For my first official post as the new 360nobs fashion girl, I thought it would be appropriate to write a piece dedicated to the Nigerian fashion industry. I first came to Nigeria with not many expectations if I’m being honest. I’d lived in London all my life, followed fashion since I was a little girl and fallen in love with the international brands we all know and love. I neglected to even research indigenous designers because I believed that there was nothing they could do that I had not already seen. I am glad to say I was proven wrong and a year later, as I champion designers such as Maki Oh, Jewel by Lisa and Ituen Basi, I see the untapped potential that Nigeria has to offer in the creative realm and I’m excited by how far we have come and how far we have left to go.
My first job when I arrived in Lagos was interning with the extremely talented Veronica Ebie- Odeka of Vanestyle. I remember the first day in her show room, I thumbed through rails and rails of gorgeous pieces as we hectically prepared for the upcoming Lagos Fashion and Design Week. I saw pieces from Ella and Gabby and Needlepoint amongst others and though the names were foreign to me, I fell in love with their aesthetics. The purposeful mix of western and African patterns and fabrics which created an interesting hybrid for the modern African woman who wanted to embody her culture and whilst showing she was sartorially aware of western styles too. A metropolitan Nigerian woman with an outfit that screamed of a ‘fashion conscious global citizen’.
My experienced of LFDW further re-affirmed my new found love of Nigerian design. I was fortunate enough to work with the incredibly talented Nancy Nwadire of Iconic Invanity and to see close up the painstaking craftsmanship and bead-work that goes into every single one of her pieces. To me, a designer is an artist, and just like an artist, they sacrifice and push to see their vision become a reality. I could only imagine the workmanship that goes into a single Iconic Invanity piece. And as I struggled to dress models in 0.2 seconds for their next turn down the runway, I barely had the time to admire the way the pieces fell, the way the fabric clung and hung onto every curve and crevice. In the midst of the chaos, I found exactly what why I fell in love with fashion in the first place, the beauty and the work behind just a top or just a skirt. Something so simple borne from a fascinating creative process. I kick myself for not discovering our indigenous designers sooner. I wish I had had the discipline and foresight to educate myself on fashion on a global scale rather than focussing on the mainstream designers that are often pushed into the spotlight by popular publications and fashion media platforms.
My education in Nigerian fashion was cemented when I landed a position at Complete Fashion, one of the oldest and most popular Nigerian fashion magazines. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough for me to know about these designer but I had to research them, understand them and write on them. Suddenly, a whole new world of fashion, not just in Nigeria, but Africa was opened up to me, I was seeing talent from Ghana, South Africa and Mozambique. I was looking at iconic pieces of clothing which unfortunately had slipped under the radar or failed to make it into the conciousness of the fashionable elite by no fault of the designers own. As Nigerians, when we hear luxury, we think of the Gucci’s, Dolce and Gabbana’s, the Louis Vuitton’s and Prada’s of the world but there is a whole new world on luxury on our front door step. There are people, just like us, creating extraordinary things which are unique to our continent and things that we must aim to support and promote where possible. Take for example Maki Oh, who thankfully has been getting the acclaim she deserves in the past year both here and abroad. Her use of adire to create the most delicate, unique and feminine pieces is truly outstanding. Our very own Jewel by Lisa, run by the devastatingly stylish Lisa Folawiyo (follow her on Instagram, you won’t regret it) who has the most beautiful eye for prints and whose colourful ensembles could easily rival the Katrantzou’s and Pilotto’s of the world. Even her diffusion label, J Label is a very young and flirty approach to traditional African wear.
Then we have the a league of up and coming designers who are hot on the heels of the old favourites. This group of designers including Re-Bahia, IamIsigo and Orange Culture have done away with the rule book altogether and are producing more daring pieces which are not for the sartorially faint hearted. Bayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture in particular has displayed a very avant-garde and metrosexual attitude towards menswear with sheer organza shirts and patterned city shorts for today’s modern Nigerian man. Bayo, who is somewhat of a fashion icon himself and wears mostly his own label has been recognised by Vogue Italia, invited to present in Paris by the LVMH group and showed at the prestigious Italian trade show Pitti Immagine. Re-Bahia’s aesthetic is that of vibrant simplicity. Her pieces are exciting and timeless at the same time and she showed more of a bohemian flair with her recent diffusion line, Wild Magnolia, which retailed for between N5k- N20k per piece. Nigerian designers are also moving away from the bespoke, tailored and often expensive approach and delivering affordable and accessible fashion making the industry that people on all levels can be excited about and get involved in.
All in all, I am seeing wonderful things from the Nigerian fashion industry. We have our icons and we have icons in the making and both teams are striving to emulate the quality and reach the creative level that has been set by international standard. Deola Sagoe, CLAN and Jewel by Lisa will all be showing at this years Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, arguably the trendiest fashion week of them all and it gives me great pleasure to see that they will be equally appreciated by international audiences who will also get to see that we are fast catching up to the pace that they set. I will forever be grateful for this move to Nigeria and to the people who have helped me see that we have a wealth of talent right at our door. We just need to tap into the potential, support, encourage and promote because whatever they can do, we can definitely do better.