Lagos Fashion Week S/S 2019 Day Three Review

The last day of Lagos Fashion Week had fashionistas sprinting in stilettos trying to catch the action in multiple locations with off-site events held a at Lagos’ premier luxury stores Alara and Temple Muse. Sadly, I couldn’t clone myself as I had the privilege of being part of a panel selecting who made the final of this year’s  LFW Fashion Focus Programme. One of the developments spearheaded by founder of Lagos Fashion Week, Omoyemi Akerele, it aims to not only identify talent but also provide training, mentorships and capacity building opportunities for the lucky winner. It is an important addition , as beyond the glamour of weeks such as this, fashion remains a fledgling industry in comparison to juggernauts such as oil and gas or  agriculture.

Kicking off the action in the tends was a double-bill from the House of Deola Sagoe, which showed collections from both Clan the ready-to-wear brand and bespoke mother-brand Deola. Before the show itself commenced we were treated to a short fashion film that set the tone of heritage and longevity and closed with the logo which proudly stated: ‘established 1989’. Whilst Creative Director of Clan, Teni Sagoe continued to refine her slinky girl about town aesthetic but with demi-couture elements such as boned bodices, lace panelling and a heavy injection of velvet.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

For the Deola brand, Deola Sagoe demonstrated her haute couture credentials with a series of dresses that are best labelled ‘For Billionaire Grown-Up Ladies Only’. Floor length gowns were embellished with ostrich-plumes, giant sequins that from a distance resembled peacock feathers, bodices that had pleating, with traditional fabrics getting a look in via a candy striped aso’oke mullet length gown. Such labour intensiveness in the construction of all of the pieces, with even throwback couture sleeves such as the virago,  made it easy to see how the prices could go to sit-down-and-have-a-stiff-drink levels before you hand over your credit card. But that is the price one pays for the couture dream, and even if you cannot fully participate, it is cheering to know that such is available here in Lagos.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

So, who is the Tokyo James man? Well, based on past collections he is partial to a killer coat, takes his suiting seriously and is a hybrid of influences and experiences. For keen watchers of the brand there had been a hint that ladies might be allowed to participate beyond robing their lover’s Tokyo James jacket over their shoulders, most notably by a mini-collection at the Arise Fashion Week in April earlier this year. This season he introduced a full women’s collection but not before he presented his latest offering for men. Leather and exotic hides were prevalent particularly in a series of trench coats where snake trims found a home either the bottom of trousers or as one side of a coat. Metallic copper leather and lilac on suiting was the feminine touches to a silhouette that was uncompromisingly masculine and formal – it was great to see so many variants of double-breasted suits with peak lapels and single-breasted suits as a riposte to the notion that all young men wish to wear athleisure 24/7. For off-duty days James proposed a bolero biker, and because the contemporary man might not want to spoil the lines in his suit or coat large snakeskin tote bags were the roomy solution. For women, James is encouraging one’s inner vamp to be unleashed fully. Leather was prevalent with high waisted slim line trousers, form-fitting minis, and in singer Seyi Shay’s closer an above the knee slim-fit coat dress that was guaranteed to get temperatures rising. A series of asymmetric dresses were less exciting and felt more like a late addition to what was an otherwise crystal-clear vision. Thankfully for all those who have been stealing their man’s jackets tailoring was present and correct with low single button jackets teamed with wide leg trousers, exotic hide three piece suits,  and a long line silver pleated tunic paired with a narrow trouser and slimline jacket for a dressy yet edgy alternative to formal wear.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Three brands that have become the home of the Lagos Creative Girl are Gozel Green ,IAMISIGO and Nkwo. Gozel Green delivered what was though not their strongest collection to date had enough to keep existing fans of their brand happy. They are known for their asymmetry and play on proportion and this season the anchor piece were culottes that had a slit in the instep. As ever the colours were vibrant with orange and tomato red being dominant,  as well as their signature green, black white and turquoise.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

In the instance of IAMISIGO Creative Director Bubu Ogisi took masquerade as her inspiration, with models faces concealed with wool and Arabian slippers on models’ feet. The signature aso’oke mini dress was re-imagined once more -hardly surprising when it went viral when worn by Naomi Campbell earlier in the year. Another stand out piece were a pair of woven trousers paired with a peach- draped t-shirt with purposefully unfinished hems. Peach, rust, bottle green and cobalt blue were the preferred palette, but with woven fabrics also getting a look in, and there was a wide range of hemline lengths but maybe due to its brevity (something of a trend this year with many collections falling  well short of the traditional 40 looks), one felt there was more or should have been more to follow. But those who love the brand will be back to refresh their wardrobes with more pieces, and ultimately from a business perspective that is what matters most.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

In the instance of Nkwo, Creative Director Nkwo Onwuka continued ploughing her path as an early adaptor, innovator and pioneer in the sustainable fashion sphere. Her fabric innovation  Dakala cloth, which is woven from textile waste, and is dyed using natural processes was fashioned into flattering tulip silhouettes  with racer backs on tops adding a sporty injection. The pieces were the sort that require minimal thought on the wearer’s part, a bonus for women with a busy schedule, and, accessorised with heels or flats they work effortlessly, illustrated with how the models trotted barefoot and still looked pulled together. Viral Instagram moment came via the giant head-ties which were made from Ghana-Must-Go bags and were a visual commentary  on recycling as a bag that is ubiquitous and cheap but in Onwuka’s hand is given luxe appeal. For the woman who likes to wear her ethics on her sleeve and prefers clothes without caveats that allow for freedom of movement, Nkwo is a surefire choice.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

 

One of the biggest cheers of the night came from last year’s Fashion Focus winner and designer-du-jour Emmy Kasbit. As a designer he likes to present a complete and fully comprehensible collection and this season was no different. Taking the slave museum in Calabar, a port from which 30% of all slaves were transported from as inspiration he presented a  collection that spoke to the realities of belonging and displacement. The fabrics were still often traditional with aso’oke rendered in shades of blue to reflect the Atlantic Ocean. Women’s suits were cinched with chain belts that resembled slave shackles and men’s single-breasted jackets were fastened with anchor shaped buttons denoting the ships sailed on. The coral sequence was a joy and evocative of a hue and gemstone that is inextricably linked with Nigerian traditional wear, with women wearing a contemporary wrapper skirt atop trousers, again a nod to local norms which would have a double wrapper as appropriate attire. Other details included shirts with dual personality collars  – one ruffled, the other pointed, again indicating the inevitable cross pollination of identity as a result of transportation. But in the midst of this deep dive into history were too many pieces that would make sense in one’s wardrobe regardless of age or gender and that was most exciting of all.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Maki Oh presented the collection that she showed last month in New York Fashion Week, but although we might have seen it before on screen it was good to have the opportunity to see it in real life. As always with Maki Oh there was a clear narrative arc in the collection with Spring Summer 2019 being an ode to market women, however, this being Maki the women were casually sexy and confident  – with show opener;  a t-shirt with a see through panel just under the bust-line with  ‘Fresh Fish’ emblazoned on it and a black diaphanous skirt with a deep slit and a lace panel insert – giving the impression of a woman who even when working outdoors wants to be hotter than the midday sun. Skirts with slits were ever present  – speaking to the need to move quickly and the flat rubber slippers reflected practicality and also tempered certain looks from looking ‘try-hard’, something the Maki Oh woman is by definition not. Adiire, a signature for her, was present but in this instance with long dresses that were slim line at the front but cape shaped in the back. Fringing, another signature was also evident in this collection but this time in circular panels of fringing either on the side of  dresses or in one skirt extended from hip bone to ankle adding opulence to simplicity. Evening dresses came in several variants but effortless was innate in all, a long black straight column with thick shoulder straps and a panel cut away just past the knee that was tied by strips of fabric was novel. Indeed, it was a motif repeated in other pieces. Will calves become the new erogenous zone? If it happens, it will be because of dresses such as these.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

When Adebayo Oke-Lawal named his brand Orange Culture he clearly had a long-term vision about heading a movement, and that was evident in the deafening cheer that greeted the lights dimming before his show commenced. This was designer as rock star territory with the fans as much in love with him and what he stands for as whatever else may follow on the runway. The Collection was entitled ‘Who are you in the sun? Who are you in the moonlight?’ And opened with all the models in the looks assembling in formation before the lights came up to further cheers from the crowd. What followed was a collection that was riotous in colour – palette wise think 60’s psychedelia meets 80’s/90’s rave culture  – ages that were marked as being ones where youth culture was hyper-expressive and actively changed the status quo and individuals were fearless in both their expression and demand to be themselves. Oke-Lawal was seeking to explore these themes via pieces that were defiant in their nods to subcultures – from whale-net leggings with shorts worn over them to suiting reimagined via a two toned blue and orange suit and a purple jumpsuit, and trousers and tops with ‘Naked Clarity’ printed on them. As ever there were pieces that one could see had ‘sell sell sell’ writ large particularly shirts and knitwear.  Gender fluidity, something that has always been at the heart of the Orange Culture’s ethos was also evident with both men and women modeling, jewellery designed by South African brand Waif and handbags by Tuza Jewellery being worn by all and a closing look of a male model in trousers teamed with a lurex wrap skirt.  Falana, a close friend of the designer and a muse of the brand, sang out the finale walk, and it was a fitting end to a collection that had metamorphosed into a concert rather than fashion show vibe. For Oke-Lawal authenticity to one’s self and how you present yourself to the world are critical,  and a brand such as his, via the lens of clothing is there as a tool for people to embark in that journey.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

In many ways it was fitting to close Lagos Fashion Week with a designer who has immense support amongst his peers and has also made important strides creatively and commercially, from being a finalist in the LVMH Prize, to having his collaboration with pop superstar Davido stocked in Selfridges to his side-hustle as a brand ambassador for online retailer Jumia.  Furthermore, Oke-Lawal’s show was filled with optimism, vitality and confidence traits that are innately Lagos’ as a city.

