Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have a knack for blending fashion and art: either through dance and performance in their shows, photography and film in their campaigns or, music in their events. The founders of Opening Ceremony and the designers behind Kenzo’s renaissance in 2012 always make sure to surround themselves with talented and essentially cool people, people that allow them to constantly further their creative universe. Their latest venture is Gidi Gidi Bu Ugwu Eze or, Unity is Strength a photography and film project celebrating the indigenous Igbo communities of southern Nigeria.

Dressed in Kenzo’s collection for summer 2017, the Igbo youth compete in an inclusive beauty pageant – where ideas of perfection and beauty are nothing more than open questions to which all responses are invited. Styled by Ibrahim Kamara, photographed by Ruth Ossai and filmed by Akinola Davies Jr., the project is an ode to African belonging. “It’s about Nigerians telling their own stories,” explains Davies Jr. on the project. And these stories have now transported from middle Africa into Mayfair. Kenzo’s 31 Bruton Street flagship store is housing the large photography prints along with Unity is Strength on loop, and the brand’s new publishing project called Kenzo Folio – a quarterly publication devoted to highlighting inspiring stories. The first edition is an extension of Gidi Gidi Bu Ugwu Eze, one you can pick up in the store and take home with you.

Kenzo’s spirit of celebrating the variety of cultures in a global environment goes as far back as the 1970s, to the the early collections of its founder Kenzō Takada. With Lim and Leon, the brand has taken that idea and pushed it to the next level, yet they never confuse cultural representation for appropriation. It is equally about fashion as it is about culture and people, one is not an afterthought of the other. The clothes feel like a natural extension of the community they are representing. Gidi Gidi Bu Ugwu Eze is just a reminder – Kenzo is a global party.

The Gidi Gidi Bu Ugwu Eze (Unity is strength) is on display at the Kenzo flagship store, 31 Bruton Street, London W1J 6HH 2 until 10 May. Find out more about the project at kenzo.com/unityisstrength.

Text by Dino Bonacic

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