WHAT better way is there to inject warmth into summer fashion than to infuse it with the colours of Africa?
This style recipe seemed to have worked incredibly well for New York-based, Malaysian-born designer Zang Toi, when he sent out ensembles inspired by Morocco for his Spring 2000 collection. Now, he has once again brought out his artisan’s palette and coloured mesmerising hues onto his new Spring-Summer 2006 creations shown recently during the Big Apple’s Olympus Fashion Week.
Aptly called Africa ... the land of great beauties, his show at Bryant Park saw audiences jump on for a thrilling imaginary ride into the heartland of the subcontinent.
To the beat of jungle drums and the growling of tigers and lions, Toi sent out a line of mainly African models clad in clothes of breathtaking, jewel-like hues and ethnic accessories inspired by tribal women and the colours of the African sunset.
The tell-tale tag of the clothes leaves little doubt as to what inspired the range: “ I visited South Africa in July and stayed at the Royal Malewane Safari Lodge (in the Thornybush Game Reserve, the heart of Southern Africa’s Big Five territory) and also Johannesburg.
“It was really the land of great beauties ... gorgeous African women, the safari land, the birds, butterflies and wild orchids, native jewellery and gem stones and, of course, the aristocratic British colonial influences,’’ Toi says.
No surprises, then, that the collection takes on the hues of Africa’s vast plains – brown, beige, coral and khaki – and these are juxtaposed with vivid detailing in bright colours that dress up the pieces.
And, just to make sure that all this colour doesn’t get a little too much, the designer masterfully offsets the colours with lots of ivory and black.
“The colour black will be a key trend for Spring 2006,’’ Toi says.
On the mellow side, there are safari suits in neutral ivory-coloured linen and silk strewn with hundreds of beads, coral-hued cardigans, his signature twin sets dressed up with coloured feathers and dramatic silk floor-length caftans in khaki.
Toi then takes a walk on the wild side with sexy cocktail dresses and billowing gowns befitting the Queen of Sheba, with bibs of rubies and amethysts, strings of colourful tribal necklaces and violet-coloured African orchids.
“My favourite look is what I called ‘The Goddesses of Africa’. The model wears a khaki and black silk chiffon ombres gown draped with native inspired beaded necklaces.
“Also, I love the three black woven raffia gowns and mini dresses encrusted with rubies, amethysts and emeralds,’’ the designer says.
His newest collection boasts the same kind of glamorous sensuality that always earns him post-show rave reviews, and it was no different this time round.
The Daily Front Row said that the famously flamboyant designer pulled off a show that could be labelled as “performance art”.
The Daily Fashion Report commended the designer on beautifully tailored clothes that were “seemingly moulded to the body’’. Its writer Marilyn Kirschner said: “One of the best groups ... I guess you could call it safari black tie ... featured a beautiful ivory silk chiffon blouse with exaggerated and elongated cuffs worn with raw silk trousers, and a raw silk princess skirt with organza lace inserts worn with a black wool cashmere twin set.’’
The most obvious thing about this range was perhaps the distinct Hollywood touch that Toi weaved into the ethnic range – any one of them would look right at home on the big stage on Oscar night. And that is exactly how the designer would want it.