 

 

Lagos Fashion Week S/S 2019 Day Two Review

Day Two of Lagos Fashion Week could be described as a day when reputations were cemented, more of later, but also big doubts with some more established names as to whether the hype, pressure or general hailing, that in our part of the world is par for the course had resulted in a loss of form. It is sometimes easier to keep churning out what is working or selling but it gets to a critical mass when not evolving can potentially result in stasis. Loyal customers who buy pieces by the half dozen are great for now, but a dicey proposition to rely on for the future, especially if growth beyond the domestic market to capitalise on regional, continent wide and global opportunities is part of a brand’s long term strategy.

Commencing proceedings were two Fashion Focus finalists: Bloke and Demure by Denike, with Bloke by far the stronger. Bloke’s Creative Director Faith Oluwajimi  entitled his collection “Collection About Nothing” with the colour white utilised as a starting and finishing point. Iterations of tailoring that would appeal to the younger man who wants to look pulled together but is also proud of his heritage were sent down the runway, and one is assuming the white face markings on models were a nod to indigenous religion.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

As earlier indicated some reputations were well and truly cemented and it was felt most in the area of men’s trad. Curiously, the two dominant forces, Ugo Monye and JZO, showed on day two, with both putting arguably their strongest showings yet. Over the years Monye has built a following who go to him for exquisite renderings of traditional attire, and today he pushed the envelope further with a series of long line tunics in cobalt blue with cardinal red accents. The long staffs the models walked with channeled the village elder of yesteryear, but one who has a side-hustle of being the style arbiter for the traditional ruler. The show stopper and indeed closer was a short agbada teamed with an Abeti Aja cap; even if one takes away the show’s ‘mood enhancers’ which in this instance included a full company of traditional talking drummers, the metamorphosis of an outfit that conceptually screams ‘wedding guest attendee’ into something that could be worn anywhere else was inspired. For men of a certain generation, wearing white trad indicates an elevation in station – mainly due to the fact that the dry-cleaning bill will no longer make your eyes water but also because it lends the wearer gravitas. Monye offered some alternative propositions: first evening trad – think brocades, tunics with chain fastenings and asymmetric tunics with contrasting and visible linings, and secondly black trad with texture in fabric combinations – black satin and cotton for instance – bringing the luxurious wow factor. Will black trad become the thing to step out of your G-Wagon or Bentley?  Very likely.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

In the instance of JZO their collection was an extension of a mandate that since 2014 Creative Directors Joseph Ike and Olamide Akindeinde have been refining which is how to make trad an active sartorial essential rather than a cultural obligation for the younger man. It’s a thin line between edgy and try-hard, but JZO have consistently created pieces that other designers might have a moment of wishing they had thought of the same idea first, such will the inevitable popularity be. This season, asymmetry in tunics and jackets which provided sexy hints of torso in addition to collars and doubled up sleeves turned the familiar into the unusual and covetable. Palette choice was strong without being obnoxious with cobalt, claret, and burnt umber tempered with black and white. When you’re on a creative roll such as this it is best to simply continue.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Going beyond the shores of Nigeria, Senegalese brand Tongoro Studio and Ghanaian brand Studio 189 were a window into alternative African aesthetics. Tongoro Studio’s Creative Director Sarah Diouf in a previous interview with Elle South Africa has said the “The Tongoro girl is one of a kind; she’s an adventurer.” And travel sprang to mind in a collection that felt like wealthy woman on holiday rather than pieces you could throw on every day. Drawstring trousers, voluminous legged jumpsuits and roomy tunics in greys, blues and whites or lilac and lime prints accessorised with tiny totes or exaggerated cylinder-shaped clutches were not for the Monday morning meeting but were pretty nevertheless.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

 

Studio 189 also had a resort season vibe with a sunshine yellow and deep blue palette, yet even with the Soukous music  bangers at full volume it never fully took flight. It did however, have a celebrity moment with fashion blogger, and special editorial guest of Lagos Fashion Week Tamu McPherson taking to the runway.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

The evening closed with Lisa Folawiyo a woman who is not only one of the principal poster girls for Nigerian fashion but also by virtue of her business beginnings is seen as the standard bearer for print. In what felt like her most personal collection yet she referenced growing up in 80’s Nigeria and how that has informed the woman she has become today, with even the music choice of Old-School classic Odyssey’s “Going Back To My Roots” augmenting the point. The palette was very much tropical garden with orange, lilac and green prints, however, the sensory assault clashing was tempered by softer silhouettes that evoked care free summer days. Embellishment was by and large kept to a minimum and even the show’s opener of knee-length city shorts, off the shoulder bra top and over-sized blazer was a statement of intent; that Folawiyo known best for tunic shaped dresses and skirts could also bring fresh cool girl vibes to the table. Inevitably, there were contrasting textures; a signature that she has stayed true to and the orange neon trims referenced hair bands worn as a child as too did the corn-row hair-braid trim that featured on some of the dresses which varied in shape from bias cut to floaty midi with cutaways to hit of the night, judging by the cheers, a tulip shaped mini. The hemline variation was a business savvy one – depending on your age and figure situation, all could participate. Nostalgia can sometimes end up looking dated but in Folawiyo’s hands it was merely a tool to create pieces that chime with present times.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

For those who were there on the night, it is clear there are some omissions in this review, but it becomes difficult and somewhat disingenuous to praise collections that seem to have lost their way either in part or entirely. Whilst it is exciting and exhilarating when the spotlight is thrown on Africa, especially for those of us who live here, it is also important to temper the enthusiasm, and keep a critical eye so that in turn we can keep improving our industry. Just as it’s impossible to claim London is awash with talent on a par with the late Alexander McQueen or Paris has a dozen Yves Saint Laurents tucked away in each arrondissement, not every designer currently working in Africa is a prodigious talent. And one could counter, nor do they have to be.  Some are masters of garnering support from a particular segment of the market, still others are happy to court the media and be lauded even if the  sales sums don’t tally in the books. However,  it is the designers that are rooted in their identity  and who also challenge themselves artistically and dare to translate the complex layers that make up  the numerous contemporary African narratives, whilst simultaneously creating collections that are lusted after the world over, that will  truly endure.

Lagos Fashion Week S/S 2019 Day One Review

The French have a name for the new academic year – La Rentrée,  when students are brimming with excitement at the prospect of new learning. It also implies return, after all learning is continual, there is always more to discover and more to master, and if you love fashion there is always a new uniform to fall in love with too. Lagos Fashion Week kicked off what is now the creative season and includes contemporary art fair Art X Lagos, African Film Festival , AFRIFF, Aké Arts and Literature Festival and GTBank Fashion Weekend. Expectations were high this year not least because the legendary Fashion Critic Suzy Menkes Editorial Director for Vogue was in attendance.

Betty Irabor requires no introduction; as the owner and founder of Genevieve Magazine, a pioneering publication that has done much to alter the fashion landscape in Nigeria, her foray into presenting a collection seemed organic. Entitled “The Dew Collection” it was a collaboration with a host of brands including Mai Atafo, Style Temple and Needlepoint with an aim of promoting awareness on Mental Health. Rather evocatively of brighter tomorrows, the designers chose to use a sunshine palette of saffron, tangerine and white print with pieces that for the most part leant strongly to occasion wear including a number of red-carpet ready gowns. As it was for a cause, one cannot judge the collection by the same yardstick of others that followed. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the brand develops but judging from the applause as she took her bow to Gloria Gaynor’s classic ‘I Will Survive’,  Betty’s own personal popularity will be  the fuel required and given that it’s expanding the conversations around the taboo subject of  mental health it is a worthy inclusion.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

A new name to not only watch, but to buy now, before the wahala of getting pieces when you want them gets too much is Lagos Space Project. Every fashion capital needs one: that designer that fuses intellectualism and culture to create pieces that are not only conversation starters but conclusions in and of themselves. Creative Director Adeju Thompson  was entitled ‘Project 3.1 AWO-WORKWEAR’  and he took as his starting premise what a modern-day Babalawo might need to go about his business. In turn we were treated to high waisted drawstring trousers with voluminous legs, overalls that were given a knife precision finish, long line tunics with outsize pockets that would render a handbag entirely optional rather than necessary and wrap adiire skirts with white shirts worn very insouciantly by both men and women. Granted, some customers might be put off from the lack of overt sexiness from the pieces, but to offer an alternative way of dressing in a tide of Slay Queen-age and Fine-Boy-No-Pimple and excessive fuss and flounce saturating the runways was refreshing to say the least.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

