Nnadi by Nature

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  • Under Wraps: Aramidé Diallo’s Spellbinding Cloaks

    Aramidé Diallo cloaks

    Of all the people I follow on Instagram, costume designer Eniola Dawodu’s account often stands out in my feed the most. Scroll through her archive of posts and you’ll find pictures of Man Ray muse Helen Tamaris swathed in a silk robe, elegant Omani women from the turn of the century, and personal photos tracing the ancient textiles of the Rabari in Gujarat, India. Recently, a snapshot of a girl wearing an intricate embroidered robe caught my eye. It looked like something out of another time, but somehow startlingly modern. The hashtag read #aramidediallo and wasn’t a label I recognized, but after a little more Internet digging, I realized that Dawodu herself was behind it.


    Photos taken by Eniola Dawodu on her travels in Gujarat, India.

    Photos of Dawodu's grandpa in his traditional agbada robes.

    It turns out that Aramidé Diallo was inspired by her Nigerian grandfather, and the portraits she e-mailed me the next day were beyond stunning: The details of his agbada robes against a tiled floor looked like something out of Malick Sidibé’s studio. It was her research in Indian ethnographic textiles and costumes a few years ago that first got her thinking back to the fabrics in her family history. When she came across a stash of antique Nigerian Asoke remnants at the atelier of an antique dealer in New York dating back to the 1930s, it seemed like just the right time to rework the elegant look of her grandpa’s tunics in her own way. The designs definitely pay homage to the originals, and she works closely with a Senegalese artisan to achieve the curling embroidered borders on her cloaks. Dawodu has a great sense of style and manages to layer up her pieces with handfuls of Rabari jewelry and colorful scarves from her travels in India. On a dreary winter morning in New York, her handwoven cloak is a gorgeous bright spot in a sea of gray coats.

    Eniola Dawodu in a cloak of her own design. Photo by Ian Reid.