TJ Who collection: “This collection has been two years of experimental refining, redesigning and revising of ideas.”
The African fashion industry is growing immensely. Season after season, designers in the continent’s major fashion capitals release inspiring collections showcasing their brand’s aesthetics. From Hub of Africa Fashion Week to South African Fashion Week, Glitz Fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week, the globalisation of the African fashion industry is imminent. We touched base with Lagos Fashion Week, where we saw models walk the runway in ensembles made by creative designers from across the continent.
For three brightly sunny days, lovers of couture from Nigeria and across the world congregated in Lagos, arguably Africa’s largest fashion capital, to celebrate the continent’s industry, while enjoying designers’ collections for the new season. With a launch party and an after party, open showcases and private ones, Lagos Fashion Week 2022 ended with a bang.
Although certain designers, such as Dye Labs, Eki Kere, Sisiano, Iamisigo, Banke Kuku, Lagos Space Programme, Imad Eduso and Andrea Iyamah, had private viewings in offsite locations, the open showcase of over 30 designers — established and emerging — took place at the Balmoral Hall of the Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos.
We saw quirky styles to suit all genders and identities: long braids; bold eyeliner; heavy makeup; Afro hair; patched denim jackets and pants; corsets; long and short dresses; crop tops; cargo pants; high-soled boots; cliques of twos and threes; brightly coloured hairstyles and piercings — and camera people peering through lenses for perfect shots.
Away from the street style and its immersive culture, the runway promised a whole new experience, as designers created their best collections yet, from well-crafted suits to loose-fitting shirt dresses, traditional fabrics, knits, tasselled bags and even hand-beaded clothing. I spoke to some of the designers about their collections.
TJ Who effortlessly preaches luxury through their garments. Founded and creatively led by the talented Taju Ibrahim, the brand’s ethos premises on structures, minimalism and astute comfort, so much so, that it grants its wearers a smooth sense of power. For their SS/23 collection, they worked with textiles such as cotton-bonded scuba — a mixture of cotton, polyester and viscose materials — to create jaw-dropping designs. Details were minimal, yet visible, as detailed threading, separated sleeves and cuffed pants ruled the stage.
“This collection has been two years of experimental refining, redesigning and revising of ideas,” Ibrahim says, “and this collection was us presenting to the world the number of designs we’ve tirelessly worked on over the years. With this collection we continued to follow our aesthetics of avant-garde, sci-fi and contemporary timelessness, after which we found ways to infuse them with our African heritage and hand-embroidered techniques.” This season saw them make their womenswear debut.
Elie Kuame is a namesake womenswear label based in Ivory Coast. Having founded the brand in 2016, Kuame continues to release garments inspired by the love and support he receives from the women in his life. Most pieces are made by hand and he finishes them perfectly with a rush of love and positive emotion. The designer has created garments for queens and was a cover star for Ghananain magazine Debonair Afrik.
Titled “This Is Couture”, the Elie Kuame brand created an SS/23 collection that spoke to African heritage, proof that so much more could be birthed from the continent. Models strutted with traditional hats to signify queenship and garments made from heavy, luxurious fabrics. Details such as hand beading, gold embellishments and indigenous fabrics were also noticeable.
“We try with our heritage to show that, in Africa, we can have couture. The pieces were all handmade and hand-beaded,” Kuame says. “We want to use this collection to show that we can also be of global standard.”
Jermaine Bleu is a fast-growing menswear and womenswear label based in Accra, Ghana. It was founded in 2015 by Jason Jermaine Asiedu as a way to tell reflective stories of the African continent, through the lenses of Africans. So far, the brand has pivoted into some great spaces and has gone on to grace the digital pages of platforms like Teen Vogue and i-D.
This year, the Jermaine Bleu brand returned to Lagos Fashion Week with a collection, titled “Harmony”, inspired by duality, fluidity and self-love. The collection is about creating stories or journeys that provide comfort and peace.
“This year, we’re telling stories about how we’ve been put in so many boxes by society, that we forget who we are,” Asiedu says, “and it leads us to stress, chaos, anxiety and emotions we don’t even understand. This is us telling people to calm down, breathe and not take things too seriously.” They translated this inspiration through physical elements such as bursts of colours as well as design technique and choice of fabrics.
JZO is a Nigeria-based brand established by Joseph O Ike and Olamide E Akindeinde. The duo are using their background and skills to build a new kind of menswear brand that lends a whimsical aspect to African fashion. Pieces are easily identifiable due to their solid brand voice. They construct, they deconstruct, then they reconstruct. The choice of fabrics is spot-on, the styling and silhouette is impeccable, always modern, and definitely hard to miss. Dubbed “Pan-The-On”, their SS/23 collection is a look into ancient African gods.
“We’ve not been imaginative and illustrative of our own African pantheons. I mean, what are gods to us?” Ike says. “This is our imagining of that story or opening a set of stories along that line. ‘What would they look like?’ So, thinking of the colour scheme, the drapings, the silhouettes and everything else, all put together to build this collection.”
Rick Dusi is a premium menswear label that produces silhouettes based on minimalism. Their use of fabrics and choice of colour palette is strictly based on the kind of stories they’re looking to tell and the inspiration behind them. Founded by Eromosele Patrick Eidusi, the brand has styled personalities like Tim Kubart, two-time Grammy Awards nominee and one-time winner, as well as worked on producing some of our favourite fashion events, such as Lagos Fashion Week, and GTBANK Fashion Weekend.
For its SS/23 collection, Rick Dusi delved into the sad past of the creative director and created a collection that was a signifier of hope and light. Having lost his father a few months before the collection debuted, the designer created looks inspired by that experience, and translated them into brightly coloured lipsticks; glittery metallic and chequered fabrics; shiny accessories and neck pieces and bold makeup.
“The inspiration for my collection came from a gloomy past, into a bright future,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I used those shiny colours. It’s to signify that we’re not being defined by our past but looking to the future for what’s to come.”