As Nigerians continue to make their presence felt on the global stage, Patience Torlowei and her creation, ‘Esther,’ are soaring in leaps and bounds.
If telling only one person about what was happening to her people, in the Niger Delta, was all she could achieve with ‘Esther,’ the designer said, “I would have been happy. The way ‘Esther’ has taken on a life of its own has far exceeded my expectations and I could not be happier.”
Five years ago, the Nigerian artist and fashion designer, was invited to create eight special pieces to commemorate the Smithsonian National Museum of African Arts, Washington DC museum’s 50th anniversary celebrations with the theme, ‘Earth Matters.’
She created ‘Esther,’ a sleeveless gold, silk dress with a hand-painted multicolored train, chronicling the beautiful and ugly sides of oil exploration in Nigeria’s south south.
The ripple effect of creating and showing ‘Esther’ to the world, is one that continues to grow.
‘Esther,’ is the first work of modern designer fashion to become part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of African Art. It will be showing there until 2020.
Last Thursday, she was hosted by Vogue Magazine’s first black editor and former editor at large, André Talley, to a dinner with some of fashion’s crème de la crème, in attendance. He first came in contact with her work at a panel discussion, where he admired a camisole Torlowei had made for her daughter.
The artist described the dinner as ‘a dream.’ According to her, “meeting André has been one of the most divine moments in my life. From being someone, I used to see on television and the magazines from afar, to coming to this point where a true legend on earth chose to host me, small me from an even smaller village in the Niger Delta, to this powerful dinner with all these powerful players in the international fashion circuit. I’m still lost for words.”
She said, “The encouragement I have received, the realisation that truly, those who came before me don’t have two heads…”
These, she said, have created a refreshed zeal to take Torlowei to the next level and greater heights.”
‘Esther,’ attaining global icon status, pleases Torlowei as she “can finally feel like my voice is being heard as I shout about the plight of my people in the Niger Delta.
“It gives me a sense of joy because the platform Esther has created is one, we can use to bring awareness to what is happening in our villages and thus mobilise change and development with support from the outside world.”
Speaking to Daily Trust, about her thoughts when she decided to create ‘Esther’ and how far she thought the dress would go, Torlowei said, “I wasn’t really thinking about what I would get from ‘Esther,’ when I was bringing her to life.
“At the time of her creation she was merely a vessel for me to pour my feelings and emotions into. It was a difficult time for me, I had just lost my mother, I felt like an outcast in my own country. [I was] at my wits’ end. I just wanted to leave what had started to feel like my personal hell on earth. To crown it all, the knowledge that my brothers and sisters were suffering in the Niger Delta and the rest of Africa, and the helplessness I felt, just sealed the ingredients I needed to create ‘Esther.’”