up to 60% Off-White. Combine the right jacket with the right pants, compose a look that has that electrifying and photogenic je-ne-sais-quoi…
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