 

 

Kiki Kamanu’s collection was entitled ‘Sisi Eko’ and was a love-letter to the women of Lagos, although this being Kiki it was the women of Lagos who are as fearless and expressive as the eponymous designer. Silhouettes varied from body skimming to trapeze for dresses and slimline to drop crotch harem shaped for pants, a touch that thankfully made participating in the Kiki Kamanu aesthetic not dependent on body shape or size. Slogans on pieces is nothing new to the designer who gave us the ‘Pepperdem’ dress, but this season as well as a return to the evergreen ‘LoveLagos’ hooded dress this time in a pencil silhouette and with contrasting fabric on the hemline.  We also had a cheeky top with ‘Take What You Need…’ with an assortment of options and an asymmetric hemline and clashing fabric skirt. As always there were accessories aplenty including large trapezium fringed tote bags that are sure to be a hit. The former runway model took her signature walk to Drake’s megahit ‘Kiki’ and yes, the crowd definitely still loves her.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Anyango Mpinga was new to the roster but the Kenyan native definitely made an impact with an assured collection. A series of white lace dresses opened a show and if you are an existing Self-Portrait fan, you would have found more to lust after and purchase. Pretty prints were most definitely a thing with an asymmetric free shaped frilled  and pleated dress garnering a flutter of applause as it made its way down the runway. Equally well received were a series of red silk bird printed dresses with text that had ‘love’, ‘freedom’ and other positive words adorned to replicate newspaper headlines. Styling details such as the straw hats worn at a jaunty may have divided the crowd, but they spoke to a designer who possesses clarity of voice.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Maxivive is definitely the Marmite of the Lagos Fashion scene with as many who love as those who dislike Papa Oyeyeni’s work, but that is oftentimes the price you pay for singularity of vision. The Collection entitled ‘How to Marry A Billionaire’ opened with some ‘look away now those of delicate dispositions’ slogan sweaters, t’s and pants, a collaboration he has created with Funmi Fagbemi. Some might say completely obscene, others will counter merely provocative. And indeed, the notion of using your more carnal charms to get what you want, whether it be a partner who can lend you the Private Jet for a quick shopping run in Paris, or for people to see and desire the real you were present in all of the pieces. Lurex, sequins and iridescent finishes indicated a continuation of the ‘Glistening’ theme explored in the previous collection, and the palette was as broad as one’s tastes or orientation may be. In the midst of the show flourishes including an unconventional bride and groom closer, were pieces that Maxivive is known for, with knitwear, shirts and trousers that were covetable and simultaneously spoke to the genderless agenda that is being championed globally. Since the show, there has been much talk that the brand went too far, was too controversial and is not representative of the prevailing norms and values of a country that for all it’s flamboyance is conservative. But beyond selling clothes,  isn’t this the point too of a fashion show and other outputs from the  creative industries be they books, film or art; to hold up the mirror to society but also to push the proverbial envelope? Amidst the hoop=la there was a lot for the existing and new Maxivive customer to wear, and whether one wishes to admit or not, apart from offering covering, clothes play many roles including denoting power and aiding in seduction.

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Closing Day One was Kelechi Odu. Full disclosure; the designer is a close member of my family. However, like a child at Christmas who doesn’t unwrap presents early even when you know where they are hidden, I was as surprised and delighted as those who persevered with the crazy-have-to-have-been-there-to-believe-it late commencement of the programme itself; a situation that had a knock on effect for all who showed, especially the designers later on in the schedule, who were seen only by hardcore to the death fashion lovers, family and friends or those who are partial to driving the streets of Lagos post-midnight on a weekday. But if you were there you were given a masterclass of executing a concept, distilling your message and leaving an audience stunned to the point that they might just not only consider but also wear what you’re proposing tout-suite. The collection was entitled ‘Automatic’ and the silhouette was a throwback to the 1970’s when men wore flares, stacked heels, open shirts or no shirts at all and had swag for days. This being Kelechi Odu, exquisite tailoring, origami folds on shirts, conceal and reveal elements on tops and the show stopper closing jacket, as well as slits half way up trouser legs meant to truly ‘dress and oppress’, the gentleman in question might need to head to the gym first. Footwear was a hybrid of then and now with wooden heeled sandals that had leather, suede and and gortex finishes. In a sea of streetwear, logo drenched mania and it-trainers, is the time ripe for the modern man to do a volte-face? If you were up for it here was your solution.

Photo Kola Oshalusi
Photo Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

Overall, there were a lot of take-aways from Day One. There is no doubt that there are not only green-shoots but fully developed talents working in Nigeria and other parts of Africa right now. Has the time come for winnowing? Perhaps, especially as there was almost too wide a range of competency levels and experience on show in one evening. It’s for this reason other fashion capitals will have showcase stages or separate events on their calendars for emerging talent thus allowing buyers or members of the media who need to focus and make immediate business focused decisions on what is currently commercially and critically ready for the domestic and global marketplace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meghan Markle’s Sparkle: The Duchess of Sussex’ Style Decoded in 7 Outfits

With most jobs it takes three months for you to settle in, know the ropes and move effortlessly from task to task, but if you are the Duchess of Sussex née Meghan Markle, ten weeks will do just fine. It is hard to believe that it has been that long since she glided down the aisle in St George’s Chapel, Windsor  in THAT Givenchy gown (more on that later), but since then Meghan Watchers (guilty as charged, I often check out the ensembles she is wearing) have been treated to a refashioning of sorts. Proving to all along the way that the 21st Century Royal Duchess’ wardrobe needn’t be twinsets and double strands of pearls or floral prints forevermore she has seamlessly reflected the hopes and expectations of what the world expects from a modern Royal style icon in the making. The fact that just seven seminal ensembles give us all the intel we need is indicative of a visually literate woman, who has distilled the pertinent points of what her role involves but has re-imagined it under the lens of her own beliefs and values.

meghan-marklewimbledon

She didn’t snag her prince with a wardrobe that screamed ‘to the manor born/country-bumpkin goes to a smart event every so often’ so why slip into that dated trope of what a Royal wife should dress like? The fact that Meghan has repeatedly and defiantly done her, rather than an approximation of what old-school courtiers might be expecting is what has endeared her to style watchers. And whilst many saw her humanitarian credentials and thought we were in for Princess Diana 2.0 she looked closer to home for historical style references.  At Wimbledon,  we saw her channel one of the greatest American style icons by embracing the power of  a pair of wide leg white trousers with a crisp shirt – heck if it worked for Jackie Kennedy-Onassis it can work for Meghan too! In her case Ralph Lauren did the design honours but the nod to American Prep culture is impossible to ignore and a refreshing visual change at a quintessential part of the traditional English season’s summer calendar.

jackie-tro

In fact it is this seemingly determined approach to dressing in pieces that are by American designers that marks Meghan out. Not for her the subdued route of a woman who has subsumed her identity for her husband’s and becomes British overnight (although that is technically true as a member of the British Royal family). For now at least the feminist mantra of being more than a spouse and vessel for future  Windsors is being played out via her wardrobe. Not made in the United Kingdom only for her, especially when there are a number of Americans she is more than happy to champion. This yellow Brandon Maxwell  shift proving a particular hit at a reception held for the Commonwealth Youth Challenge. Nothing says vitality and youth more than a primary coloured piece, and Californians are known for their sunny disposition, here Meghan teams the two notions via her ensemble to a winning effect.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Ralph Lauren got the nod again for Prince Louis’ christening with the duchess a sleek chic vision in olive a sharp contrast to the sea of pastel worn by the rest of the party. It is this Meghan that is more interesting . Her brief flirtation with pastels and bohemia (the Goat Dress with those too pale tights at a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace,the off the shoulder double breasted – can’t =bring-myself-to-describe-it-any-further Trooping of the Colour Caroline Herrera the dressing gown maxi from Oscar De La Renta) had shades of dressing by committee and perceived expectations: be decorative, be demure, don’t bag all the attention rather than as she truly is which is, which put simply is a superstar. Hiding one’s light under the proverbial bushel is definitely not a look for a woman who is a self proclaimed feminist. And as she is probably aware from her time as an actor, haters are going to hate, whatever you do to appease them, never mind the racists who are in conniptions at the prospect of black blood in the House of Windsor. So she might as well keep it real and wear her boat necked column dresses with alacrity. Occasional compliance, seen bellow in the church appropriate Stephen Jones hat rather than fascinator, and the Super Old -School flourish of gloves in hand are great (we are convinced the Queen and late Queen Mother would have fist-bumped if they had seen the gloves, a look long dispensed with by Royal women) but not needed every time.

