Diffusion or Dilution? The Case for Sibling Brands

Photo courtesy of J Label
Photo courtesy of J Label

 

Once upon a time in Planet Fashion there were three kingdoms. Haute-Couture was a mythical, magical place where pieces took months to make and were destined to be worn by the minted and gifted (that would be billionaires and Hollywood A-Listers during Awards Season).  Pret-A-Porter an almost equally  fantastical place was where beautiful clothes were still the order of the day, although retail and shops were in mind rather than customers who had never flown commercial, hence a shorter turnaround time in the presenting and making and greater profits for designers. And then there was Diffusion; call her the spunkier younger sister of Pret-a-Porter, obviously related, but with a different point of view:  pieces were often edgier, fabrics maybe not quite as luxe and because of this clothes were a great deal cheaper.  Of course there was another kingdom, sprawling in size and bigger than everything else put together called High-Street, but that’s a story for another day.

But returning to our siblings Pret-a-Porter and Diffusion; things have been what can one say, complicated in terms of growth, development and market share. It used to be simple go to any department store in the world and the sister’s domains were clear cut for a shopper: one floor would be full of Pret-a-Porter, Dolce and Gabanna, Marc  Jacobs,  Donna Karan, Prada and so on and the next floor would be  full of diffusion: D&G, Marc by Marc Jacobs, DKNY and Miu Miu. But consumer habits (happy to shop in the High Street Kingdom for most things, save/max the credit card for key  pieces in Pret-a-Porter and remortgage their home/pray they bagged a billionaire for Haute Couture) meant some of these Diffusion brands have shuttered, and in the aforementioned list only Miu Miu  has successfully transitioned from younger sister to player in her own right as its quirky aesthetic was refined to something every bit as covetable as Prada’s.

However, observe the African markets and things are a little different. The love and devotion to looking fantastic is every bit as intense (in fact I would argue sometimes more so), as in other parts of the world, but the way that the industry has developed means there is space and in fact a desperate need for diffusion lines. It begins with the absurdity that ALMOST everyone, and this is no exaggeration, perceives  and describes themselves as ‘Couture’ never mind that hems remain unfinished, construction hit and miss, petit-main precision is nowhere to be seen  and the fabrics are itchy-scratchy synthetic rather than the finest silks, wools or cottons. This is not to say that there are no lines producing haute-couture in Lagos or elsewhere in Africa, but the waters are muddied by there being no clear demarcations and the term being used with no real understanding of what it takes to produce like that. A Second reason for a need for diffusion is due to the current locus that the most of the celebrated designers in Africa are operating in, the Pret-a-Porter Demi-Couture space,  being where production costs and attendant challenges  gobble up margins most. While some fashionistas in Lagos eye roll and hiss at the cost of a Bridget Awosika, Orange Culture or Lisa Folawiyo Studio piece, it is quite simply not easy to produce and retail here in Nigeria, and we would all be kind to remember that these are businesses and luxury brands not our tailor that we all have on speed-dial to whip something up sharpish.

Stepping up to the challenge of developing a sibling brand to feed insatiable fashion needs here is Lisa Folawiyo, who launched her diffusion line J Label to critical acclaim at Temple Muse last month:   “there was a growing need for us to fill an increasingly widening gap in the Nigerian fashion market…a need for stylish well designed, beautifully finished with a luxurious appeal but most importantly affordable clothing.” Says Folawiyo, who pioneered embellished Ankara with her Jewel By Lisa line and cemented her dominance with an international celebrity-heavy client list and LF Studio a line that expands on her mastery of juxtaposing print and proportions. Known for her own love of international designers (her IG feed is an intoxicating mix of her rocking the hottest looks from the runway, Balenciaga and Vetements being firm wardrobe favourites as well as accessories that will cheer the heart of any fashion enthusiast), she was keen for her brand in particular to be more inclusive and not just for the privileged few.

 

Photo courtesy of J Label
Photo courtesy of J Label

 

With J Label, Folawiyo has cleverly not fallen into the trap of diffusion breeding dilution. There is a continuum of her brand DNA but without too much compromise:  “our unmistakable brand identity is still there, you will still see the mixing and matching of prints, impeccable cuts and clever detailing but because it is a more affordable line there is little or no use of hand embellishment.” The result are pieces that are undeniably Folawiyo designed; one pleated asymmetric skirt and blouse ensemble that combined a navy, coral and dove colured print with a more subdued white and dove counterpoint is a runaway hit in the making with its multi-purpose possibilities. One could wear it on a date, for cocktails with the girls and even church followed by a meet the parents easily. Also flying off the rails on launch night was a lemon yellow, brick red and sky blue maxi jacket: the options of how to rock this particular piece were numerous too: it could used as an up the ante pop of colour accompaniment to jeans and t-shirt, the final flourish to a print-maximalism outfit with a contrasting trouser and blouse combo as styled in the J Label look book ,or if you are planning for a fashion editorial  spread worthy summer holiday, as the ultimate bikini cover up as you take in the rays on your super-yacht.

 

Photo courtesy of J Label
Photo courtesy of J Label

 

Photo courtesy of J Label
Photo courtesy of J Label

 

The collection didn’t have a name: a clever approach as it allows the wearer to make it their own without worrying whether or not  they are channeling the  designer’s inspiration:  “The J Label girl is youthful, whether young or older, she is super cool, spirited, curious, she’s confident and bold, and a lover of self and life, but above all, she wants to look and feel good at all times. “  In setting the parameters of engagement wider Folawiyo has sidestepped the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ debate, which has often dogged diffusion lines. J Label is neither for the under 35s only or for only the pin thin. Yes, some of the dresses are super short, but nothing a spin class and mindful eating cannot remedy; what the wearer must have is confidence, vivacity and a joie-de-vivre that is every bit as smile inducing as the prints.

 

Photo courtesy of J Label
Photo courtesy of J Label

 

Reassuringly this is not a mad-dash-to-the-border for sales and further recognition on Folawiyo’s part and J Label is part of an integrated expansion and development plan for her brand:  “We released a very small J Label collection in 2013. This was to test the waters and although the market was ready we were not. A few years later with improved capacity longer preparation time and greater insight we released this collection. For us J Label is here to stay, we see it as not just offering clothes but having an integral role to play in developing the field of play of fashion in Nigeria. For ten years, clients have come to know and come to us for luxury, and I am still the creative director of a luxury brand, but as a company we are also interested in accessible fashion, of more people being able to experience and enjoy the brand, wear the pieces, live their lives in our clothes and make happy memories in them.” In response to the global trend of luxury brands closing their diffusion offerings and focusing on collaborations with the high-street or indeed the risk of launching at this time Folawiyo remains sanguine: “We have chosen to do what is best for us at this point in time, as those brands chose to what was best for them. Do them closing their diffusion lines ultimately mean we have taken a risk, I don’t know. However, one thing I know is that success will not be achieved without taking risks. The fashion industry is fickle, yes I said it, it is. And nothing is certain. But we do know is that this step is necessary and very important for our brand right now.” And very important for all of us fashion lovers here in Lagos and with prices starting at an entirely doable N19,500 and ending at a reasonable N65,000, no need to expect the bailiffs at the door due to a key items spend=out.

Whilst diffusion lines might be fading to black in other parts of the world they remain an important new ingredient in the contemporary African fashion landscape. Between a growing burgeoning middle class that is ready to spend and fluctuating foreign exchange rates rendering many of the frequent travelers grounded rather than off to Europe and the Americas to go wild in the aisles, sibling brands that are as directional as the main line’s offering are essential.  Add to this a fashion manufacturing industry that continues to increase in capacity and digital platforms that allow for clothes from anywhere in the world to land on one’s doorstep and  the probability of J Label and other African diffusion lines being rocked in other global fashion capitals becomes an inevitable reality.

