Lagos steals the show

Not so long ago, the idea of an African fashion scene was an optimistic stretch of the imagination. Now, the organisers of the Arise Africa Fashion Week, inaugurated in Cape Town in 2009, believe those days could soon be very last season.

This year’s event, which ended on Sunday and took place in Nigeria’s vibrant commercial capital, was such a success that the organisers plan to make Lagos a major fixture on the global fashion calendar and take their designs around the world.

“You’ve got Milan, London, New York and Paris. Why not Lagos?” organiser Penny McDonald said. “We’ve been invited to showcase in New York and to return to Cape Town and other places, but there’s such an appetite for fashion in Lagos that we were comfortable with a vision for making this the fifth fashion capital of the world.”

It started, fashionably, almost two days late, but the show eventually lived up to its name. For one week Lagos was graced with glamour, cries of “Hello darling!” and fashion high priests such as Ozwald Boateng and supermodel Alek Wek.

Winners to showcase at New York Fashion Week
Seventy-seven rising African or African-based designers were whittled down to five winners to show at next year’s New York Fashion Week, the glamour queen of all fashion weeks.


Among them was Boateng, the youngest and first black man to open a shop in London’s Savile Row.

From Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire known as the “Paris of Africa”, to fashion deserts such as Somalia, entourages were flown to Lagos. All expenses were paid by the show’s founder, Nduka Obaigbena, an ebullient Nigerian media baron nicknamed the Duke. “This is about putting Africa on the map. There is an African brand of style, elegance and beauty,” said Obaigbena, dressed head to toe in white.

Nigerians do not do things by halves in terms of fashion and the shows rivalled those in global fashion hotspots. Long­legged women — and a few men too — in heels tottered across polished marbled floors. Runway lights glittered off sequinned bosoms and music pumped as models sashayed down the catwalks. Any wardrobe malfunctions were enthusiastically applauded.

Chance for designers to shine
For designers struggling to break through preconceptions in the European-dominated industry, the week was a chance to shine. “I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that there is such a thing as African fashion. I think the whole print fabric and ankara [a traditional West African lace fabric] thing is limiting,” said Fatima Garba, whose House of Farrah boutique attracts moneyed crowds in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

“It’s overdone and overplayed. It’s always animal prints or tribal or whatever. I want to design clothes that an African lady or a woman in Alaska feels she can wear. I prefer to go left when everyone is going right,” she said, dressed in towering red heels and a sparkling purple top.

Nigerian designer Maki Oh’s models paraded down the catwalk in suits whose frills and sheer materials would perhaps be a little too va-va-voom for the office, but they will look at home when she displays on the New York catwalks this September. Also chosen to accompany her was South African Gavin Rajah, whose flowing pastel clothes elicited wistful sighs from the audience, and the United Kingdom-based Tsemaye Binitie.

Tradition-inspired clothes made an appearance too, ranging from tiny native corals woven into Kinabuti’s clothes and worn by models from Nigeria’s coastal cities to bold prints from South African label PPQ.

Delicious pastel colours were draped in ways that recalled Sahelian nomadic clothes by Nigerian brand Amede. —

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs

The two countries have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, but data issues are likely to keep some countries from doing the same

Fashion’s future is bricks and clicks

Lockdown forced reluctant South African clothing retail stores online: although foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores remains important in a mall culture like ours, the secret to success is innovation

What the Biden presidency may mean for Africa

The new US administration has an interest and much expertise in Africa. But given the scale of the priorities the administration faces, Africa must not expect to feature too prominently

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…