Foday Dumbuya, the recipient of this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, headed to the Four Seasons hotel overlooking the Tower of London for a ritzy celebration of his Sierra Leonean roots with the spring 2024 collection.
After rounds of mini-bottles of Moët & Chandon, legendary Arsenal footballer Ian Wright opened the show, donning a blue patterned double-breasted suit and a pair of Adidas Sambas, customized for the German sportswear giant.
Dumbuya did not specify if the shoe collaboration could lead to something bigger but confirmed that he is “working on something that I can’t discuss.”
“He was my icon when I moved to this country. He’s done so much for the community. Also, I’m doing some work with Arsenal and he is an Adidas ambassador. When he said yes, it was everything,” Dumbuya said backstage of Wright’s appearance.
The designer said he chose the location because it used to be the Port of London Authority, where people came to get a permit to work in London. “My story is about people movement, migration and designed by an immigrant. So it’s not dissimilar [to last season’s show at the Brixton Market],” he added.
Dumbuya also thinks it’s not a bad idea to bring his community from Brixton to “a space where they don’t think they belong. You come in and you have all this beautiful reception, that normally changes people’s perspective, and it helps them understand the juxtaposition of Brixton and the force of luxury.”
Besides his signature colorful tailoring numbers, a highlight in the collection was the use of fabric woven with mask motifs from the Temne and Mende peoples, two of the biggest tribes of Sierra Leone, where his parents are from.
Other standouts included a tracksuit in collaboration with Hackney Wick FC and Netflix’s crime drama series “Top Boy,” and blazers and coats adorned with prints based on Nomoli figurines, which in local culture are believed to bring good health and good harvests to the owners. The Nomoli artwork could also be found on the Adidas Sambas.
The show was accompanied by an emotional music performance by his friends, singer Tawiah and pianist Karim Kamar. Thanks to their emotional build-up, and how inspiring Dumbuya’s journey has been, the designer received a standing ovation at the finale.