 

What Lies Beneath: In Praise of Lingerie Pioneers

PICTURE: DAMARIS
PICTURE: DAMARIS

 

For lingerie lovers; the first time you are confronted with a piece’s beauty and possibility to make you feel sensational is never forgotten: I was a classic, British, Marks and Spencer’s girl until a boyfriend bought me an amazing set of lingerie when I was 21. This opened my eyes to a different world” says Damaris Evans, creative director and founder of Damaris and Mimi Holliday, two of the world’s most celebrated luxury lingerie brands. For myself, what led to a lingerie wardrobe (knickers drawer does not adequately reflect the artistry contained therein), and took me on a Paris and London focused quest for the ultimate bridal trousseau, (theme: ‘maximum wahala factor’), the love affair started a little earlier.  A white broderie anglaise detailed training bra with matching full briefs bought in the Selfridges lingerie department three days before I started secondary school confirmed two things: firstly, my mother was right and one must and I quote: “dress from the inside out”, and second, matching sets was the only way to go.

In 1889 the first brassiere was created in Paris by Hermine Cadolle and the city is arguably the epicentre of haute lingerie with the likes of the aforementioned Cadolle,  Sabbia Rosa, Chantal Thomass and Odile de Changy all creating exquisite pieces whose prices  might make one’s eyes water, but are without question, next level gorgeous. Whilst La Perla has done a globally impressive job of ‘owning’ the luxury lingerie story, for true aficionados, all roads lead to Paris rather than Rome or in La Perla’s case Bologna. A quick editorial disclosure at this point: I own pieces from all the houses mentioned in this article, so I write without prejudice. However, contemporary lingerie received its jolt of energy from London. The axis turning to London can be traced to the mid-90s and early Noughties with Agent Provocateur, Myla and Coco De Mer opening shop within a decade of one another. Suddenly, being a lingerie enthusiast no longer provoked a quizzical raise of the eyebrow or knowing wink, in fact it was the new niche in luxury to be into. Furthermore, many of those involved were injecting British irreverence, rebellion and naughty seafront humour to sartorial proceedings: it was during this creative renaissance that Damaris herself started her business: “I thought to myself, “yes, I can push this forward”. What a fun genre to work in; I knew this was what I wanted to do every day!” She says of those early days, which had her launch her eponymous line in Notting Hill’s iconic Julie’s, with models sexily sashaying through the  restaurant’s three labyrinthine floors and skulking sultrily in alcoves in peek=a-boo side-tie knickers. Focusing on creating lingerie that has high fashion editorial memorability has become an essential part of Damaris’ aesthetic DNA: “I think of Damaris as an extravagance, a spontaneous purchase, something that you simply want but don’t necessary need. It may only be worn once but I bet you everyone who has worn it remembers it! That’s why the bow knickers, corset knickers and the peep knickers get reinvented each season, because people can’t get enough of them.”

 

 

PICTURE: DAMARIS
PICTURE: DAMARIS

 

PICTURE: DAMARIS
PICTURE: DAMARIS

 

I would heartily concur. Damaris is not planet multi-pack-briefs territory; in fact one may need to utter the immortal lines of ‘slipping into something more comfortable”; before re-emerging looking hotter than the midday sun.  With Damaris and sister-line Mimi Holliday, it is about creating those lasered- into- the-memory=bank-of-life experiences for both yourself and your loved one. Here at MO we are thinking that the pieces are perfect to be worn slinking round your home after dark. Bonus points if you serve a pot of home-made Egusi Soup and Pounded Yam in said ensembles and continue to act casual, like, why the hell not move around the home in haute lingerie responding to messages on one’s phone, pouring another glass of vino or idly chatting about what happened in the day!

PICTURE: DAMARIS
PICTURE: DAMARIS

 

PICTURE: MIMI HOLLIDAY
PICTURE: MIMI HOLLIDAY

 

Back here in Lagos, haute lingerie retail is being ably handled by Sshhh! Boutique which is owned by the glamorous Joy Adesanya, and praise be, stocks Damaris and Mimi Holliday. “Sshhh has been in full operation for about 8 months and the feedback has been pleasantly but not surprisingly overwhelming” says Joy, whose shop is located in the heart of Lekki.  Given that she is a one-woman lingerie retail revolution it is hardly surprising that customers have been beating a trail to the shop and purchasing with alacrity. A lingerie lover to the core Joy happily admits to “a monthly habit of ferreting through my lingerie drawer and discarding anything with a stitch or string out of place.”   But creating the store was also borne out of finding a solution both for herself and the many like her: “Most times I had to wait to travel back to London before topping up my daily necessity, which became very frustrating.” For those of us living in Africa, luxury lingerie shopping  has until recently been a case of begging a relative, friend, heck even associate to assist in  bringing items back for you when they travelled ‘out’. Joy has removed this stress and provided a boutique which stocks lingerie from Europe and the Americas as well as assorted adult accessories. Furthermore, she upends many established assumptions that Nigeria is a country where conservative orthodoxies around sex are so dominant that any vocal admission to an exploration in alternative modes of pleasure  is not only a potential and effective form of social suicide, but also has rendered the female population disinterested in lingerie. “Nigerian women are more open about exploring their sensuality through lingerie… [in fact} I am truly intrigued by some of the choices women make from our selection. The most unlikely customer picks the most daring sets”

 

PICTURE: SSHHH BOUTQUE
PICTURE: SSHHH BOUTQUE

 

Both Damaris and Joy are emphatic about the power lingerie bestows upon the woman wearing it with the tired trope of it being a means of subjugation by way of objectification dismissed roundly. Damaris asserts Lingerie, for me, is one of the most powerful things a woman can own. Who doesn’t feel ready to face the day when they have a gorgeous, matching set of lingerie on? It’s empowering, to know what you’re wearing underneath looks and feels amazing. You could be wearing a drab, grey two piece, or overalls, but you could also be wearing a hot pink bra with a corset knicker – and how fun is that?!” And as the scenario suggests a secret that only the wearer knows and thus she alone owns the experience in its fullness. Joy in turn adds: “Lingerie is about confidence, emancipation and sensuality. It’s an opportunity for women to explore their bodies and connect with what works for them through fabrics and cutting edge designs. It’s far beyond the basic bra and knickers, it’s an intriguing part of our female identity.” Both women spoke of lingerie with the absence of the male gaze anchoring both experience and perception. As with other areas of fashion the situation is more nuanced than detractors might suggest. Can one be a feminist and go weak kneed at the sensation of gossamer silk adorning your most intimate parts? Why not? Can one be a coquette in the evenings and at a nine o’clock meeting the next morning the epitome of corporate raider? Who says they are mutually exclusive? Is being and enjoying being sexy, a black mark against any other professional achievements or personal abilities one may have? Answering anything other than no seems faintly ridiculous.

As with any niche within fashion, long term success and impact belongs to those who choose to create pieces and curate experiences that excite and articulate wants and desires that a would-be customers may not be aware of. Damaris is clear when she thinks back on the role she has played in disrupting the luxury lingerie sector: “My favourite design will always be the bow knicker. I still smile every time I see a pair; it is the ultimate extravagance in lingerie. For me, it was the iconic piece which Damaris was known for and it changed the lingerie landscape completely”. Similarly, Joy is excited about the After Hours Soirees hosted at Sshhh! Boutique that give customers an opportunity to explore collections and accessories at leisure, and is steadily building a lingerie loving community in Lagos. However, those who like myself possess passions for intimate apparel that run deep, the first thing we put on in the morning and the last thing we take off at night  remains the most thrilling moment of all.

