THE POSITION OF LAGOS AS AFRICA’ FASHION CAPITAL
BY EMMANUEL CHIDERA AMOKE
Lagos, often misconstrued as Nigeria’s capital (a position that shifted to Abuja in 1991), holds a different kind of significance. Home to an estimated 21 million people, it serves as the de facto capital of numerous domains: business (housing Africa’s wealthiest individual, Aliko Dangote), the world’s third-largest film industry, and thriving sectors like fashion, music, and art. All of these fields benefit from the creative and entrepreneurial dynamism of this astonishingly vast metropolis.
While it’s widely acknowledged that Lagos State serves as Nigeria’s commercial epicenter, hosting a spectrum of industries, both multinational corporations and small businesses, it’s crucial to note that the city is also the epicenter of Nigerian fashion and entertainment. The conclusions of various Lagos Fashion Weeks have solidified this fact, showcasing the best of these creative realms. Yet, many may not fully comprehend what Lagos Fashion Week entails beyond its obvious identity as a fashion event.
Lagos Fashion Week, often abbreviated as LagosFW, is an annual multi-day fashion extravaganza hosted in Lagos, Nigeria. This prestigious event serves as a crucial platform for African designers, enabling them to exhibit their collections to a diverse audience comprising buyers, media representatives, and fashion enthusiasts, all through a series of engaging activities.
Lagos Fashion Week, founded in 2011 by Omoyemi Akerele, CEO of Style House Files and special advisor to the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, serves as a platform to showcase African designers and their collections. It attracts buyers, investors, media, and fashion enthusiasts. The event, exclusively produced by Style House Files, began in 2011 with over 40 designers, including Lisa Folawiyo, Nkwo, Maki Oh, and Bridget Awosika. Additionally, it introduced the Fashion Focus Fund (formerly Young Designer of The Year) as an annual competition to nurture emerging talents. Heineken Nigeria has been the official sponsor of Lagos Fashion Week since 2015.
In 2017, Omoyemi Akerele served on the advisory committee for the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” featuring African designers. She also spoke about the global impact of African fashion at the accompanying MoMA Live conference.
In 2019, Lagos Fashion Week attracted over 30 designers from around the world. However, in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event pivoted towards the Woven Threads initiative, focusing on advancing a circular fashion economy in Africa. Renowned experts such as Orsola De Castro, Bandana Tewari, Dana Thomas, Jumoke Oduwole, Nike Ogunlesi, Sarah Diouf, and Yegwa Ukpo held sessions addressing traditional textiles, waste management, and technology’s role in fostering a sustainable fashion industry. A physical showroom was also part of the initiative.
Furthermore, Heineken extended its support through a Design Challenge, enabling designers to connect with the creative community remotely, emphasizing innovation and sustainability in African design.
In a significant development in 2021, Omoyemi Akerele secured a 500 million Naira grant aimed at bolstering thirty Nigerian brands within the fashion industry. This recognition followed her appointment as the Zero Oil Ambassador for Nigeria by Olusegun Awolowo, the CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and President of ECOWAS TPO Network.
Nigeria’s city, Lagos, hosts Africa’s most renowned fashion industry, with Nigerian designers gaining global recognition. Icons like Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Alek Wek proudly wear labels such as Maki Oh and Lanre da Silva Ajayi. The esteemed Lagos Fashion and Design Week has played a pivotal role in this achievement. Lagos is unmistakably charting its path to becoming one of the world’s emerging fashion capitals.
According to Derin Odugbesan-Thomas, a content creator based in Lagos, the city boasts some of the world’s most well-dressed individuals. People here embrace their personal styles, showcasing a captivating blend of prints, bold color choices, intriguing textures, a touch of edginess, and above all, an undeniable confidence. The fashion scene in my city is thriving, and it’s impossible to overlook its significance.
Also, Vanessa Maseko, Associate Buyer at The Folklore Group, highlights Lagos as a vibrant hub in Western Africa that has played a significant role in the global fashion scene. The city has been instrumental in fostering a diverse mix of people and cultures and has been instrumental in the rise of influential and prominent fashion brands in the industry.
Nigerian designers are gaining global recognition and acclaim for their work. For instance, Iniye Tokyo James, the creative force behind Tokyo James, earned a spot as a finalist for this year’s esteemed LVMH Prize. Additionally, Priya Ahluwalia, an Indian-Nigerian designer, was nominated for the 2022 Woolmark prize. As their reputations grow, so does the demand for their designs.
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