Nigerian-British artist turned fashion designer Chuks Collins has dressed and designed for some of the most notable names in the entertainment industry from Quincy, Trevor Jackson, Terence Nance, Kerry Washington, and Claudia Jordan.
He premiered his AW21 women’s ready-to-wear collection, “The Journey,” participating with the Black in Fashion Council during New York Fashion Week (NYFW), presented by IMG yesterday. While many notable designers like Tom Ford opted out of NYFW, Collins has embraced the week by revealing his collection digitally. Divided into 3 chapters, the first chapter is called ‘The Journey,’ “inspired by my 5 years of previous work – which I recycled and reconstructed;” the second chapter is called ‘Dream, “which is inspired by the idea of beautiful hope of romance and Roman structural elements.”
Going into his past archives, the designer created sustainable pieces along with made-to-measure couture looks. Collins is part of an industry that is striving to be more inclusive. “As a black creative and designer, I think I can speak for many of us that this type of opportunity is not easy to come by and I must commend IMG for their commitment,” notes Collins. “I am grateful to God for everything, for shaping me up and getting me ready for an opportunity like this; and I’m grateful to IMG and the Black in Fashion Council for giving me this opportunity to be part of this.”
Designing from a wide color palette, Collins’ collection is filled with many white looks, but then strong pops of color are seen with silhouettes for all feminine body shapes. Looking closely, there are noticeable hints of his Nigerian culture from head pieces to the design of outfits. He also showcased looks from his sustainable lifestyle label The Athletic Side of Us (TASOU), the third chapter of his collection called ‘I Am.’ Reconciling street style and what is worn at home, Collins revealed looks for both men and women. TASOU is a marriage between the sleek lines of NYC with the fractal geometric shapes and colors of ancient modern-day Nigeria.
“The Collection was inspired by the Ancient Benin Kingdom in the southern part of Nigeria and the streets of NY. Featuring real people with real stories in diversity, inclusivity and above all our mission to empower humanity through our designs.”
From Near Death to Designer
NYFW allows for designers to get their collections shown on a platform of 6 million views, and this type of exposure is not lost on Collins. “It’s very crucial for us to have opportunities like this as it helps bring more light and exposure to the creative talents in the black and brown communities, and more so, gives equal opportunities that creates the diversity and inclusivity we all need. Every brand needs that exposure and consumers need to have options.”
Born in the UK and raised in both England and Nigeria, Collins was inspired by both countries and their rich cultures. Fashion always seemed to catch is eye but not his disapproving parents’ eyes. It was his grandmother that fostered a love of making clothes, teaching young Collins to sew, as well as to respect women and empower marginal voices. “One of the best gifts of life is being able to have access to both cultures. At the age of 8 I started sewing as I lived with my grandmother and she thought me, though being an African male child, fashion wasn’t an option for me as my mom of blessed memories wanted me to be a doctor, lawyer or banker, so I followed suit and read accounting and finance for my first undergraduate degree- afterwards I did social work.”
But between doing what his parents wanted him to do, Collins was designing. “Africa is the motherland of beautiful colors, fabrics and culture so that definitely influenced and still inspires me and a lot of my inspirations are still drawn from different places including home. Exposure to western culture helped me tell my mother that I want to truly pursue fashion and she gave me her blessings. And living abroad has given me a lot of reference and has gotten me inspired by beautiful places, artists, and architects.”
A car accident nearly took his life, as he had to endure near kidney failure. This challenging experience was a profound moment for Collins, “during my recovery period after my surgery- I started dealing with depression and on one particular occasion I was admitted at the hospital on my birthday.” It was a girl in the hospital that made him realize how blessed he is, despite his situation. Connecting with Housing Works, an organization that helped him get back on track, Collins started designing again. “My ‘ah-ha’ moment of taking the plunge to be a designer was finding gratitude in service and empowering others, that service was a means of healing for me, and I saw a way to empower people through my designs. The more I design and make people look great and empowered, the more I feel happier and healed. Truly to me, clothing is a tool for expression, for protection. I design clothes for the girl in every woman and the boy in every man, who aspires to embody and express their core, to connect with their tribe and to wear as armor along the way,” says Chuks.
One way he empowers men is by making made-to-measure and bespoke suits. Equating tailored suits to a “cape of glory that molds, enhances, and amplifies,” Collins has made many men shine. “Oh my God, I Love Making Suits. All suits should be bespoke if you can afford them, or at least made-to-measure. It should be made specifically for you with your measurements that gives you the right fits.”
Of designing for influential people, the opportunities aren’t taken lightly by Collins, “those moments make you feel somewhat seen and recognized, more like your hard work is paying off. Especially, in this industry where most times people are always interested in seeing who you’ve worked with before they engage with you.”
NYFW was an opportunity for Collins to get the recognition that his talent has given him as his creations will continue to make a mark on red carpets, and, also for the Chuks Collins dressed man and woman for time to come.