 

PICTURE: DAMARIS
PICTURE: DAMARIS

 

 

Designer and Stockist’s Links:

www.mimiholliday.com

www.sshhhboutique.com

 

Made In Nigeria – Leather Goods Come of Age

PHOTO CREDIT ©ZASHADU
PHOTO CREDIT ©ZASHADU

 

As anyone who has lived in Lagos for any length of time will know, arm candy isn’t so much of ‘a nice to have’ as essential ammunition in your killer ensemble. However, seeking all of your luxury leather goods from ‘the abroad’ has become distinctly passé-composé. A combination of a recession that has grounded many who were previously disciples of the gospels according to Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci, combined with a home-grown creative resurgence across all artistic disciplines, rubber-stamped by a government supported ‘Made In Nigeria’ initiative has made fashionistas not only seeking, but also open to domestic options. Add to this mix an emergent generation of leather goods designers creating covetable pieces that reflect the influences, cultural motifs and the ever evolving life of the contemporary African woman and the scene is set for an industry renaissance. I had the privilege of speaking to four of the leading lights in the movement to get their take on what contemporary leather goods designing in Nigeria means to them today.

 

 

“I’ve loved bags for a very long time, since I was a little girl. I’m drawn to structure, sensuality and functionality… It took me a long time to accept that I was indeed a designer, because it was so effortless. In the end, and for my own sanity, I had no choice but to succumb to it.” Luckily for the rest of us Zainab Ashadu surrendered to the muse which has resulted in Zashadu, her luxury leather goods brand that has garnered a glossy and international client base in an alarmingly short space of time. Pieces are crafted in her atelier in Festac, a suburb in Lagos, where her artisans work under her meticulous eye. “To become a Zashadu artisan, our artisans train for 3 years, full time, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.” This relentless pursuit of excellence demanded of herself and her team, coupled with Zainab’s own cornucopia of influences which range from literature to architecture have resulted in the creation of several modern classics. Clock any Lagos It-Girl and chances are she will be rocking Zashadu and most certainly have one or two more in her closet. And with their striking contrasting colour-ways coupled with bold exotic hide iterations it is clear to see what’s made them an instant hit with the fashion conscious. The TKO (Total Knock Out) as its name implies is a championship worthy piece that more than holds its own globally. A recent winning piece is the Easy Fold pouch for those unstructured days where a wearer wants to look un-put-together but still undeniably chic.

 

ZASHADU TKO TOP HANDLE, PHOTO ©ZASHADU
ZASHADU TKO TOP HANDLE, PHOTO ©ZASHADU

 

ZASHADU EASY FOLD POUCH, PHOTO ©ZASHADU
ZASHADU EASY FOLD POUCH, PHOTO ©ZASHADU

 

A similar sense of inevitability underpins the launch of Didi Isah, the brand that has Didi Daley at its helm as creative director. A biomedical research scientist by training, Daley began her design journey in London, I began designing for myself, pieces that I wanted to wear but didn’t find on the high street.” After constantly being stopped by strangers wanting to know where to buy her designs, she held a trunk show which was an instant sell-out. A stall in world famous Portobello Market followed, but it was her return to Nigeria in 2005 where the company’s ethos truly took shape. My aim was really to design beautiful handcrafted accessories produced in Nigeria that are affordable for the individual who understands that elegance is an expression not simply a price tag!” An antidote indeed to logo-mania obsessed individuals, who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, Didi Isah’s aesthetic lies in reimagining classics and creating a new discourse with each piece. Recent bestsellers have included the Love Clutch, a snake-print heart-shaped evening clutch, with a handy chain that renders it cross-body should dancing follow dinner, and the Salema a capacious tote that doesn’t appear bulky, but magically fits all one’s work essentials with ease.

 

LOVE CLUTCH, DIDI ISAH, PHOTO ©DIDI ISAH
LOVE CLUTCH, DIDI ISAH, PHOTO ©DIDI ISAH

 

SALEMA TOTE, DIDI ISAH PHOTO ©DIDI ISAH
SALEMA TOTE, DIDI ISAH PHOTO ©DIDI ISAH

 

Creativity and originality are only one part of the story for this emergent crop of designers. Production in Africa remains an ongoing battle that requires Herculean levels of strength and resilience. There are some challenges manufacturing locally and in Africa – poor or lack of infrastructure, distribution, logistics and awareness of the product are among the issues that most of the designers come across in general.” Betu Tshiongo Wiederkehr’s list might sound like any luxury goods producer’s worst nightmare, but it has not stopped this Lagos based Congolese designer creating Kumesu, her luxury line of handbags and leather goods. A canny approach from the former financial analyst has resulted in her own exacting standards never being compromised whilst injecting the influences of extensive travel and living in many countries. Hardware and zips are sourced in Switzerland where she spent her formative years, and chains from Italy with the hides sourced directly in Africa and pieces constructed in Lagos. Her pieces, combine clean lines with nature inspired palettes and have gained popularity across the continent since she launched in 2014, with a growing private client list as well as stockists in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

612 CLUTCH, KUMESU PHOTO ©KUMESU
612 CLUTCH, KUMESU PHOTO ©KUMESU

 

MINI JULIA TOTE, KUMESU, PHOTO ©LAKIN OGUNBANWO
MINI JULIA TOTE, KUMESU, PHOTO ©LAKIN OGUNBANWO

 

Ronke Ladipo of RÜCH by Ronke emphasised the importance of her clarity of vision and the highs and lows of selling luxury in economically fluctuating times: “I know the thrill of having a huge day of sales, and the crushing disappointment of just one customer….Many people get into this industry with absolutely no clue what it’s going to take to build a brand that is even remotely successful. Blaming ignorance isn’t entirely fair…I had absolutely no clue how hard it would be either.” This is an important point, especially for those inspired by what they perceive as instant success, seeking to emulate her own journey. A cult brand whose Aso’oke back-packs and leather satchels have become the go-to bag of choice among the art crowd and whose custom leather trunks have a wait-list of their own; her distinct aesthetic coupled with accessible price points have resulted  in a brand that 5 years on has grown from strength to strength. It helps too that in our image insatiable times she is quite the style-plate herself, with edge hair, a catwalk model frame, and a photogenic squad garnering her a natural fan and customer base for her pieces.

 

CUSTOM TRUNK BOX, RÜCH BY RONKE, PHOTO © RÜCH BY RONKE
CUSTOM TRUNK BOX, RÜCH BY RONKE, PHOTO © RÜCH BY RONKE

 

STREET STYLE SHOT OF RÜCH BY RONKE BAG ©RÜCH BY RONKE/INSTAGRAM
STREET STYLE SHOT OF RÜCH BY RONKE BAG ©RÜCH BY RONKE/INSTAGRAM

 

Looking beyond the individual success stories there is still a need to create an enabling environment for the industry to thrive long term. Daley points out We have such amazing potential, we really do… [but] there is the issue of the lack of access to finance, as an SME in Nigeria it is incredibly difficult to get finance from banks, and so you raise all capital yourself.” Aside from risk averse financial institutions Ladipo speaks of the unique challenges of having such a fashion literate client base:  “You have to be very creative…If you want to make things in Nigeria, that’s fantastic, but remember; you’ll be selling to, and competing against, other Nigerians and Nigeria is a country born of innovation.” Copy=Paste Crew beware indeed. Tshiongo Wiederkehr notes consumer expectations around luxury also need to be addressed “from buying or thinking that only foreign goods are of quality or high end products”. But for the brands that crack the code the sky is the limit as is seen in Zashadu’s global march with stockists in New York, London, Johannesburg, Dublin and Florida.

