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ifeoma aw17 lookbook clothes reva ochuba
Ifeoma AW17 lookbookPhotography Dicko Chan, styling Greg Ross

New label Ifeoma takes a menswear approach to womenswear

Eckhaus Latta alum Reva Ochuba discusses her latest collection – an all-grey tribute to her late mother and formidable, masculine women

As she prepares to graduate from university, Reva Ochuba feels pretty good about what’s next. An Eckhaus Latta alum who, before design, was a writer and producer, her label Ifeoma is a merging of these myriad interests. For her first collection, this resulted in a series of pieces rooted in Medieval power structures and the sartorial effects of such hierarchies.

For her second, Ochuba turned her academically-focused practice inward. Always ‘the most extra’ (self-described), she had initially pulled a colourful palette for this series, but early in her conception stages, her mum died. A loss like this one is difficult to process, at once intimately primal and alien. She scrapped the original palette and went with something more emotionally honest: a suite of greys.

Covered in pockets, many of the garments in this womenswear collection appear deceptively utilitarian, as though each pocket corresponds to a specific instrument: a scientific calculator, perhaps, a silencer, or a hammer. If these clothes are hard at work, they find balance paired with asymmetrical, looser garments that appear – if not unfinished – a little distant, a little moody. This tension between the over-prepared and the under-polished found its roots in her first collection, but crystallise here. Ochuba’s overachieving, anti-functional pieces propose a unique femininity. Preoccupied with self-protection and self-examination, Ochuba has created a challenging and confident sophomore collection that asks, “Have you worked on yourself lately?” 

Tell me about your new collection.

Reva Ochuba: This is a women’s collection. My last collection was gender neutral. I typically make clothes for whoever wants to wear them regardless of gender, but this collection is purposely targeted toward women because very few people make clothes for the woman I’m thinking about. They make menswear. I’m more interested in taking a menswear approach to womenswear. It’s for a woman who has always carried a lot of masculine energy, always been kind of aggressive. I’m interested in her. And contrary to last season, I would actually wear everything in this collection.

Why wouldn’t you wear the last collection?

Reva Ochuba: I was very detached from the last collection. It was based around research that I’d cultivated over a school year, so it was all really heady. I learned from that: why would I want to make clothes that I wouldn’t necessarily want to wear? If the story I'm telling is one I don't identify with, why should I feel obligated to tell it?

If you didn’t focus on academic research this time around, what was your process like?

Reva Ochuba: I did do research, but it was more internally-based. I’ve done a lot of research on emotional development and handling life as it comes to you. How do you control your being? And how do you manoeuvre through the world when you literally have no control over what happens to you? My first collection was softer – mostly subdued earth tones. Very light, very spring. My swatches for this collection initially consisted of reds, greens, plaids – not necessarily vibrant, but colourful. After my mum passed away, I was kind of forced to throw all that out. I looked at all those swatches and thought, ‘I’m not feeling like this. I’m feeling very grey, so I’m just gonna go with that.’ Being fake is just too hard.

And there are, as they say, 50 shades.

So is bondage part of the collection?

Reva Ochuba: No bondage; it’s more baggage. I became very focused on pockets – on how we compartmentalise ourselves. The sides of ourselves that we choose to show, and the sides that we try to keep to internalised. Sometimes we’re not very good at hiding the things that we don’t want people to see, and they present themselves in the strangest ways. I’ve had emotional moments where things I buried have come out unexpectedly.

A lot of the clothes in this collection have the feeling of wanting to guard, to protect. All the fabrics I’ve used have that sense of protection: ballistic and cordura nylon, felt military blankets, silk organza.

My mum’s favourite colours were blue and black, but when I think about a grey area, it’s an area you are refusing to acknowledge or a space you don’t understand. It’s something between here and there, neither to be accepted nor ignored. It’s just there. I thought, focusing on that grey makes sense.

Is it a tribute to her in that sense?

Reva Ochuba: I don’t think my mum would have worn any of this stuff (laughs).

“This collection is not a welcoming one. Although I’m nice, I don’t really care about being welcoming. I’m not here to make people comfortable” – Reva Ochuba 

Why menswear for women?

Reva Ochuba: I grew up with my dad. A lot of things girls learn from their mothers, I had to Google or talk to my aunts or the mums of my friends about, which was kind of wild. I’ve always been kind of a tomboy so this is pretty to me. This is sexy to me. 

How does your perspective on femininity find its way into your work?

Reva Ochuba: This collection is not a welcoming one. Although I’m nice, I don’t really care about being welcoming. I’m not here to make people comfortable. That’s not my job and being accommodating for the sake of being accommodating usually isn’t on my agenda anyway. If you're really trying to go to Pluto but everyone else is happy on Saturn, are you just going to go with the flow and be happy on Saturn? I would hope not.

Are these clothes for Pluto?

Reva Ochuba: You could totally wear these on Pluto.

After this collection, Ochuba will transition into releasing collections annually, rather than bi-annually. With the extra time, she plans to devote herself to collaboration, creative direction, writing, and whatever else she feels like doing. She is currently working on two solo exhibitions: one taking place in LA and the other in Berlin. 

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