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

However,  perhaps most exciting for fashion lovers is the  burgeoning relationship  between  Meghan  and  the  House  of Givenchy under the creative direction of Claire Waight Keller. The wedding dress may have divided critics (of course the chilled Cali girl fit was intended, not everyone wants to be corseted to an inch of their lives, rendering eating more than a mouthful of the wedding breakfast an impossibility and smiling a Herculean task, indeed such a cut is a luxury of the very slim), but seeing it again ten weeks later one cannot deny its significance or how it will influence bridal fashion. The triumph of the dress was its deceptive simplicity coupled with timeless feel, whilst being entirely appropriate for her new life in the  Royal  Family. With her soft make-up and signature messy bun, Meghan also achieved that Holy Grail of wedding day style; looking spectacular but still recognizable as herself. In the hands of another designer, Meghan might have ended up looking like a confection, a fairy-tale princess, instead she looked like a grown up woman (she is after all in her 30’s) in charge of her destiny, clear about what looks right on her body, who just happened to have fallen in love with a prince.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Since the Wedding Day we’ve witnessed more designer and  her royal  muse alchemy. Ladies Day at Royal Ascot saw  the duo keep things modern with a  white belted shirt dress rather than the more typically favoured by aristocrats  and royals  alike, coat dress. The Philip  Treacy hat was entirely on point and bonus points for  the  Balenciaga Knife  courts, but it is the  new informal – formal template that the Meghan and Waight Keller are creating that’s  proving particularly  exciting. A favoured look for  the working woman, the shirt-dress hints at a duchess who still identifies herself as such even if protocol dictates her views remain private.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

However, the high-water mark for the Claire x Meghan collaboration (if only they were allowed to do one officially? One can but dream…)  goes to a certain caped shoulder shift worn with the Queen in Chester. Haute Couture Perfection are the only words needed to describe it. Demure and over the knee, with a skinny belt which also gave the slender of hip duchess more of a hip flare than she has in reality, the dress was why Givenchy’s Haute Couture Spring/Summer 19 was one of the highlights of Paris this month. Flounce is an unnecessary distraction when the cutting  is this precise. No wonder the Queen was smiling throughout the engagement, when your grand-daughter in law not only gets the memo, but runs with it, you know the future, at least sartorially, is in very safe hands.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The union between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has precedents, most obviously seen in the late Princess Grace of Monaco formerly Grace Kelly, Hollywood Actress and style icon. However, much has changed since an old European Royal House experienced the refreshing breeze of a glamorous American actress joining its ranks.  When Princess Grace stepped into her’Helen Rose designed wedding dress (without doubt dress inspiration for the Duchess of Cambridge’s Sarah Burton designed Alexander McQueen gown, if you don’t believe me, kindly Google) the world was one of hierarchy and tradition, with anything that might cause a ripple in established norms and expectations stamped out or quietly let go of, ideally over a Gin and Tonic. Now in our inter-connected, socially fluid, historically ambivalent times the ties that bind are altogether more meritocratic. As long as you are beautiful, wealthy, and in these digitally enabled times relatable, the world is truly your oyster. It is for this reason that Meghan seems so gloriously modern. Yes, she is bound by the same rules every other Windsor Bride has ever been, (no talking about politics, religion, international affairs and certainly no tweeting or posting), but because there are hints, courtesy of her former online presence, we feel we know her. Furthermore she seems to be together charting a new path for the Windsors. One that segues between heritage, celebrity, youth, glamour and philanthropy and throws in trans-Atlantic pizzazz for good measure. And if she can leverage and harness the public scrutiny for global good, one cannot help but cheer, especially if she continues to do so in perfect trouser suits designed by the genius that is Claire Waight Keller for Givenchy.

Photo: Zak Hussein Pool/Getty Images
Photo: Zak Hussein Pool/Getty Images

 

Beauty and Diversity: How Lancôme Connected with Africa’s Biggest Market

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beauty industry is one that has all in it’s thrall, especially in Lagos where you are only as fine as your last appearance. French luxury cosmetics house Lancôme, are one of the first to realise the importance of tapping into the Nigerian market and last month saw the grand unveiling of the My Shade, My Power Campaign, at luxury retail mecca, Temple Muse, highlighting Lancôme’s expanded 40 shades for their cult Teint Idole foundation. Because this is Naija, and we have form in being extra, 46 rather than the assumed 40 women participated in the campaign. Let’s just say there was a surfeit of ‘fine girl, no pimple’ action!

my-shade-my-power-collage-2

In days of old a company would have parachuted a campaign from another territory, maybe added an additional model of ambiguous racial origin to the selected images and let the might of their global brand recognition do the rest. But herein was where the genius lay in the campaign, for the company chose to partner with Glam Brand Agency a strategic brand and communications agency with unparalleled expertise in bringing international beauty brands to African markets to giddying effect. Founded by Bola Balogun, a fashion industry veteran who previously worked in New York before relocating to Nigeria and has been the brains behind bringing Maybelline, Dark & Lovely and Caroline Herrera to Nigeria (yes, our cosmetics game has a lot to thank her for, from face beats to date nights to just everyday look presentable moments), her team selected, like in other My Shade My Power campaigns, women from all walks of life and all ages who had distinguished themselves in their respective fields. Critically, all skin tones were represented, which was of particular import, especially in an environment where fairness has oftentimes been presented as the preferred currency of pulchritude. As the collage of the women included attested, inclusiveness was real and not a mere gimmick.

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On the night itself, Temple Muse opened up a special  Lancôme Pop-Up Shop which included a host of  the company’s other essentials  (side note of a more personal kind:  I challenge any woman not to marvel at the wonder that is Bi-Facil Eye Make Up remover, a true sting free, take the day off treat!) as well as turning the shop into a pink hued palace of shopping for Lagos’ Belle Monde. If you are pretty, vaguely interested in pretty or just like immersing yourself in pretty for feel-good kicks, this was the night to be out and about as well as topping up your make-up stash.

Abisola Kola-Daisi
Abisola Kola-Daisi
Sal Gbajabiamila and Zaina Gbajabiamila
Sal Gbajabiamila and Zaina Gbajabiamila
Kabir Wadhwani and Avi Wadhwani
Kabir Wadhwani and Avi Wadhwani
Denola Grey
Denola Grey
Titi Fowora and Boye Fowora
Titi Fowora and Boye Fowora
Kessiana Edewor
Kessiana Edewor
Betty Irabor and Ojy Okpe
Betty Irabor and Ojy Okpe
Chichi Offodile, Zara Odu, Ada
Chichi Offodile, Zara Odu, Ada
Sonia Irabor
Sonia Irabor

But this was more than just another summer party with a retail spin, it was, on a more profound level a celebration of  beauty and identity whose repercussions will be felt for many years to come. Speaking to the women selected to participate in the campaign a variety of motivations, expectations and hopes emerge for the campaign. Gallerist and art consultant Adenrele Sonariwo of Rele Gallery notes:  “I particularly liked the concept and what it stood for and that the Lancôme brand was directly celebrating and empowering every day women.”  Maya Halabi  restaurateur of Lagos’ perennial dining favourite RSVP notes “Make up used to be about covering up and now it’s about highlighting beauty and strength.” This notion was also echoed in the short films accompanying the campaign that feature multiple award winning musical artist Waje and magazine and media mogul Betty Irabor. Fashion Designer Lisa Folawiyo of Lisa Folawiyo Studio explained: “Collaborating with such a huge international brand like Lancôme is a no brainer and I was thrilled to be one of those selected for their first beauty campaign in Nigeria. I have always been aware of the power of one’s image, and the significance of seeing ourselves reflected positively cannot be overstated. I feel that this campaign is as much for future generations as our own.”    It is a belief shared by Titi Fowora  Principal and founder of Inu Design who concurs: “I believed it would be more inspiring for other women to see women that look, sound and live like them rather than the usual celebrity or supermodel led campaigns. Furthermore, diversity encourages innovation and that’s always a good thing.”  Latasha Ngwube, Founder of Aboutthatcurvylife.com spoke for beauty junkies everywhere when she shared: I’ve always loved beauty products and have been fascinated by potions, creams,  and makeup all my life. Being approached by a brand as respected and successful as Lancôme meant I got to be a part of something really special and empowering to women.  The brand has recognized that diversity conversations are not just a token but now stand clearly at the forefront.” For Abisola Kola-Daisi, founder of Florence H, a luxury accessories retailer headquartered in Lagos, the commercial aspect is particularly pertinent: “The arrival of Lancôme to Nigeria affirms our position…the industry recognizes the importance of embracing and celebrating diversity in an ever growing interconnected world and the notion that beauty is global and cannot be defined by a homogeneous standard.” The positive reception for the campaign so far, both culturally and from a business perspective indicates that this is an ongoing conversation which will continue to evolve.

