Loza Maléombho: The Future is Fashionable and Cross-Cultural – ADJOAA
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Loza Maléombho: The Future is Fashionable and Cross-Cultural

Loza Maléombho is named after its founder because there are no words to describe the multicultural, avant-garde and eclectic fashion that Loza Maléombho produces. The design of each shoe, belt and garment is influenced by Maléombho’s traditional cultural influences and modern styles, which redefines the future of fashion. 

The future is what Loza Maléombho is all about. When talking about the story of this extraordinary brand, there’s discussion about the past but also how they fit in a modern context. Knowledge handed down through the generations provides the building blocks that allow us to create a future. In exchange, cultural knowledge and fashion is kept alive. Maléombho is aware of this context to create a futuristic brand that is a fusion of cultures and of tradition and modernity, creating a unique African fashion brand. 

These influences include African cultures from precolonial West African history that caught Maléombho’s interest, like the Akan, Ashanti and Dahomey Amazon peoples. These different cultural groups lend a similar sense of empowerment to Loza Maléombho’s work. Royalty and warships lend their strong influence to fashion designs through bold use of colour, motifs and the cut of the material itself. One recurring motif that has become symbolic of Loza Maléombho  and of female empowerment in particular, is the Baoulé (also known as Baule) mask. The Baoulé mask originated from the Baoulé people who are of Akan and Ashanti origin and came to Côte d'Ivoire from Ghana under the leadership of Queen Awura Pokou. The Baoulé mask itself is small, made of bronze and depicts a feminine face. It’s a celebratory motif that is meant to represent joyous times and union in the Baoulé community. But for Maléombho and her designs, where the Baoulé mask always appears in gold, it also represents the union of past, present and future. 

Considering the history and symbolism of the Baoulé mask, it’s only natural for Maléombho to choose it as a recurring motif in her label, as a champion of female empowerment and unity. It shows that Maléombho’s community and cultural values are present throughout the brand, from the production process to the final product. Through a Loza Maléombho work, empowerment is embodied. 

But how did this combination of influences come about? And what sparked Maléombho’s interest in pre-colonial African histories? Maléombho was born in Brazil but spent most of her childhood between Côte d'Ivoire and the United States. These cultural influences helped foster an appreciation of global perspectives, colour and how different perspectives can contribute to create one beautiful vision.  

Maléombho’s journey through the fashion world included graduating from the University of the Arts of Philadelphia and internships with established fashion designers in New York. Then in 2009, Maléombho launched her self-titled brand and moved the brand to Côte d'Ivoire in 2012. Moving back to Africa once again sparked Maléombho’s interest and she began doing her own research into precolonial history and customs The move also meant Loza Maléombho could work directly with a culture that has given her so much inspiration over the years. Maléombho’s fashion brand became a driver of positive social change and through the label, she has been able to empower young women from troubled backgrounds in Abidjan by providing meaningful training and employment opportunities. These include supporting gender equality and a fair living wage for those involved in the creation of such wonderfully inspired fashion. In addition to this, Maléombho also frequently collaborates with local jewellers and artisans to craft beautiful accessories, which helps to create a thriving artistic community. 

It’s only natural that a globetrotting fashion designer becomes internationally renowned. Solange Knowles has spotlighted Loza Maléombho as an inspiring brand and designer. In 2020, she also wore Loza Maléombho at ESSENCE Black Women in Music. Another milestone for Maleombho helps the brand come full circle in a way. Loza Maleombho is a label inspired by the triumphs of African history and a strong and determined queen. So it was only natural that a Queen of Black music would gravitate towards such fierce and innovative ideas: Beyoncé. In 2020, Loza Maleombho made a custom monochrome outfit for Beyoncé, which featured in Black is King. A fitting combination considering the strong themes of royalty and empowerment in Maléombho’s work. Baoulé masks make an appearance in Beyoncé’s outfit via the buttons and front tails. Besides the endorsement from the Knowles sisters, Loza Maleombho has been featured in Vogue UK, Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bazaar and much more. 

So, what’s next for Loza Maléombho? Well, she’s already making the right moves and making waves with her innovative ideas. She already has been mentioned as a favourite to dress Black Panther stars, and thrived during 2020, a time when many fashion businesses were trying to stay afloat. The endurance and drive of  Loza Maléombho will no doubt carry her to great heights. One of those values is creating a fashion brand that contributes to a greater purpose. 

In a Vogue interview Maléombho said, “It was important for me to have a higher purpose than just creating a clothing line.” Giving back to communities and contributing to socio-economic development turns fashion into a sustainable way of life. In a world where fashion gets a bad reputation for worker exploitation and being derivative, brands like Loza Maléombho give hope that the industry can change for the better.

New Year, new beginnings, start the year right with your best foot forward, in these sustainably stylish and comfortable shoes and more luxury finds from Loza Maléombho! 

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