“The dehumanisation of others is the foundation of all bigotry.”
- Prince Naimbana
Inspired by the longstanding (if not always positive) relationship between Sierra Leone and the UK, for SS20 Labrum London takes a journey into the past in order to present the little-known story of The Black Prince Naimbana, real name Prince John Frederic.
One of three sons born to King Naimbana – the last traditional Temne ruler of Koya, in what is now Sierra Leone – Prince Naimbana was sent to England to study Protestantism in 1791, as a result of the close friendship between his father and the British abolitionist Granville Sharp.
Present at the House of Commons during a debate on the slave trade, the prince gave his famous delivery, “If a man should rob me of my money, I can forgive him; if a man should shoot at me I can forgive him; if a man should sell me and all my family to a slave ship, so that we should pass all the rest of our lives in slavery in the West Indies, I can forgive him; but if a man takes away the character of the people of my country, I never can forgive him.”
This season, in honour of The Black Prince Naimbana, the label’s traditional tailoring with a utilitarian attitude takes its cues from 18th century silhouettes. Alongside British culottes and coats from the era, sit shirts and jackets inspired by traditional West African formalwear and identifiable by unexpected back detailing. Pleats and high collars are used to reference the gentlemanly garb of chiefs, while key details are found in trouser adjusters inspired by French fencing uniforms and jetted pockets whose origins lie in 1700’s British fasteners.
Detail continues to reign supreme this season with the buttons crafted from either ceramic or coconut shell and the introduction of especially commissioned artwork by creative illustration lab Kazvare Made It, which is found digitally printed onto linen herringbone. Alongside the leaf print taken from Sierra Leone’s Tragacanth Tree, the illustrator has drawn on the prince’s life, depicting him in three crucial stages: as a child alongside his brothers and father, King Naimbana, in a famed moment when he reprimanded a man for mistreating a horse, and as a young man in England, which is based on a contemporary portrait of the prince. The illustrator has also imagined what the prince’s coins and stamps would have looked like, had he become king, and these will appear on the brand’s jersey separates and Chuck Taylor 70s.
With storytelling always a crucial part of the Labrum world, this season sees the brand collaborate on its presentation with London based designer Yinka Ilori, whose work is inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that surrounded him as a child.
“Where you will sit when you are old shows where you stood in youth.”