Adenrele Sonariwo
Adenrele Sonariwo
Maya Halabi
Maya Halabi
Lisa Folawiyo
Lisa Folawiyo
Titi Fowora
Titi Fowora
Latasha Ngwube
Latasha Ngwube
Abisola Kola-Daisi
Abisola Kola-Daisi

Speaking to Bola Balogun one is struck by the twin aspects of broadening the parameters of what is considered beautiful and adding long term value for the businesses that choose to fully engage with the Africa market. She expands: “There are several opportunities in Nigeria within the beauty, fashion and lifestyle spheres.  International companies need to have the right local partnership and this is a space that Glam Brand Agency has operated in for some time now. I always emphasize the importance for brands to understand the complexities women of different ethnicity face when it comes to make up and skin care. Also one cannot over emphasize the importance of diversity in advertisements and campaigns as well as ensuring the use of local content .” Understanding and reflecting nuances, norms and aspirations that are particular to locations as well as celebrating what is universal is key to any brand wishing to not only make an impact but also be part of the wider beauty and fashion ecosystem in Africa. It is why Balogun also identified Essenza, a Nigeria based beauty retailer to partner long term with Lancôme  in their Nigeria wide activities. It is a savvy move as Africa has an estimated value of $3.8 billion for colour cosmetics alone, according to EuroMonitor’s Beauty and Personal Care Report of 2013, and Nigeria, as the continent’s most populous nation is a good place for continent wide expansion plans to commence.

Omoyemi Akerele, Titi Fowora, Mazzi Odu, Bola Balogun
Omoyemi Akerele, Titi Fowora, Mazzi Odu, Bola Balogun

The buzz, four weeks since the unveiling is still present,  the tills are a-ringing and the celebration of when hashtags such as #myshademypower #lancome #blackexcellence and #melaninmagic coalesce into something greater that is happening in real life remains. Good news for Lancôme, great news for Africa and deeply satisfying for all those working tirelessly in the background for collaboration and partnerships to become the watchword for the beauty industry globally.

Team Players: A Tale of a Nigerian Football Fashion Collaboration

Catching up with Chekwas Okafor the creative force behind Onchek.com, the one-stop African fashion focused online retail destination is a bit of a challenge. For one thing, Chekwas is perpetually on the move, base camp might be New York City, but  if he’s not sourcing new designers across the continent, he’s knee deep in the practicalities of garment production, not withstanding the endless calls internationally to speak on the myriad of ways that the African fashion ecosystem needs to be supported and invigorated. But connect we do, and not a day sooner, especially as today, Lagos, Nigeria and the Diaspora are fever pitch for the forthcoming  World Cup in Russia and today in particular as the Super Eagles will face England in a friendly. Nothing connects the world on a more visceral level than the beautiful game and if you add fashion to the mix you are onto a winning combination, which is why Unity, the football inspired collection, available exclusively on Onchek.com and for those hardcore patriots, made in Nigeria too, is particularly exciting. However, there is more to the name than an exhortation of just how football binds in a way that nothing else quite can, as the design process was something of a Superstar collaboration with Chekwas collaborating with design titans, Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture and Shem Ezemma of Shem Paronelli Artisanal.

unity-family-onchek

The premise for the collection was a case of Chekwas wishing to alter perceptions regarding production, innovation and quality. He elaborates: “I wanted the collection to show that we can source design locally, that the sports space can collaborate with Nigerian designers to achieve the same high quality design that can compete with any other outsourced design.” For Adebayo his decision was based on a more romantic notion as he cites: “The idea of celebrating collaboration , oneness and the tenacity of the Super Eagles.” And for Shem it was the idea of creating something that is truly bipartisan when he notes:  “Soccer is about the only thing that unites Nigerians you know; suddenly they put the whole tribal differences behind and unite as one. So I guess that idea was it for me.”

Photo: Kosol Onwudinjor
Photo: Kosol Onwudinjo

The ideas coagulated into a football shirt incorporating the national colours of Green and White and using black as a metaphor to both race and excellence. Apart from the legend ‘Unity’ which is as much a statement of intent as it is a celebration in spite of difference, is the map of Nigeria which acts as a graphic motif on the side of the t-shirts. Whilst running or indeed dancing, the nation remains close to you, the wearer. Adebayo also speaks of the challenge of combining form and function when he adds “I had to think – what would people be able to wear while playing a sport. Is has to be breathable  but I also  wanted the design to be beautiful.” The shirt more than achieves it as it would look welcome on a pitch, in a gym or teamed with a killer heel, agit pants or easy, breezy shorts.

For the shoe, Shem choose to re-imagine his brand’s N-100 sneaker model, but with football visible in design accents. He adds “It was more of an adaptation; picking ideas, from the aesthetics and key features like the extended flap, a higher hugging counter and a much more pronounced and definitive cut that mimics the silhouette of a traditional a soccer shoe.” However, because this is a Shem Paronelli Artisanal shoe luxury flourishes include an oiled nubuck leather upper, and instead of studs a smooth sole making it a favourite for men and women alike

Photo: OGB
Photo: OGB

Perhaps most significantly, the Unity Collection illustrates the power of collaboration,  and how it offers a potent riposte for those still stuck on the old adage of there being only room for one shining light  at any given time in the African fashion design space, or designers being too ridden with rivalry to work dynamically and effectively together.  Adebayo notes that he has always been “open to collaborations” and Shem adds “the vision kind of just resonated with me and I was like yeah, let’s do it.” It also does not go unnoticed that Adebayo and Shem hail from different parts of Nigeria, places whose norms, language, culture and aesthetics will have to a greater or lesser degree informed their  design language thus far and yet in this instance are harnessed to create a greater whole. Food for thought for others operating in other disciplines to be sure. However,  the designers’ ebullience is also echoed by Chekwas himself who sees the collection as just the beginning of future projects that Onchek.com will be championing in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. One cannot help but be excited about the age of collaboration, a buzzword and a feature of the fashion landscape for sometime, fully taking hold across the continent.

Photo: Kosol Onwudinjor
Photo: Kosol Onwudinjor

As Nigeria garners more interest both regionally on the continent as an incubator of talent, and globally as a key location for exploring and immersing oneself in the African aesthetic; long term and lasting improvements in the garment production industry can no longer languish as a conversation piece in the corridors of power and must find themselves as an action point providing measurable results. It is here that the Unity Collection has both distinguished itself and excelled as Onchek partnered with a factory in Apapa, Lagos which has benefited from Human Capital Development Consultancy training and management that in turn has been facilitated by Style House Files Creative Agency and supported by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council. In doing this, rather than seeking production in other global, some might point out cheaper locations, Chekwas has positioned the collection as an emblem of the possibilities for the fashion industry. An industry that with the right infrastructure, a favourable environment for investment and long-term strategic development has the potential to be both a creator of wealth and a catalyst for the diversification of the Nigerian economy.

Photo: Kosol Onwudinjor
Photo: Kosol Onwudinjor

There is also something cheering of thinking that the whole process, from ideation through to production happened in Lagos, arguably Africa’s fashion capital. For Chekwas this element was a non-negotiable aspect for the project: “This is our company’s philosophy. It is in our DNA that all the products we carry will be made in Africa. That’s the only way we can live our company’s purpose of “creating jobs and promoting culture through fashion”.” As the world moves increasingly to a more conscious form of capitalism, such an approach not only resonates with customers but also with notions of sustainability and economic inclusiveness. And for those of us who love our football and fashion with equal fervour, what to wear when Nigeria plays, just got made simpler.

 

 

For the Love of Art: Lisa Folawiyo Autumn/Winter 2018 Presentation

Yesterday evening Lisa Folawiyo chose to step outside the fashion melee of last month and present her Autumn/Winter collection in an art gallery, Rele Gallery to be precise. A risk some might think, surely retailers, clients and members of the press would be thin on the ground to attend, document and most important of all figure out what they are going to order from her latest collection? As it was, the event was unsurprisingly a road-block, you do not, after all become bona-fide African Fashion Royalty and not build a loyal following, in the case of Folawiyo, of the glossiest kind. And besides what is fashion if not wearable art?

Arriving and the space had more of a private view vibe than a major fashion happening, complete with open frames, presumably for the models to walk through, stand inside, do something performative, one couldn’t help speculate? A long single bench much like the ones placed in galleries so one can absorb and fully contemplate a painting was all there was by way of seating and for those who were not speedy, standing was the order of the day. It made for an intimate setting, one which made the focus entirely  on the pieces rather than the FROW and who was wearing what. And the show opener, a model walking through the crowd, barefoot, in a floor length Folawiyo gown and beginning to paint to the sound of Alexndr London’s hypnotic song April gave us a hint of what to expect, which was an immersive experience with a capital E.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Entitled “Textures, Chaos and Systems” the show notes read more like a curator’s statement with those present being promised “a collection, [that is ] a journey of reflective progression, in Lisa Folawiyo’s visual state of mind”. One was also keyed up by the same statement to look out for Bauhaus architecture influences and exemplum of Folawiyo’s  “bold, unashamed, and rebellious ideology reflected through a self-curated aesthetic.” There was nothing chaotic to my eye in what Folawiyo presented, if anything she has become a master of fluid assymetry, with hemlines, sleeves and backs being her playground of choice. Not for Folawiyo, the obvious and basic option of a plunging neckline and heaving bosom when one can produce an apron shaped exposed back instead, that manages to tread the line between demure elegance and erotic allure simultaneously.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

