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Photo by Joshua Kissi, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

First Look: Kente Gentlemen’s Latest Collection, ‘Sodade’, is a Vivid Ode to Emotion

Ivorian designer Aristide Loua shares his newest, colorful kente threads with OkayAfrica.

Côte d'Ivoire's own Aristide Loua is the mind behind the brand, Kente Gentlemen. Launched in 2017, the brand's story is one of a young man who fell in love with kente—the traditional material native to the Akan ethnic group. Where kente cloth varies in design and patterns, Loua fittingly draws inspiration from poetry, cultures and colors. Having lived in Côte d'Ivoire, India and all over the United States, Kente Gentlemen is Loua's passion project that encompasses everything he has experienced in his travels.

"In such an interconnected world, Kente Gentlemen is a means to discover, value, celebrate, and foster our diverse sociocultural heritage and identities through fashion, aesthetics, photography and other visual arts," Loua says.


His collections are comprised of homegrown fabrics that are meticulously cut and sewn. There's a communal effort as hand-weavers, tailors, artisans and vendors work together seamlessly. Sodade, his latest Autumn/Winter 18-19 collection, forms a relationship between colors and emotions. "Each color is an emotion. Blue represents hope. Pink—romance. Yellow—happiness," he explains. "And the dark color speaks for sorrow, or despair." He examines the volatility of his emotions: "Sometimes I feel a bit of romance...other times, I feel hope for a bright future. I rejoice in happiness, even when my soul drowns in an ocean of sorrow."

The suit jackets, though dark, are distinguishable by flaps of bright colors for pockets and lining as a means of normalizing and accepting every emotion as it comes. Loua combats a society that attempts to dictate how we should feel, at any given time. He also affirms, "When you have the means or the luxury to wear exactly what you are and what you want in your life, your clothes become the reflection, the outlet of your being, of your personality, of your style, of your dreams and most certainly of your emotions."

Check out our favorite shots from Kente Gentleman's lookbook for Sodade below.

Photo by Alexandre Tako, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Photo by Alexandre Tako, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Photo by Joshua Kissi, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Photo by Joshua Kissi, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Photo by Joshua Kissi, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Photo by Joshua Kissi, courtesy of Kente Gentlemen.

Credits

Photography: Joshua Kissi + Alexandre Tako

Model: Nana Kwasi Wiafe

Art Direction/Styling: Aristide Loua

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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