 

For the leather goods industry to thrive, all parts of the value chain from tanneries to factories to design schools and retailers need to come together to create a comprehensive strategy for growth and development. As with most things in Africa, government involvement and buy-in is essential but so too is engaging the private sector and attracting those elusive but much needed alternative sources of capital. Nevertheless, as with all luxury items things begin and end with the customer. A capricious creature who needs to be continuously courted and seduced, to believe in the ‘bag-tacular’ and willingly part with their hard earned money for a purchase that promises pleasure and so much more.

 

Designer’s Links:

Zashadu: zashadu.com and instagram.com/zashadu

Didi Isah: didiisah.com and instagram.com/didiisah

Kumesu: instagram.com/kumesuofficial and instagram.com/kumesulifestyle

Ruch by Ronke: ruchbyronke.com and instagram.com/ruchbyronkebags

 

Can You be a Feminist and Still Love Fashion

The last week or so has been hectic to put it mildly. Politically, we’ve witnessed a reality star being sworn in as leader of the free world, with his wife, from a fashion perspective, clad as a Jackie O tribute act in head-to-toe powder blue Ralph Lauren. The following day witnessed a million plus women around the world marching against what had happened the day before, but more importantly marching for their voice to not be muzzled in this new political landscape. And meanwhile back at the fashion ranch we have had the pinnacle of fantasy meets conceptuality meets craftsmanship that is Couture Fashion Week in Paris. My equal interest and passion for all three matters had me thinking more deeply of whether an intense passion for fashion and feminism were mutually exclusive. Furthermore, I wanted to interrogate the modern thesis that posits them at opposite sides of the spectrum: that women who are interested in looking spectacular, aren’t the bedfellows of those who are interested in equality. Social Media feeds seemed to differ with a deluge of celebrities such as Zoe Kravitz and Adwoa Aboah marching and being part of the global movement.

PHOTO: ZOEISABELLEKRAVITZ/INSTAGRAM
PHOTO: ZOEISABELLEKRAVITZ/INSTAGRAM

 

From a fashion perspective looking at coverage of the Women’s March I was struck by how black seemed to be the chosen palette of the day. Granted, most of the marches occurred in the Northern Hemisphere which is still in the depths of winter, and that black remains, regardless of designers trying to pivot customers to other choices, the number one choice for coats. To my eyes it seemed very sombre.  One collection that may have sat well with the chosen aesthetic of the feminists marching was Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut for Christian Dior, which had a sequence with models marching in a series of exquisite black pieces.  For the fashion heritage junkies the seminal New Look motifs were there, but the nipped in jacket had softer sleeves and instead of a skirt, we were offered culottes. The Dior Woman had somewhere to go and pressing concerns to address.

 

YANNIS VLAMOS
YANNIS VLAMOS

 

Historically, the Suffragette movement not only understood but used the codified possibilities that a fashion uniform provides to great effect. Fighting for women’s rights at the turn of the 20th Century, this army of wealthy women from influential families; indeed the profile of a modern couture customer, chose the colours white, purple and green for their movement. The uniform provided visibility and offered different levels of engagement; as poorer women took to wearing the colours in solidarity too. This season’s couture provided numerous opportunities for a wealthy women’s marcher to continue to conversation in a ballroom or at an elegant soiree

YANNIS VLAMOS
YANNIS VLAMOS

 

Valentino under the helm of Pierpaolo Piccioli articulated a contemporary feminist as one who might want to embrace the throwback white palette but do so in way that echoes modern mores. These were pieces that were fluid, and did not feel difficult to wear or too far removed from everyday realities, epic dry-cleaning bill aside. You could carry more than the teeny tiniest clutch, in fact you could probably break out into a joyous jig once all the glass ceilings holding women back globally were definitively shattered as the shoes the pieces were teamed with were all flat.

YANNIS VLAMOS
YANNIS VLAMOS

 

Not mentioning Couture Fashion Week and Chanel is akin to talking about women’s right to vote without addressing the importance of all women having full agency of their bodies. Chanel was founded by the eponymous Coco Chanel, and one could argue she was a feminist in the truest sense as she chose choices that upended centuries old and Patriarchy entrenched notions of what being a woman is.  She scandalised society with her various choices, from never marrying to wearing trousers and creating a silhouette that liberated women rather than encase them in corsetry. This season saw Karl Lagerfield return to the heights of his powers. For the contemporary Coco, nipped in high waists were updated with a double skirt. The final effect that was a master class in executing a tricky concept that remained entirely covetable.

YANNIS VLAMOS
YANNIS VLAMOS

Fashion and feminism should not be seen as adversaries. A woman clad in couture by virtue of her wealth and privilege is powerful; and we need her power to push the agenda forward. Furthermore, clothes remain potent totems and signposts to who we are and who we wish to be, and are often the first choice we make each day. For feminists who cannot partake in the dream that is wearing bespoke pieces, the trickle down in the looks (watch for those double dress Karl knock-offs coming to a high street or tailor near you),  they will eventually manifest as a wardrobe option. My one bug-bear, as a fashion loving African, is the model selection at the couture shows remains overwhelmingly white, when the global south represents a growing market that is increasingly difficult to ignore. However, I think we would all do well to take a leaf out of the women who campaigned and in some cases died getting us all a right to vote. They fought the good fight looking exquisite.

 

Christmas Shopping – Lagos Style Part 2

 

We continue our foray into the one-stop Christmas shopping experiences to be had in Lagos. Today belongs to the original luxury emporium, Temple Muse. Many, many, years ago when the notion of a retailer that had your shopping needs and wasn’t a six hour flight away felt as likely as a sighting of a pink unicorn. When anyone, who for the most part was domicile in Lagos would feel their heart race when they found themselves outside Harvey Nichols in London, Printemps in Paris, Barneys in New York or La Rinascente in Milan, the Wadhwani brothers decided to come to Lagos’ retail rescue. They knew a thing or two about luxury; Avi was a head buyer at fashion Mecca Selfridges and Kabir had looked after the PR and Advertising needs for some of the world’s leading brands. But more importantly, they were also Nigerian born and bred, understood the intricacies of the market and the high expectations of a city that invented the concept of ‘dressing and oppressing’.

 

Eight years and two location moves later, Temple Muse continues to provide a winning combination of established international brands with vanguard and emerging talents from across Africa. They also have a line in hosting some of the city’s most epic parties, offering a hamper service that gives Fortnum’s a genuine run for its money and dealing in contemporary art via their regular in-house gallery-style shows. If you are looking for stocking fillers, decorations and stationery, they also have a Christmas Shop where you can purchase all of your seasonal treats too! But what of the goods within? Can they truly cut the mustard? At MO, we agree it’s a hearty yes and yes!

 

43

 

 

GIFTS UNDER N30,000 (they do exist and they are fabulous!)

 

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LOST WAX PLAYING CARDS N8.000

Add a splash of Afrocentric sophistication with these playing cards, whether it’s a family friendly game of Uno or an only-for-the-grown-ups—and-yes-they-we-are=playing-for=real-money game of Poker. Lost Wax is the brainchild of Nigerian artist Olutade Abidoye, who wanted to create playing cards that were aesthetically pleasing but had a cultural conscience. Each playing card features an illustration of an illustrious royal figure from the ancient Benin Kingdom from the 15th Century – 19th Century; so whilst you’re playing games you are learning something too!
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TEMPLE MUSE TEDDY BEAR N15,000

The perfect bedtime companion for the little ones in your life or for someone who has more than a dollop of ‘Big Kid’ in them, the TM Teddy is more than a mascot – he is a fluffy, snuggly companion for all the family.
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RORY DOBNER SMOKING FISH MUG N25,000

For the caffeine fiend in your life; behold, the perfect mug for a morning coffee. Designed by UK based It-Designer, fine artist and ceramicist Rory Dobner the illustration is bound to raise a chuckle and because only the finest bone china is used, the flavour of the drink therin will not be compromised.

