Ports 1961 Introduces African-Inspired Collection, Alek Wek Models

Ports 1961 took a journey to Africa on Friday morning, with top models Alek Wek and Liya Kebede landing on its runway at the Bryant Park tents as part of New York Fashion Week.

Editors, stylists and retail buyers saw a broad spectrum of looks: some were relaxed and casual, such as a navy and cream Macheo tie-dye dress, while others were fine and refined, especially suits with pencil skirts and jackets adorned with woven gold belts.

“You see a joyous mass of people,” said designer Tia Cibani in an interview prior to the show. “Things are spontaneous, a little chaotic but joyous.”

Gold was consistent throughout the line as were touches of “tusk,” decorative fabric presumably named for its ivory color. The gold silk charmeuse dress that Wek, a Sudanese native, wore for the finale was almost a kaftan but more elegant. It looked like liquid gold as she walked.

Otherwise the palette was rooted in the colors of dusk and dawn, especially a burnt red. One particularly nice jersey cotton dress had cascading ruffles around a V-neck and an overall loose shape — but there wasn’t too much volume to become fussy.

That balance is something Cibani was able to strike time and time again. The outfits had an earthy feel but were always neat. Cibani said she was inspired by the spontaneous spirit of the East African women in the early 20th century, women like Siti Binti Saad, a peasant woman who brought the hopes and troubles of her peers to the attention of others through her poetry and songs.

In designing the collection, Cibani took a spiritual journey to Africa through books and photographs. For the upcoming ad campaign, she said, she’ll visit the Serengeti National Park.

“I felt like the landscape of Tanzania in the pictures I’ve seen is too stunning to pass up.”

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