Labrum London Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

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If you can chart a designer’s progress through the scale of their show venues, then Foday Dumbuya is on a trajectory to the top. From Brixton Village to the Four Seasons Hotel and now Tate Britain, where he presented his latest Labrum collection, Dumbuya is as calculated about the backdrop to his collections as he is about using fashion as an educational tool. He chose the Tate, he said, because it’s “an institution” and “the best place to tell a story about the history of migration.”

Dumbuya’s oft-repeated mantra of “British tailoring; West African flair” found new focus for fall in a show about borders. “My stories all have the same pattern in terms of migration, craftsmanship,” he said, “but now we felt it was time to celebrate immigrants, what they add to society, the vibrancy they’re bringing to culture.” In the first of a two-part series titled “Designed by an Immigrant,” Dumbuya looked at the clothes people wear to migrate, from the vessels containing bundles of clothing they balance on their heads to the caftans and capes they wrap around their bodies for protection. The British milliner Lucy Barlow had created custom hats woven from raffia to symbolize the pots, while dandyish men sported suitcases covered in the same exuberantly patterned fabrics as their two-piece suits. It was a visually arresting trick. But the suitcases acquired deeper significance for Brits in the audience at a time when a controversial government relocation treaty to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda is dominating the news cycle.

Cultural commentary aside, Dumbuya’s skill is in making smart silhouettes feel wearable for a generation that wants to look dapper, but not at the expense of comfort. Here, tailored suits with draped jackets were styled with slouchy pants and adidas sneakers, while bombers were given stiff collars and wide ribbed trims, paired with wide-leg pants. His casting was equally inspired: the England and Saracens rugby player Maro Itoje, whose family emigrated to Britain from Nigeria, opened the show. Not only did Itoje look the part in a collarless suit cross-hatched with a silk print of a British passport and assembled visa stickers, but he also has his own education initiative in Lagos.

That ties in with another Labrum mantra: patience. “Labrum is a 50-year plan,” Dumbuya said. “I wanna leave a legacy. In 50 years [from now] a kid from London or Sierra Leone will pick up something as a reference and think, ‘I look like him, there’s a chance I could be like him—or even be better than him.’ That’s where my mind is—I’m not really interested in the now.”

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