 

GIFTS FOR UNDER N150,000 (let’s not fib, there are some people we love more than others)
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BALMAIN MEN’S BELT N145,000

Let there be no mistake, men also want in on the Balmain Army action. So whilst their female companions slip themselves into one of Olivier Rousteing’s statement fitted columns, their best-beloved’s can enjoy the simple sophistication afforded by this calfskin belt. Versatile enough to be rocked with a formal trouser or a slim-fit jean,  this piece allows one to channel celeb dressing with ease.
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CONFIDENCES DE PRIEURE LICHINE N105,000 (PER CASE)

There are wines and there are wines and then in a special category all of its own are the wines of Bordeaux. Chateau Prieure Lichine started off as a priory for Benedictine Monks (trust us on this one, all the best booze is made by people of the cloth, see Dom Perignon Champagne if you don’t believe us), and has continued being a producer of fine wine. A case of this is guaranteed to get you invited for dinner at least once to sample a bottle.

 

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MICHAEL ARAM CHEESE BOARD N145,000

Dinner Party 101 decrees that you haven’t hosted a true dinner party if there is no cheese course and this beauty from Michael Aram will score you style bonus points too. The stylish metal handles on each side are reminiscent of a fallen palm frond and the marble top is the perfect colour counterpoint for the ripe Brie, mature Stilton, Comte and Manchego, grapes casually scattered are an optional extra.

 

 

BLOW THE BUDGET GIFTS (for the ‘money is no object posse’, AKA Ogas-At-The-Top)

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LALIQUE CRYSTAL CAVIAR DISH N895,000

 

René Lalique founded the eponymous glassware company in 1888 and from that day til this this Lalique crystal has become a byword for luxury and artistry. From glasses to vases, sculpture to furniture, their pieces adorn the homes of royalty, Hollywood legends and now, someone you love this Christmas. This caviar dish is begging to have heaps of Sevruga (my personal favourite, forget all the noise made about Beluga) piled high. And perhaps because this is Lagos, try teaming it with mini-yam cylinders instead of the usual baked potato or blini?

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AMARAPALI RUBY AND DIAMOND NECKLACE POA

Apparently, if you have to ask the price, then that is a pretty good indication that you cannot afford it. But let’s put it this way, in the land of Planet Fine Jewellery, it’s more the question of how much do you love her. This magnificent ruby necklace with diamond clasp is the kind of forever piece that is guaranteed to take the breath away. Worn with a simple black gown or to maximalist effect with traditional, and you won’t just be belle of the ball, but talk of the town.

WHILE THEY PACK AND WRAP YOUR GOODIES…

To the all-important chill whilst they wrap moment. As said before, at MO, we are great believers in the whole Christmas Shopping experience being super stress-free with fun moments thrown in for you, the friendly, loving, super-generous giver. Temple Muse has a Champagne Bar, we know, very civilized, and as well as the obligatory fizz they are serving some seriously delish mulled wine, brewed to a top-secret family recipe too. You can also nibble (and inevitably order by the dozen) some of Mrs. Wadhwani’s legendary cupcakes and mince pies. Too good doesn’t even cover it for taste and pretty factor!

Christmas Shopping – Lagos Style

 

There are LESS than two weeks to Christmas Day. If the thought of that brings you out in a cold sweat, fear not, there is one way to make Christmas shopping a lot less stressful. It’s called the one-hit=shop. I have always been a massive fan of this particular modus operandi. In my London living days depending on how bumper the year had been I would either be at one end of Sloane Street in Harvey Nichols (with a pit stop for mince pies at Harrods) OR the other end of the road at reliable and not break the bank worthy Peter Jones. Why almost die in a crush on Oxford Circus, or feel like you are lost in a maze of sensory overload AKA Westfield? Why do the click and drag but with none of the festive flavours online? Why indeed, people, when you can make your selections and have a glass of champagne and something light to eat while the in-house gift-wrap service does the rest for you? Welcome to the MO way of Christmas shopping, luxe, low-stress with some eating and drinking thrown in on the side!

Since I moved to Lagos my modus operandi have not changed that much and in a quest for the one hit shop I am delighted to announce the concept is alive and well and living in the form of two emporia – Temple Muse and Alara. In the spirit of giving both shops a fair crack at meeting your shopping needs I will present the best items in store to get your mitts on. To reduce the stress still further, we’ve divide the gifts according to wallet capabilities. Finally, we also took the time to sample what’s best to enjoy in store while all that wrapping and bagging is happening at the counter. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it!

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Can you remember a time when there was no Alara? Such has been its rapid rise in the retail space that many struggle to reconcile that this destination shop has been with us for less two years. Since it opened its doors in February 2015, columns have been written about the concept store founded by Reni Folawiyo, with an aim to being home to the best of African and Global Luxury brands. David Adjaye architecture, high fives from the international fives from the press aside, what we are loving is that you can sort out your Christmas shopping in one go, but your pockets will have to be relatively deep, or the recipient super-special. But then, it is the season of giving, so without further ado MO presents the best in store.

GIFTS UNDER N30,000 (whoever said considered prices equals minimal choice was fibbing)

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MADWA PLACE MAT N21,000 EACH

Give a home a stylish twist with some gorgeous indigo placemats from ethical home ware brand, Madwa. Grass weaving is an ancient traditional craft in Swaziland, which sadly with the march of mechanization is dying out. However, Madwa aims to not only produce items in a sustainable manner but also benefit local communities too. Style points and a conversation starter all in one present!  Well it is the season of peace and good will to all men!

 

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AGA CONCEPTS KITCHEN UTENSILS N18,000 EACH

For the design conscious foodie in your life look no further than Aga Concepts. Aga means ‘useful object’ in the founder Olubunmi Adeyemi’s native Yoruba tongue, and with these beautifully crafted minimalist pieces he has created cooking utensils that are beautiful in their own right. Grinding crayfish and pepper for Okra Soup just got pimped!

 

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 THE SHOE BOOK  N29,250

For all the shoe-aholics in your life this is a must have! Assouline are the publishing house behind some of the most covetable coffee table books and this paean to shoes is no exception. Exquisite photographs, sketches and contributions from Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik are just the kind of late night reading and dreaming a fashion savvy footwear lover needs.

 

GIFTS FOR UNDER N150,000 (because sometimes you want to spend that little extra)

 

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YSWARA TEA GIFT SET N83,700

Lagos can be a stressful city, and nothing calms the nerves in quite the same way as a restorative cup of tea. Yswara is a South African based artisan tea company that sells a selection of rare blends from across the continent. Harnessing centuries old traditions and methods they have added a splash of modernity through their beautiful copper plated tea accessories. This gorgeous gift set includes an aromatherapy tea scented candle and a travel caddy.

 

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CROSLEY TURNTABLE N135,000

For the old-school music lovers out there, the original and some say still best way to enjoy those favourite jams is on vinyl. This elegant Crosley turntable allows them to dig out all those 12 inch remixes and throw shapes like it’s the summer of ’95. And when not in use the turntable resembles an oh-so-serious briefcase…well, if you’re Minister of Enjoyment you have to keep the portfolio undercover!