This is not to say that piping-hot wasn’t available. Erogenous zones a la Folawiyo came courtesy of the exposed midriff, which if you are over 30, stop eating carbs post 6pm and you will be more than fine and able to participate. Alternatively,  if you have been chilling like a villain on a treadmill, or are just naturally, Praise the Lord, built like that, a scandalously short skirt is a seasonal must. It was sexy and sassy and perhaps because other elements were chilled, in the instance of the cocktail dress, via an over the knee hemline and in the case of the micro-mini with a blouse that had a variant of a leg-of-mutton sleeve, didn’t delve into the realm of tarty.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

lisa-folawiyo-dress-with-midriff-beading-and-print

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Art or rather brush strokes and painters’ splatters was referenced in two signature prints created with Folawiyo’s long time collaborator Banke Kuku, and were the calling card in all of the pieces. Palette wise, blue, grey and green dominated, and as a designer who has made a credo of audacious print combinations, fans of such were not disappointed. A sequence of three quarter length day dresses were  particularly successful in elucidating the aforementioned brave approach to print mixing as too were evening pieces, which brought back the J in Jewel By Lisa with bugle beading and embellishment adding sparkle and glamour to proceedings. Make up also got an artistic re-boot courtesy of painted ears and primary colour accents in the corner of models’ eyes. Accessories were minimal bar the small beaded evening top handle bags that have become another Folawiyo signature.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

For an Autumn/Winter presentation, outerwear was scant although a jacket teamed with a skirt that featured pleats and not one but two prints was a welcome option, with it’s super cinched waist and dramatically long belt. Hero ensemble of the night however was a three tone ( there she goes again with the print-a-cular alchemy) pleated trouser with layered silk blouses atop one another, in the manner of a woman who just cannot decide between the two and decides, sod it, wear both. The trousers felt like a revelation – and it would have been thrilling to have seen the silhouette and the thesis of the piece expanded upon further – perhaps in a light wool for the cold?  But the sky blue blouse with it’s blouson silhouette and accented lapel was a masterclass in what women want to wear right now. As it was styled for the show or with those favourite jeans knocking about in the back of the closet it had useful, and gorgeous and super easy to team with existing items writ large.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

It takes a brave designer to dare to go against the grain in terms of both timing and style of presentation. But Folawiyo is in a powerful position:  known, celebrated and at a juncture in her career where she can experiment and dabble in other visual media without there being adverse consequences on her principal offerings. Significantly, intimacy, authenticity and creating a design language that is truly one’s own have become buzz words in the wider conversations around luxury and fashion in particular. Folawiyo, taking a bow at the end of her show in a shirt of her own design, Monse Jeans and Fendi Shoes illustrated that loving and engaging in fashion needn’t be a straight narrative arc. It can take in art, music, other fashion designers and whatever else might inspire. The order books will be full, as per usual, but perhaps most significant is this is an artist, and let’s face it, fashion is art, who continues to push the envelope with herself and her craft.

Arise Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day Three Review

The final day of Arise Fashion Week felt like the end of a three-day fashion extravaganza with the venue full early. No Naomi today, but supermodel presence was represented with Oluchi and Ogy Okpe who walked for a number of designers and the FROW was a cross section of fashion industry stalwarts, socialites, captains of industry and notable figures in Nigerian and African media. It was this potpourri approach to the guest-list that had resulted in the celebratory energy of the week overall, yes, these people liked fashion, but it was not their business per se, thus entertainment and enjoyment was as much an essential part of the evening as being shocked and awed by the ensembles on the runway.

Moofa’s collection was the first to capture the imagination of both the chilled and more fashion obsessed. Fashola Olayinka is self-trained but her eye for detail belies this. Stylistic ticks such as covering shoes with black tights elongated the models legs and brought focus to the pieces themselves which were print-tacular but sensibly in oh-so-commercial silhouettes. This season the Moofa woman is an African gypsy who has been seduced by tales of the Orient. Maxi dresses and coats were created with a clarity of vision that made it very easy to envision them not only on the shop floor but in many women of all ages closets. Clever, concise and critically commercial, something that many designers wishing to branch out beyond the African continent would be wise to emulate.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

, Sunny Rose and Gozel Green all expanded on themes they had explored in collections presented at Lagos Fashion Week. This is not to say the collections in and of themselves felt re-hashed, if anything an increase of pieces shown allowed for theses to be fully be, exactly as the designer  and this was particularly evident at Ré where the Japanese Geisha influences were made apparent in the introduction of obi style belts white ankle socks and black sandals on the models’ feet.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

For Sunny Rose, rich-girl-chic was still the order of the day but with a monochrome palate of aso’oke and ankara in many pieces, and  added flourishes of tulle for those who require it.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Gozel Green remained wedded in a good way, to the ath-leisure motifs, panelling, and contrasting palettes that have become something of a taste talisman for them.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

In contrast Maxivive’s show felt more restrained than what was shown previously. Putting props and staging aside, the styling was sober with fewer women walking and the overt references to gender fluidity and the Drag Queen subculture muted to glitter and guy-liner for a less full-on fashion crowd. This didn’t diminish the pieces presented, and as before there was still much to consider when one looked beyond the styling of the show itself, particularly pants, knits and suiting.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

For South African brand MaXhosa by Laduma, the collection presented was a means to answer the question of where to take their knitwear trademark beyond the realms of twinsets and pencil skirts. Creative director Laduma Ngxokolo answered with the introduction of ostrich plumes on the hemlines thus creating a day to evening air. Also gorgeous and bound to be a future best-seller was a flared dress that was the definition of pretty. Laduma also experimented with silk prints with a sequence of silk jogging pants sitting somewhere between lounge and evening wear and floor length gowns. Super narrow denim was teamed with graphic t-shirts for men, wrapper skirts were also offered as an option and the signature sweaters continued to be every bit as beguiling as they were when Laduma first appeared on the scene.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Rich Mnisi also ably flew the flag for South Africa and showed why he is considered one of the most exciting voices in African fashion. Coats were a particular triumph with a white gauze coat with a corseted fit particularly strong. Pinstripes came in many iterations, but felt neither dated or dull in Mnisi’s hand. It was refreshing to see a collection that did not feel derivative and instead forged a distinct direction of its own.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Continuing in that theme of charting a path that is both original and gorgeous was Bridget Awosika. As is often her way, Bridget did not offer pieces in a plethora of colours instead sticking to a palette of red black and white. Dresses were tea length and with a cornucopia of  sleeve styles and options, but not compromising on the slim line silhouette which is part of her design language. Black cocktail trousers sat somewhere between an old-school jodhpur shape with a delicate ribbon tie on the hem and were an exciting alternative to the proverbial little black dress for evening. Blouses, which have become something of a calling card for Bridget were also present and correct with one narrow barrel sleeved number a God-send for those whose arms are less than spectacular and another with a black silk obi panel equally special. An experimental tuxedo day dress sounded on a paper like it could be clichéd or messy, but in her able hands was clever and sophisticated, the ‘lapels’ appearing on the back of the dress. A black coat with an exposed shoulder might wreak havoc in a snowstorm but would clearly be fun to wear and ever the pragmatist Bridget offered an Origami folded sleeved option too. As the show closed one was left with the boggling decision of which piece you would wear first. It is rare that clothes immediately speak to a critic’s wardrobe, but these ones bellowed ‘Buy Me!’

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Tokyo James is the polymath of the fashion scene in Nigeria with art direction and a successful stint running a fashion and style magazine just two of the many strings he has ably added to his bow. Whilst he remains best known for menswear, this season saw him branch out into women’s. The Tokyo James woman is sexy with a bit of the part-time innocent dominatrix about her with the inclusion of a white PVC cocktail dress as the first evening option presented. Low slung leather trousers tiered floor length skirts completed the look of a woman who was destined to stalk her prey at night and devour them by morning. Men’s was a continuation of what Tokyo has become best known for body conscious suiting and coats that create a crisis of which one to wear first when the weather turns. Quilted duster coats are sure to be sell-outs as is a single breasted jacket that foregoes a button as fastening for a safety pin. Nothing is left to chance and polka dot linings peaking through as models walked was testament to a creative director that leaves no detail to chance. For those who need an entry-point piece James has unequivocally branched into footwear with low Cuban heels and rivets and in this label-mania renaissance moment that fashion is currently having ‘Tokyo James’ writ large on the straps and you could also choose to drape yourself in a Tokyo James scarf. Overall it was indicative of a designer who is steadily creating a ‘world’ for consumers to enjoy.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Chulaap’s collection was one that was rewarded murmurs of appreciation, especially as the brand and creative designer behind it Chularp Suwannapha is not known in Nigeria. The directional pieces were a print mash-up with kaleidoscope of colours featuring and the models’ faces concealed by knitwear. Blankets were tied casually on the shoulders and all of the pieces rather than a handful were created with colder weather in mind rather than as an afterthought. However, this is also in part a reflection of the cold snap experienced in South Africa which is not in tropical Africa. Nevertheless, from an Afrocentric perspective the possibility of being swathed in winter staples designed and made entirely on the continent was thrilling.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

