Many of the most popular trends today were born of styles on the brink of oblivion – anyone who has lived to see leggings become a wardrobe staple can attest to that. But what makes each fashion (re)cycle successful is the measure of innovation and creativity involved in the new iteration of a trend.
Take for instance, the ‘Oleku’ attire. ‘Oleku’ is a modification of the traditional ‘Iro and Buba’ (blouse and wrapper), a style of dress that is native to several Nigerian cultures.
‘Oleku’ was originally worn by stylish older women in South-western Nigeria in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and featured what was then a sensationally shortened sleeve (or wrapper?). Literally meaning, “to die for” or “too hot”, ‘Oleku’ is believed to have been popularised by the classic movie of the same name, in which the lead character wears her Iro and Buba in this manner.
Even at that time, the style saw a few modifications. One version featured cropped sleeves and long wrappers, while another had cropped wrappers and long sleeves.
Today, stylish women and fashion designers alike have taken the idea to varying degrees: beaded blouses with short sleeves, cropped wrappers and sleeves, modern-style tops with traditional wrappers and the ubiquitous sarong-style wrapper.
The trend has also evolved to incorporating non-traditional fabrics – chiffon, silk, satin, linen – in recreating this traditional style, and there is even the ‘Oleku’ dress, where blouse and wrapper are sewn into a one-piece ensemble.
In all its modifications, the ‘Oleku’ is a trend favourite among fashionistas of all ages. Generously worn to red carpet events, weddings, birthdays and even funerals, it does not appear to be dying out anytime soon.
Trends come and go but one thing is certain, nothing really dies as long as creative minds exist. Just as ‘Oleku’ has become a fashion sensation that transcends time, class and ethnicity, a true cultural Heritage never dies; it is only reborn into something more beautiful.