July 8, 2021


He drew his first dress with a stick in the sand in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He shook the plants, rinsed the roots to make wigs. In his hands, the branches of the trees became arms, legs. Imane Ayissi says he always loved “touching, dressing, disguising” and that “everyone was entitled to my draping, even if this was with plastic or market bags.” Now a dressmaker, this former model and dancer organises his woven choreography: cutting, sewing, speaking with the materials that he guides with his fingers — Kente from Ghana, bark from Uganda, or recycled plastic sequins. As a tool, the fingers become a verb with a princely allure.

In his hands, even the most rustic materials gain aura, — “strengths”. He smoothes his “raffia whips”, gives them a shape, combs them with his fingers, steams them, “until they sing”. This gazar that “flees” and “moves” — he controls the stitches, without breaking anything, without freezing anything. And if the fabrics also gave themselves the hand? This is the theme of this haute couture collection, called “Madzang”, the word for a friend, a loved one. The one you care about. We forget the distance imposed by this crisis; empathy is there. Embracing between two sheaths: one in unbleached cotton, the other in flowing silk ebony with buttoned boots. While two capes become blood sisters, two tuxedos offer a couture hug. All exercises in style in the form of a lesson of gestures. In this head-to-head between straight lines and flou — this North-South confrontation — it is a whole world that Imane Ayissi adores, embraces. That of the craft, the Esperanto of the hands. @laurencebenaim

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