Olowu's Designs Are Making Their Way From London to Main Street, U.S.A.

By Mickey Boardman / Photographed by Todd Hart
Even by today's standards in the jet-setting world of fashion, designer Duro Olowu really gets around. He was born in the sprawling Nigerian metropolis of Lagos and is now based in London but spends a lot of time in New York, where his wife, the Studio Museum in Harlem curator Thelma Golden, lives. In March, it's Olowu's signature bold prints that will be doing the traveling when his capsule collection for J.C. Penney hits stores across the United States

Olowu says growing up in Lagos was particularly influential to his style. "In the '70s, people wore super-sharp traditional clothes or really mixed it up with international pieces." He was also inspired by the looks favored by his mother's West Indian family whom he visited in London every summer.

After taking a detour to study law (following in his father's footsteps) Olowu launched his brand in London in 2004. His slinky dresses in eye-popping colors were quickly embraced by fashion hotshots like Vogue's Sally Singer, Chicago retailer Ikram Goldman and then-Barneys fashion director Julie Gilhart. Tout suite he became a media darling and even ended up on Michelle Obama's highly publicized fashion roster.

Then came J.C. Penney. The century-old Dallas-based retailer had recently undergone a makeover and invited Olowu to do their first designer collaboration. All clothes in the collection are under $100, while pieces from his regular line are more likely to cost over $1,000. He sees the collection, which features a ruffled floral dress and bold-print trousers, as "American classics with a global flair."

But will Middle America have trouble mixing his signature patterns? Olowu isn't worried. "The trick is to work with them in the right way. When put together correctly, they're harmonious, alluring and super chic. Otherwise, it becomes a costume."

Duro Olowu's capsule collection will be available in march at J.C. penney stores nationwide.

Hair and Makeup: Portia Williams using M.A.C Cosmetics and Bumble and bumble / Model: Gwyneth Tang / Clothes by Duro Olowu for J.C. Penney.

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