One of the best press previews I attended last autumn, when spring seemed like an impossibly distant dream (frankly, it still does), was for ASOS.com. Over the past few seasons the giant retailer has been producing some really rather lovely stuff (like my jazzy straw T-bar heels), while also supporting young designers and helping them launch their own lines.
I particularly loved the pieces I saw in the ASOS Africa range. I should say now that, being of an excessively literal nature, every time I think about this collection, I get Toto’s "Africa" stuck in my head. All day. So if this happens to you, I apologise (unless you’re a fan of Toto, in which case -- you’re welcome!)
ASOS Africa (“gonna take a lot to drag me away from yooo…”) sits within the Green Room on the site; this is an online marketplace that collates brands that are both people and environmentally friendly. The clothes are produced in collaboration with Soko, which enables communities in Africa to build sustainable businesses through local craftsmanship. £5 (about $8) from each ASOS Africa piece sold goes directly to the construction of workshops and is matched by a £5 donation from the ASOS Foundation.
Which is all very admirable, but what about the clothes? Well, this season they’ve exceeded themselves with traditional Kitenge prints made exclusively for ASOS Africa in Mombasa, quirky illustrations and a bold colour palette (acid green, turquoise, lilac). I love it when traditional motifs get jazzed up -- we saw this in Tatty Devine’s folk-rave Spring/Summer Mexican collection and it’s really engaging.
Do trousers get any jazzier* than this Mombasan print pair, £40? I think not. Try with a grey T-shirt, flat leather sandals and a stack of chunky bangles.
You would have to have a heart of STONE to resist a shirt with giraffes embroidered on it.
I spent my childhood in Africa so I’ve always had a soft spot for the brilliantly vibrant fabrics that are decorated with graphic -- almost cartoony -- prints and worn twisted into sculptural headdresses and wraps by women on special occasions. On a grey, drizzly day in London, when I see those bolts of material being sold in Petticoat Lane market, I’m transported back to that dusty, sun-baked place. If you shy away from wishy-washy florals, but still want to hop on the print bandwagon this season, ASOS Africa is definitely a winner.
Because I am eager to please, I have put all the prices in dollars, as ASOS ships globally. See the complete collection at Asos.com
*In my world, adjectives like "jazzy" and "jolly" are a Good Thing. This rule may not apply to (any) other fashion editors.