 

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TOM DIXON SCENTED CANDLES N64,000 EACH

Tom Dixon is an award winning multi-disciplinary designer. In fact his pieces have found their way into the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, MOMA in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris’ permanent collections, so if that isn’t ultimate design bragging rights, I don’t know what is! These scented candles add the modernist Dixon aesthetic to any home.

 

 

BLOW THE BUDGET GIFTS (for those who ‘Dollar Crisis’ is as alien as a holiday to Mars)

 

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NIXON GOLD TIME TELLER CHRONO WRISTWATCH N229,500

 

For the Sporty man about town, the Nixon Wristwatch is just the ticket. The California based accessories brand was birthed from the skater, surfer, too-cool-for-school scene, and continues to create pieces that marry utility with luxury. This being Lagos, the shine-shine Bobo in your life will love this gold coloured rendition – all the better for chilling on a boat or at the beach house.

 

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SELF PORTRAIT DRESS N201,150

When Han Chong founded Self-Portrait his mission was simple – create covetable pieces for the modern woman.  Purchase this for your lady love and she has a NYE dress that will shut down the party in the most casual lo-fi-luxe way. The cold shoulder black bandeau neckline detail toughens up the uber-prettiness of the two tier skirt and like many a show-stopper this dress is short and sexy! Rock with a chunky heel for fashion points of play safe with a seasonal sparkler of a stiletto heeled sandal.

WHILE THEY PACK AND WRAP YOUR GOODIES…

As we said before, Christmas Shopping to be truly gratifying needs to be as enjoyable for the shopper as the gifts will be for those you have bought for. Alara, like any decent luxury emporia have got the while-you-wait eating and drinking options completely sorted. No need to pine for the 5th Floor in Harvey Nichols. Rose Bakery in Dover Street Market or Ladurée in Harrods. Noted restaurant and bar Nok By Alara is on the premises and you can either nibble on appertisers from their African haute cuisine menu or knock back some of their game-over cocktails whilst contemplating the reason for the season. Personal favourites for us at MO Towers are the Dre Beets and Ogogoro Collins Cocktails and the Crab Cakes with Shito Tartar Sauce.

#Squadgoals, Sister-Friends and Frenemies: The Evolving Face Of Friendship

 

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We took the picture at least half a dozen times: beyond the basic requirement of ensuring everyone was in frame, we also considered light, composition and angles. The power pieces worn had to be shown at their optimum and the emoji-praise inducing accessories had to be visible (all the better for the repost/tag the designer action that would follow). It goes without saying that everyone had to be presenting their slimmest, tallest, self (drop a shoulder, one foot slightly forward, we know the drill) and the facial expressions had to be casual-but-still-sensational, either that or funny-ironic-but-fine-sha. Once posted, the likes and comments would ensue, and that picture with all its connotations of beauty, glamour and style would be the digital imprint left behind of the evening. According to the picture: the #squad was #slaying, #blessed and hanging with #sisterfriends. But were we friends in the old-school sense of the word? Or even to bring it more new school – was this an ensemble of ride-or-die crew or a carefully curated #squad, Taylor Swift styles, that was merely doing for the ‘gram, retweets and social media upscaling?

At MO, whilst we don’t front about the way in which the exterior moves us on so many levels; we have decided to explore a tricky question. Is friendship in crisis and was modern technology, social media in particular, to blame for it? As we have all become masters of online curation, have real life friendships changed because of the digital age’s expectations of perfection? Has the way we communicate: infinitely more via a screen, without the physical cues of body language, tone of voice and eye to eye contact to gauge the reception to our comments altered friendship? And is intimacy and trust something from a dim and distant past and we are now awash with frenemies in our friendship circle? I sent out a survey to males and females from 17 – 60 + and was both surprised, encouraged and challenged by the answers. In unpacking it all I hope to offer my own thesis of how friendship has changed and what if anything at all we should do about it. We still need love, no doubt about that one, but the digital age and its tools of the trade have definitely changed the way we conduct ourselves in our closest relationships.

Age and life experience did not seem to alter the need for friendship: one of my oldest respondents, talked of how her friends had witnessed so much of her life, that no major life event did not in some way feature them. As children were born and raised, they flitted between the friendship circle’s houses, calling everyone ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’ regardless of whether they were actually related. Their group was, surprising to me, on WhatsApp and, they still brought it and then some, especially when it came to their aso’ebi wearing activities, particularly at their children’s weddings. Parties usually included them dancing in a circle to their favourite tracks for hours at a time, and believe it or not, they are in their 60s! At the other end of the scale, a respondent in her 30s simply stated: “I am blessed with authentic friendships and supportive friends.” Present on the most popular social media channels, the respondent talked at length about not being swayed by what she saw online “I’m very focused on character when it comes to friendship and not image.”  But in light of this primal need to not only be heard, but also to connect, the gaze of social media is ever present.

One of the great assumptions is that the dominance of social media has resulted in the end of friendship in real life. The responses I received illustrated it was more nuanced than that. Yes, social media was a behemoth, with the multiple and ever growing number of platforms we use to connect, but it was actually more of a tool to do what human beings have always done which is get closer to their existing circle: I see social media as a way to communicate and share stories and memories with already existing friends.” Shared by one of my younger respondents, this is completely at odds with the perception that the Post Millennial Generation principally sought validation from randoms on the internet. The same respondent had a surprisingly laissez-faire approach to posting and staying ‘relevant’ on various platforms: “I have never been in a situation where I have, for example, worried that if I do not tweet enough or share enough selfies that friends will start to drift away.” The self-=confidence exhibited was anomalous to other responses in this corresponding age group where constant updates and the accompanying FOMO feelings that friends’ posts put strains on friendships or made real-life meetings several shades of awkward, was ever present. The FOMO was only actually there, because you wish you had been in the moment captured on screen.

But back to all those perfectly polished images on our feeds. Are these people ‘real friends’? Is our image the main event of what we are seeing now and has it affected how we assess who we invest time in? Respondents by and large came down on not being only governed by what they saw on social media feeds; but looking good and assessing others in that locus repeatedly popped up. ”I think it’s always important in life to present the best version of yourself, the version of yourself that you are most proud of, in public and I guess by extension, on social media.” Fair enough, one could conclude, indeed another Post Millennial buttressed the point further: “I don’t like to appear uncool and always like to look well dressed.”  Their accepted focus on image did not seem to damage the profundity of their relationships, it anything it only enhanced what was already there. It also helps to have a certain level of confidence. Without revealing compromising their anonymity I can attest that in both instances, these individuals’ feeds have the winning combo of candor, irreverence and joie de vivre. One would look and definitely want to be their friend, or at least hang out, maybe at some secret party that they are clearly going to be invited to and you aren’t, lol!

However, as with anything there are losers in this game, one respondent mentioned, albeit sheepishly that:” Appearance on social media is too important, social media is everything today so it’s a major key…Looking rundown on Instagram or Twitter is never a win for me and the crew. I think if I am being honest with myself, I probably dropped friends for how they looked.” And before readers decide this kind of brutal thinking is for teens and twenty-somethings alone, one can see strains of it in older respondents: “Truth is, we are drawn to people that are similar to us and that probably creates an image or perception however superficial.”  Still another shared: ”…if I am being candid then I admit  it’s always nice to look good and I also like my friends looking good also,  but never to the extent where I think I can only be seen with certain friends or take photos with certain friends” And my favourite because I love the swag proclaimed therein:  “everyone wants to look good on social media…I do most times.”. Are these women close friends with each other? Absolutely. Probably sister-friends such is the extent of shared experiences, history and intimacy shared. But looking good has also become part of the equation. We all own it, we all enjoy it and we are all participating in it. And for those who are afraid of the possibility of a swipe left situation, or finding yourself perennial cropped from the snap?  I would subscribe to the great leveler called good light, failing that the Reyes filter on IG (it softens everything that needs to be softened) and if still it’s a bust, then lots of pictures of your accessories…if they are fabulous enough you will prevail!