The night and evening closed with a triumvirate of design heavyweights from Nigeria (although Chulaap was sandwiched between the two) and in many ways we were given a snapshot of the story so far for the Lagos design scene in particular, which has been dominated by certain names for some time. Odio Minomet’s collection played to her strengths which have seen her garner a loyal clientele addicted to her way with prints and lavish fabrics such as lace, lame and silks. Her series of cocktail dresses  and evening pieces was especially pleasing and definitely aimed at a grown woman rather than an ingénue. It was bold and ultimately a financially savvy approach especially when we live in an age which for the most part worships youth that in turn might not have the means to buy into the brand.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Tsemaye Binitie produced a collection that like many seen this week teamed traditional fabric aso’oke and rejuvenated it for a younger audience. Opening with actress, model and all-round media darling Eku Edewor was a stroke of genius and a cropped trench coat and an asymmetric lace shift were reminders of how his designs had caught the attention of the international press and influential retailers. Less successful was an evening gown sequence which felt rushed and would have perhaps been best omitted altogether. But there were enough elements that meant the collection will keep him in the cross hairs as one of the continent’s ‘ones to watch’.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Mai Atafo’s closing collection featured the pieces that his customers, for the most part men with considerable means, have grown to know and love. Velvet smoking jackets brocade and body conscious trousers remain part of his winning formula. However, the exciting development was the fulsome and thoughtful offerings he gave to women’s wear whilst still remaining loyal to his tailoring instincts. The pieces were for women who were principal boy rather than femme fatale, with over sized burgundy bow ties on coats, double breasted jackets and slim fit trousers and brocade frock coats that were nipped in at the waist but still teamed with masculine caps. Atafo, known for his statement off duty options, with his ‘Beard Gang’ print shirts proving particularly popular last season, followed them up this season with ‘Isi Agu’ pullovers with the Igbo lion print re=invented for winter. It was a noteworthy direction for a designer who could easily sit back at the helm of men’s occasion wear in particular. But what is fashion if not evolution and Atafo closed the week leaving audiences with an impression of there being so much more to come.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

 

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Arise Fashion Week was an undeniable success, the excitement and conversations that it continues to occupy both domestically, regionally and globally speak to that. Some might say it was all down to organisers booking supermodels, others too might point out that aside from a N300 million fund for designers announced, there was scant information on how it success would be tracked and measured, but this is perhaps to miss the point. Even those with a neutral relationship to clothes were aware of the happenings in Lagos Intercontinental Hotel. Furthermore, there are other platforms that exist in Lagos that provide a more buyers friendly focus and supply chain support that is needed to grow the industry as a whole. Perhaps a thought for future weeks is a further edit of participants so audiences do not flag when viewing collections that honestly do not pass muster. However, in our information saturated age, one has to be talked about, and Arise Fashion Week with its combination of scale and omnipresence has effectively made African Fashion an inevitable part of the global fashion conversation.

 

Arise Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day Two Review

Day Two of Arise Fashion Week brought out the style tribes in full force, and clients, friends and muses of the likes of Tiffany Amber, Kenneth Ize and Style Temple wore their sartorial hearts on their sleeves. For those who were not industry insiders these ensembles gave a clue of what to expect once said shows commenced, but it also indicated that Lagos, like any other fashion capital in the world, operated on the twin fuels of patronage and buzz, with enthusiasms flamed furthrt via Social Media. It was also the evening that cemented the intent of Arise Fashion Week which was now clearly sitting on the nexus of fashion event and family entertainment as the likes of Seyi Shey took to the runway to perform in show intermissions. Did this distract from the clothes themselves, maybe, but it did not diminish from the cheers and perhaps this was precisely the whole point; for those who took or indeed still take fashion terribly seriously, to loosen up, have fun and not be staring too intently at the runway for the schedule to run to order and to time.

As with Day One the audience didn’t truly come to life until a popular designer’s show commenced. And the first to experience such was Funke Adepoju,  who sent down the runway a series of pieces featuring fringe aplenty that had already received the stamp of approval of social media influencers, bloggers and socialites with one cobalt jumpsuit already on the back of Ozinna Anumudu, a woman who like the likes of Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung is oft imitated by her legion of followers. It was and indeed is a smart approach for the brand take, but for longevity expanding on the array of ensembles offered would also be beneficial. Not for the first or indeed the last time this evening were we treated to an evening and occasion wear heavy collection with little offered to the working woman, the off-duty but still desiring to look pulled together on the weekend woman or the woman who may actually need some sort of cover-up when travelling from point A to B. But if you want to slay at a wedding reception or a similar function, look no further.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Fresh from providing the suiting for the groom and his men at the society wedding of the year in Lagos between Dangote heiress Fatima and political scion Jamil Abubakar, Kimono Kollection’s creative director Hakeem Balogun used his show-time to augment in the minds of his existing clients and potential ones that he was a one stop shop for men’s evening wear and contemporary traditional. In doing so he was potentially treading on the toes of more established names such as Mai Atafo and Ugo Monye, but what is fashion without a healthy dollop of competition to motivate designers to push further? It was a confident showing from the menswear brand of the hour, with plenty of his high single breasted and buttoned jackets, a speedy exposition of classic trad silhouettes.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Conversely, Tzar another menswear brand with an established clientele decided to expand into women’s pieces with mixed results. Far stronger was creative director Ian Audifferen’s continued experimentation with fabric contrasts, layering and fluidity with several high-points including  a stand-out shirt ties on the cuff, and praises be, coats and cardigans that did not appear as an afterthought, but were a distinct and necessary part of his vision. This is the lane we wish Tzar to stay in, not that it is good or right to be so didactic, but when the pieces are working as they are, one can’t help but psychically say ‘Stop, this is it, no need for anything further.’ But what is creativity in its truest sense if said creative doesn’t continue to push the proverbial envelope and seek other fora for expression? In the meantime there is plenty to pimp a man’s Autumn/Winter wardrobe sharply.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Washington Roberts sent down his strongest collection yet, one which had piece after piece of covetable, wearable fashion, that didn’t fall into bore-snore territory. As my stylish neighbour said ‘the sort of clothes that if a girl was wearing them would make you want to ask her for dinner’. Not because they were sexy in an obvious way either, but because they celebrated the feminine form without descending into sleazy territory. Show opener a slimline black silver and red dress over cigarette pant was an exposition of less is more adage and waist cut outs in a sequence of dresses retained their high fashion credentials by not cutting too deep into the midriff. The collection was held together with a repeated drop shoulder motif and bold visible zips. Hemline shapes were also given a reboot with a knee length, U-shape with a high centre slit echoing the same notion of hinting rather than revealing everything. Pieces also were critically figure kind – the heavy of hip could participate with a fifties full skirted dress and the aforementioned skirts were leg lengtheners. Though the collection was gimmick free it was nevertheless quietly powerful and felt like a watermark from the Washington of old.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Style Temple and Kenneth Ize had both shown at Lagos Fashion Week so it was a  question of what else? In the instance of Style Temple, creative director OG Okonkwo took it up a notch with a full collection rather than the abridged one experienced previously and two distinct shapes for wearers to choose from: the 18th century silhouette with exaggerated hip line found itself fully on trousers, dresses and skirts and is an obvious choice for the fashion-girl-about-town. However an alternative silhouette for the less daring was also offered and this skimmed rather than hugged body and came in an array of silk jerseys. Existing fans will be pleased and continue to buy.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

In Kenneth Ize’s instance the wunderkind expanded his central thesis of re-imagining traditional print techniques, but extended the palette with lemon yellow tie dye also featuring heavily alongside purple and black iterations. The jumbo scarves, that have become the perfect entry-point piece into the world according to Ize were also presented as wrappers, a nod to Southern and Eastern Nigerian traditional attire that has men in such rather than trousers and for the ladies there were more jackets only this time belted tightly at the waist. It was an assured showing and the Kenneth Ize army was in raptures at his close. For the designer whose pieces are currently adorning most of the mannequins in Alara, he can currently do no wrong.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Tiffany Amber is part of Africa’s fashion establishment so it was only right and proper that Naomi Campbell should open for her show, which was a paean to the power of a woman. Creative Director Folake Coker has become a mistress of modernising but still retaining the Nigerian female aesthetic, and so on Naomi we saw the traditional iro buba with an oleku silk skirt given a contemporary twist via a button down blouse that had plumed ostrich feather sleeves. The rest of the collection was a veritable greatest hits of some of her signature pieces but with Autumn/Winter taken into consideration hence basket weave cocoon coats and jackets and floor length opera coats with applique flowers. As is the way with Tiffany Amber this was luxury with a capital L and so wide legged palazzo pants were in silk jersey and dresses came with beading and embellishment and if volume could be added to a piece why the hell not? Many of the pieces were worn with hats, harking back to an era when formality and glamour went hand in hand. But to understand Tiffany Amber is to in many ways understand the innate aesthetic of the Nigerian and African woman. We love glamour, we love being properly put together, yes Millennials might embrace off duty, but the fact that Tiffany Amber remains among the ultimate #weddinggoals outfitter of choice in this demographic too speaks to an innate understanding that Folake has for her customers, both existing and potential. The Tiffany Amber Squad were on their feet at the end of the show and there was a mass exodus of the hall, but this is to be expected when the audience felt that they had seen and experienced the fashion promised land.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

