Founded by Frank Aghuno, Fruché is a Nigerian brand with a zany edge. Taking an artisanal approach, the ready to wear brand has garnered a reputation for fun and fanciable fashion. A fusion of contemporary silhouettes and Nigerian culture, saturated satins and experimental wrap-tailoring techniques have become a signature display in his collections. Aghuno debuted at Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2016 and continues to capture audiences locally and internationally to date. Most recently, at the Lagos Fashion Week 2018 where he unveiled his SS19 collection dubbed ‘Free Spirits’.
Free Spirits – The Inspiration
The collection was inspired by Benin City, the capital of Edo State, southern Nigeria. As a child, he would visit his grandparents (residents of Benin City) who would share stories about the Bini people and their culture. This later drew him to the work of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge, the first official photographer of the Royal Court of Benin in 1933. His lens captured everything from official ceremonies to rituals and events that illustrated how the upper echelon of society combined western and traditional bini attire. An important point of view, as most photography of Africans at the time was filtered through a non-African perspective. Alonge’s subjects, often free-spirited young men and women, chose how they would represent themselves in front of the camera.
By carefully selecting design details such as textures, colour palettes, embellishments and fabrics, aspects of Bini culture are represented. This includes coral beads (Ivie), copper (a natural resource in Bini), the wood grain Adire Eleko that represents the Bibi people’s wood carving skills and the burgundy hue; which was a traditional colour for velvet wrappers worn by Bini women.
Aside from everyday elements, Aghuno was also inspired by folklore. For example, shades of green and blue were derived from a popular Bini myth of the ‘Ikhimwin tree’. As stated in an article by Blanck Digital, the legend suggests that the world ‘was water and only a tree known as the ‘Ikhimwin’ tree stands on that water. On that tree lives a bird known as the ‘Owonwon’ (a double casqued hornbill bird).’ Green and blue is ued to represent the tree and water respectively. The brand worked with feathers to reference ‘Owonwon’, the bird of creation.
Fruché Earlier Collections
Culture isn’t the only design influence . The SS17 collection called Venusians was inspired by a new generation of powerful African women. The name of the collection was derived from John Gray’s book — ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’, which referred to the residents of Venus as Venusian. The brand explains, ‘Many science fiction writers have imagined what extra-terrestrial life on Venus might be like. We imagine a world dominated by women.’ It was further inspired by a quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asking us to dream of a fairer world. Hence the collection features a juxtaposition of strong feminine and masculine silhouettes.
On the other hand, their SS15 collection was inspired by Bastille, the British rock band. Aghuno mirrored the band’s ethereal vibe and their personal style sense to craft looks for men and women. Although the pops of neon and pastel contrasted with crisp white and curious silhouettes are enough to draw you to this collection, we like the idea that it was inspired by music. As African designers, there can be pressure to appear or attribute their work to something that screams that they’re ‘African enough’. When in reality, creatives shouldn’t confine themselves to anyone’s perspective or ideals. Added bonus, he collaborated with artist Fred Aghuno of Dricky Stickman, who painted and created the backdrops for the lookbook.
Fruché is a label that designs for the adventurous individual who knows who they are and what they want. Using wrapping technique to create unconventional shapes and silhouettes for everyday attire puts this designer on our ‘New Year New Loves’ list. Certainly, one design principle that he follows and we can all adapt into our creative spheres is creating our own paths. As he mentioned in an interview with My Spice TV, ‘You’re not all those people. You are you. Get off the beaten path, and create your own. If I’m not pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, I’m not really living.’