But jest aside, perhaps the greatest challenge to friendships are the old nutshells of foundational shifts: life stage changes were constantly mentioned as reasons for things going awry; with location moves, marriage and children being the biggest culprits for friendship altering. One married respondent with children put the situation in sharp focus: It definitely has [changed things] …That is one of my biggest issues, I spent quite a lot of time travelling making friends in different walks of life …. they have moved on [and] we grew apart. It takes a very special friendship to be able to sustain distance, developments and challenges.” Sharing a similar narrative but from the perspective of the single friend another shared: “If you’ve both been single and if that has been your vibe…it does change things and you have to work through with it.” We are conditioned to gravitate to people where we have common experiences, and whilst many are cool with the juggle others want things easier as another remarked: “For me it is easier to mix with friends in the same life stage…It makes things less complicated…And also gives us ‘content’ for our friendship.” It would seem that by and large the friendship rose or fell on the efforts made to plough through the divergences in life milestones. In some instances, social media was the vehicle that created immediacy in terms of communication; but equally it could add fuel to the friendship-in-crisis-fire, as images depicting how far away you now were, in terms of activities and goals was made visually apparent.

As with romantic love, the formation of friendships can be intense. One boozy conversation at a house-party can morph into frequent messaging, turbo sharing and whenever you do meet face-to-face, lengthy all day hangs. It is glorious, but just like the first flush of romance, there needs to be some more sedate elements in the mix for sustainability’s sake. The two peas in a pod, sister from another mother flow can be amazing; one respondent spoke of thinking her oldest friend was an actual relative, but it can also bring with it challenges. It becomes easier to assess one another in relation to oneself, after all you are spending so much time with one another, and as anyone who has played the “compare and despair” game will attest, misery follows: “we have been through a lot…. but we used to rile each other up….there was a lot of competition but now we’re a lot more supportive…not seeing each other all the time has made a difference.” One of the greatest emotional challenges is managing and recalibrating a friendship, especially if it had a heady intoxicating beginning. This is when social media can be both a friend and foe. If you’re in the midst of a ‘rile-up season’ as the respondent so evocatively described, every communique will be seasoned with the piquant flavours of offence and combativeness. It can be hard to support one another if you are too busy point scoring, or seeking rationalised reason for shifts, where you of course are the exonerated party. It takes courage to attempt to move forward, or to face the crisis head on. Also frightening and an aider and abettor of friendship rot is how easily social media has allowed for such dormant relationships to ‘live on’ even if in real life you long checked out of meaningful engagement. You can ‘like’ posts, respond with emojis and pose for the occasional group selfie and no one will be any the wiser, after all it isn’t as if you clicked unfollow, Right?

The other fly in the ointment in modern friendships is the notion of the frenemy. We all know one; you’re on good terms on paper, but there is something off in their behaviour; a bit too much schadenfreude when things go tits up for you, although often peppered with those dastardly emojis again. A double sad face for a loss in the family/job and/or lover? No, I don’t think it cuts it either. The social anxiety caused by social media is amplified because we don’t have the visual and aural cues of interaction in real-life: respondents across the full spectrum of ages talked to this point: “sometimes I question the friendship relationship when some of my close friends act in a certain way.” Another respondent added rather potently in capitals: “I do feel connected and supported by (SOME) of my friends.” Still another stated: ”[Re] friends who are not my real friends – I try not to but I suffer from chronic paranoia plus a few experiences life has thrown my way. ” It seems that the frenemy is not going away anytime soon. But how does one tackle it? Quite simply by spending a little more time hanging out in  the realms of face  to face reality. It is harder to maintain BS looking someone in the eye, and all those weird conflicting messages they make, become clear as crystal. If you have been guilty of having ”collected” some ”strategic” pals along the way, who  if you are brutally honest, you don’t particularly like, perhaps it is time to do the right thing and let them go? We all lead increasingly busy lives and it is only right and fair that the little leisure time one does have is shared in emotionally and spiritually edifying encounters, rather than ones that feel endemically booby-trapped.

So, what can one conclude from all these findings, granted from a relatively small sample group but one that cut across gender, age, race and background? Well first the good news, friendship is alive and well. All the respondents spoke to that; “A wedding ceremony…without sexuality” being the most poetic and intimate description of what friendship can feel like. However, one cannot ignore the consequences, some extremely adverse that social media has had on trust, intimacy and feelings of belonging. The anxiety and internal conflict experienced can be tricky to navigate: “…I sometimes get anxious that people never really know one another and sometimes that feels lonely.” Though we are connected there are still so many unsaid ‘saids’ and though there are infinite ways to connect the isolation when it comes can feel all the more acute for it. We have become masters of camouflage-by-text-characters in our messages and those that dare to raise a head above the parapet are labelled weirdos.  Even when the response one has received has been largely positive the reasons and motivations behind the positivity can stifle: ” I think some people that know nothing about me get carried away by the lifestyle…or love the idea of me…they want to be friends with me just because of how they visualise me. ”  No one likes to be objectified obsessively and yet social media is the breeding ground of such objectification. Ultimately, social media should be seen for what it is: a communication tool that helps one get their message across, whatever it is, quicker. One respondent’s distillation of this truth  ” it’s not about being hot, it’s about being interesting and informative and savvy and cool and having a voice… ” couldn’t speak more poignantly to everyone I communicated with. The likes may come and go, we might inspire often ,and  alienate occasionally, but we will always have a primordial need to seek out communities where we have affinity, where we can bond and where we can feel the most basic and beautiful of human needs, love.

Closet Talk: 5 Clothing Essentials Every Woman Needs.

 

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Image: MadeFromScratch.Co.NZ

When it comes to clothes, we never ever seem to have enough, no matter how much we get. Once something new always catches the eye, the world doesn’t seem right until we add it to our collection. The sickness is universal; can we not just have it all?

 

With so many places to go in this Lagos, the temptation to get a new outfit everytime is never more than an instagram scroll away. So what do we do when enough is enough and your closet door is struggling to close shut, and the universe seems to be telling you it’s time to let go of the excess apparel? What do we give away and what do we keep? What are the essential pieces EVERY woman must have?

 

  1. The working woman dress

It is the go-to look for a strong, powerful professional woman. This dress is the essential office look. Not only does it look sharp, it has the ability to make you feel confident and you look kick-ass while doing it. While working in these Lagos streets, it is so necessary for us to not only look, but also feel the part. With the strict work place dress codes in Nigeria, one can start getting lost in the corporate world sauce and be in danger of being just another office drone. We have to fight to keep our fabulous alive.

(Picture: Wornontv.net) No one does confident, kick-ass professional woman like Jessica Pearson in Suits.
(Picture: Wornontv.net) No one does confident, kick-ass professional woman like Jessica Pearson in Suits.

 

  1. The LBD The ‘little black dress’ is no urban legend ladies and gentlemen. It is the code by which we live by – every woman needs a little black dress. We don’t know who wrote the rules but we honour the code. There is something so special and comforting about knowing that if all else fails, we have our LBD to fall back on. It has a special place in our hearts and closets! I’m pretty sure Beyoncé’s 2006 ‘freakum dress’ was an ode to the LBD.
(Picture: Sinnamon and Spice) – Zendaya in her all black minimalist number. Ugh love her!
(Picture: Sinnamon and Spice) – Zendaya in her all black minimalist number. Ugh love her!
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(Picture: igobyfrankie.com) Serving with the boyish look with the heels for a feminine finish. DIVINE!