For those of us who were committed and stayed on, Tinie Tempah’s What We Wear collection was a master class in ath-leisure especially on a night when so many designers had toyed with it conceptually to varying levels of success. Capitalising on his credentials as a grime artist who is as comfortable in an underground pirate radio station rapping as he is in an exquisitely cut dinner jacket at the GQ Man of The Year awards he infused his collection with elements of street wear but brought the posh chap vibe via luxe fabric choices, seen in particular effect with a velvet zipped jacket with tailored track pants.  Heritage was also explored in the choice of aso’oke and vibrant print  which was used to great effect with shirts teamed with slim fit tan pants or oversize fleeces teamed with print pants. Many pieces came tagged with WWW, a logo that cleverly sat between street art and logomania. However, what was most beguiling about the pieces was the credibility, these were not pieces created to jump on the music-meets-runway bandwagon where every pop artist quickly puts together a fashion brand. These were pieces born out of a musician’s love for fashion with a deep understanding of exactly what his peers and his fans want to wear.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

And so it was left to Ozwald Boateng’s closing show to provide a fulsome elucidation of what happens when one fuses African elements with the revered tailoring techniques of Savile Row. A short film contextualised his work thus far with cameos from Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Sir Richard Branson,  who of course are all loyal Boateng customers. An opening look of a jacket with another jacket robed was simultaneously arresting and fresh. A cobalt blue single breasted jacket and a forest green iteration hinted at classic Ozwald but were somewhat more muted, an accurate reflection of the times and white Converse plimsolls brought levity and modernity to proceedings. Ozwald still gave a splash of ostentation and also unusually for him, featured women in his pieces quite heavily too; a strong nod in the gender neutral times we now live in with women in men’s pieces merely part of the new normal.  Texture and cut were also front and centre in every piece, and one could tell that much thought had gone into how each piece would interact on the wearer. Does one need stroke-able sleeves, do hands need to be pretty much enveloped in tangerine silk cuffs, are hats essential? Ozwald answered all these sartorial questions and more. And of course, because it was Ozwald, Ms Campbell walked the catwalk once more.  After a number of collections viewed earlier in the day where execution had been patchy it was pleasing to see such beautifully constructed and well finished pieces. It was as if the master had returned for the specific purposes of  schooling those younger on exactly how to give and  close a show. And for customers young and old, male or indeed female there was a full forty ensembles to choose from. Day two may have ended late, but it was worth it for those interested in a lesson in the good arts of cut and colour wizardry that Ozwald has made his own.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

 

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Arise Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day One Review

Arise Fashion Week commenced with the kind of buzz and excitement that most platforms can only dream about. But then this is what happens when you have a multi-channel broadcasting conglomerate capturing every moment, charismatic leadership in the form of Nduka Obaigbena and Ruth Osime as part of your communications arsenal and more than a smattering of celebrity guests in the seats. Put simply, Arise was trending and that was even before a model had walked the runway. There was also a serious dose of expectation – would the original fashion week, the one that was a catalyst for the careers of many fashion veterans in Nigeria and across the Africa live up to expectations and all this hype? Especially when an anticipated start on Friday was moved to Saturday? And in a month that had already witnessed autumn presentations at Lagos Fashion Week what would be the differentiator for attendees and retail buyers? As the lights dimmed on what had been described as ‘Africa’s Most Beautiful Runway’ the stage was well and truly set.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

After a series of emergent talents, the first show to get that engaged the audience was ‘About That Curvy Life’ collective. The revolving group of designers selected by creative visionary Latasha Ngwube were once more flying the flag for plus-size fashion. In an age where fashion has increasingly embraced inclusiveness not only as a buzz-word but a call to action, it was encouraging to see the designers selected pushing the envelope in terms of theme and execution. What in previous seasons had felt like a celebration of difference was now more about creating wearable pieces.  The military touches in the opening sequence of pieces including berets on all the models who marched out to Davido’s mega-hit, Fia, also of particular note were the jumpsuits and day wear. The cheers said it all – plus size fashion was here to stay and Latasha continues to discover an array of voices to express what women and men want to wear right now.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Still on a theme on fashion’s diversification was Abaya Lagos’ modesty enthused collection. A smart move from a commercial perspective as this is a segment of the market that continues to grow beyond the confines of the Middle East. We were treated to the notion that concealing needn’t be a one-note affair of tunics and variants of salwar kameezes  and pieces played on proportion such as draped culottes, interspersed with intricate panelling and beadwork on the backs of jackets and coats adding a further element of surprise. Sandals were flat and hair was covered in coordinating turbans, and the collection as a whole served as an antidote to what had become tired tropes as well as an invitation to those who may not be obligated by their faith to flirt with modesty and thus make it mainstream.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

The star turn in more ways than one in the evening belonged to Lanre Da Silva Ajayi – where we finally got a realisation of why the catwalk had been given the moniker of Africa’s most beautiful. Opening her show and in many ways shutting everything else in the process was Naomi Campbell in a metallic fringed cocktail dress that has the crowd at fever pitch and some behind on their feet (probably all the better to capture footage for the ‘gram). The collection played to the strengths of the Lanre design playbook of providing women with strong occasion wear. Indeed, there was plenty to choose from for the glamorous woman who flits from cocktail party to wedding and is sometimes sighted on the Red Carpet too. However, for a designer who has carved a successful niche dressing well-heeled socialites there was a heady dose of potential scandal provoking dressing, with gauzy pleated jumbo sleeved gowns that revealed the full form of Oluchi and the other models who wore them. Lined, as many will probably eventually order them, they will lose much of their insouciance, but they signified a designer who is not content to rest on her laurels and is keen to court a younger edgier clientele.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Kluk CGDT was the big ticket offering from South Africa, and they too opened their show with Naomi only this time in a lilac trench coat. It was welcome to see a coat open an Autumn/Winter fashion presentation series, especially as so many who presented had failed to offer any meaningful options for clothing that would work in colder climes. However, the collection lacked clear cohesiveness, apart from lilac tying it together as just about every silhouette fabric option and hemline made its way onto the runway. On one level one could see this as commercial savvy, there was bound to be one or two things that might look like viable wardrobe options for everyone but in reality it felt as if there was a lack of focus. What sort of woman would wear these pieces? How did they mirror her world view, perceptions and dreams, because clothing, apart from doing the obvious of covering us from the elements, is meant to hint at these inner realities.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

At Fashpa a different issue was at hand, the collection in many ways worked well and it was clearly aimed at a young girl-about-town. However, it was reminiscent of many pieces seen by other noted designers, early Maki Oh in particular, and one couldn’t help but look and think whether the good people at fashion-knock-offs call-out Instagram handle Diet Prada wouldn’t spot an homage too many. It is an interesting time, for fashion overall, and this collection put the following questions sharply into focus: how much of this is homage, how much bricolage and how much copy-paste? One could discuss this at length, and yes, there are no right or wrong answers.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Menswear was ably presented by Laurence Airline, a brand that continues to successfully occupy a space called stylish quirk and keep men, and a lot of women who simply buy a small and get on with it, more than satisfied. A palette of cobalt with yellow invigorated the senses and plaid and patterns were mixed with the confidence of a designer who has mastered the art of combining print with ease. Ath-leisure accents were introduced via hooded tops, plaid, and a trouser in the palest pink which had a drawstring waistband, as well as stripes galore Accessories also hinted at a complete approach to ensembles, with the Laurence Airline man foregoing a briefcase and instead carrying his essentials in giant Ghana-Must-Go bags and adorning his neck with orange duck-tape rather than something as pedestrian as a necklace. It was a confident showing of a brand that has quietly grown from strength to strength and married Ivorian and Parisian sensibility with ease.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

The evening closed with Andrea Iyamah a designer who is as much known for her ready-to-wear and occasion pieces as she is for her beachwear. In this instance she gave us her vision for sun-kissed beach days and sent her trademark high legged bikinis and one pieces down the runway. Moving on from the vibrant print choices of previous collections, the palate was highly commercial and easy to wear whatever your hue or race, with coral, slate grey, mustard and a deep fuchsia dominating. A canny decision especially as beachwear remains a nascent sector in Africa, thus the more potential participants the better. Existing fans will definitely continue to patronise and new ones will also be won both in Africa and beyond.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

For those who blinked into the night once the lights came up in the auditorium, there was definitely a sense of having witnessed a return to form from Team Arise. The banks of reporters were there, a sense of occasion was achieved and Social Media went into meltdown once a certain Naomi Campbell walked the runway. Furthermore there did not seem to be a conflation of purposes, Lagos Fashion Week follows a more established modus operandi of building the fashion industry in a holistic manner and Arise Fashion Week brings sparkle, buzz and entertainment to proceedings. This is not a case of ifs and ors but space and more.