 

  1. Culottes Culottes are God’s gift to mankind, yep, since no one was willing to say it, there it is. Could there be a more fun and carefree look awarded to us? From the roominess of the cut, to the way one can dress it up or down if one pleases. It’s almost as if the fashion gods were like ‘here, have this treat o faithful ones.’

 

 

  1. Skirt with a Slit There’s something about the skirt slit that just feels so womanly and flirtatious. Perhaps, it is the cheeky flash of the legs that gives us that extra spring in your step. It tells everyone ‘Hi, I’m super cute and there’s nothing you can do about it’. It takes a regular look and gives it that extra ginger.
(Picture: KokoLife.TV)
(Picture: KokoLife.TV)

 

  1. The Shirt Dress The shirt dress is perfect for any occasion, from school run to a dinner day, it is just that versatile. Shirtdresses are so amazing because they suit everyone, it just looks so effortless and effortless makes everything look so much more appealing.
(Picture: Altuzarra spring collection - Vogue.com)
(Picture: Altuzarra spring collection – Vogue.com)

 

All in all, with these 5 wardrobe staple items, there will never be another ‘OMG, I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR’ meltdown. Promise.

The Week After the Week Before and then some: LFDW 2016, A Retrospective.

 

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They say a week is a long time in politics, but with fashion I would say the opposite is true and the week is in fact, blink of a Dior Show black liner clad eyelid short. For a start, none of the fashion weeks be it the big 4 (New York, London, Milan and Paris) or anywhere else in the world, including our beloved city Lagos, last a full seven days. And there is the attention span factor; less than ten minutes on a runway for a designer to set out their vision for what they would like us to be wearing in the coming seasons and convince us, that yes this is truly the way to go and we need to start ordering pronto. And then there is the added factor of everyone, including their auntie with good network and a smartphone in the village, considering themselves an ‘expert’ and able to express such on social media adding another potent ingredient to the mix. The fact that a thumbs down or an emoji are considered sufficient deconstruction of what is on offer is worrying to say the least. As LFDW has grown, so have these factors of how it is perceived, received, and reviewed amplified. It’s a balancing act that the LFDW Leadership Team, fearlessly led by Omoyemi Akerele have had to, to use a Naija-ism ‘manage’. I feel like a bit of a veteran having attended the maiden edition and seen this incredible story unfold. And it took a while to properly process all these elements hence the delay in this overall review.

This year definitely felt like a watermark; and not just because there is a pushy upstart vying for the crown of destination fashion showcase in Nigeria. Daytime talks expounding on the fashion industry from manufacturing to distribution and digital marketing, thus positing LFDW as being more than an opportunity to see and be seen but to learn, grow and develop a career or business in fashion, were a fantastic and necessary addition. As was the expanded retail space, which made the fashion experience all the more immediate and accessible. However, the Nigerian fashion industry will rise or fall based on the quality of its product, both for domestic consumption and for those sexy, foreign-currency paying (don’t we all heart USD’s?) international clients. So without further ado, a redux on what was rocking and what was shocking from the week that was:

As a card-carrying Christo, I will begin with the good, sing a Psalm in praise and downright inspiring collections first. Allow me at this point to sing an extended hymn of admiration to Bridget Awosika who showed on the power-designer-heavy-bring=your=game-face schedulle that was DAY 4. Queen of the conceptual that still remains oh-so-wearable, Bridget gave us racy the remix. Hemlines wavered from sexpot pelmet length to demure over the knee. The road motifs did not evoke the driving hell that is go-slow during rush hour but rather traffic stopper toot your horn hotness that every woman wants to be once in a while. Scrub that, most of the time.

 

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PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

 

A fan of exploring the notion of seen and unseen in her pieces we saw her signature motifs such as sheer and opaque fabrics married. Also note-worthy was her continued exploration in creating the perfect lo-fi luxe trousers for a downtown Manhattan girl now residing in Lagos. This season’s iteration will definitely keep existing fans happy and new ones intrigued enough to seek out her studio in Lekki and go wild in the proverbial aisles. Keeping the palette restrained and black as the unifying accent of her collection created that magic combination of covetable and collectable.

 

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KOLA OSHALUSI

 

Another treat was the return of Lisa Folawiyo who closed the week with an expansion of her lauded presentation from New York fashion week. It is official, there is no need to be a member of the Balmain Army; in fact the buy local and join the fierce Lisa Lieutenants, setting the pace in the office, at parties and events. If the picture below isn’t ultimate #squadgoals worthy, I do not know what is.

PHOTO: KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO: KOLA OSHALUSI

The gimmicks and gimmick creators,  and there were many, need to be reviewed, and ideally told to cease and desist, especially as Lagos becomes the nexus for contemporary African design both on the content and internationally. We will only continue to garner respect and exert influence if we pair down the nonsense and focus on business which in this case is exqusite clothes. Yes, love is a beautiful thing, but isn’t a runway proposal  as seen at the  Johnson Johnson show, the stuff of reality television and not a designer seriously seeking to be stocked in Barney’s or Selfridges? Equally baffling to view was  the bridal collection produced by Mai Atafo where the wedding theme was not so much spoon fed as ladelled thick with a trowel. String Quartet? Check. Flowers and topiary? Check. And of course, that seasonal must-have, the celeb wedding singer in this case Kaliné. Is this going to get Mai being spoken of in the same tones as menswear vanguard designers such as Ozwald Boateng or Paul Smith,? Sadly not. And this is a pity, especialy as Mai has positioned himself as the go-to red-carpet attire for many an African celebrity, just as Armani tuxedos have been the de facto choice of Oscar nominees for decades. Thank goodness that Kenneth Ize, while exploring unisex themes and throwing the rule book out in regard to proportions in his own collection, did not feel the need to flirt with the farcical, and focused on presenting his aesthetic vision without distracting elements on the runway. High point for me were chic gingham tunics to be worn by you and bae. His and hers just became a distinct possibility.

KOLA OSHALUSI
KOLA OSHALUSI

The crossroads is real. LFDW has survived and indeed thrived since its inception. It has more than conquered the challenge of convincing an audience beyond dedicated enthusiasts that fashion in Nigeria and Africa as a whole is an industry to be reckoned with. Not only that, many a designer star has been born on its runway and it has hosted designers and models who have gone on to blow-up domestically and internationally. But as with everything the sifting has begun. Some collections’ ideas were thin on the ground, still others seemed like fancier renderings of what one’s tailor in Obalende could quickly knock up. The collections that could pass muster anywhere in the world and not just as Local Champion-esque moments for the ‘gram were not as plentiful as one would like. But there are green shoots of consistency from both established players and new arrivals, more of whom MO will feature. It is for this reason I am encouraged, particularly by the teaching and coaching elements that were evident in the morning sessions and being championed by LFDW. It is only through incubating talent, investing in the notion of pushing boundaries in terms of ideas in a committed manner, and instilling thinking creatively and behaving professionally as standard to all participants, that this undeniably flagship fashion week in Africa will mature into all that it can be.

 

MO at LFDW: Day One Review

It’s good to be back in the Federal Palace Tents. Day One of LFDW saw the MO team observe the action from every conceivable vantage point: after all this wouldn’t be fulsome analysis if we didn’t.  And to prove our dedication to the cause we even spied the make-up stash required to make all the models look runway-ridiculous worthy.

PHOTO: MAGNUS OCULUS
PHOTO: MAGNUS OCULUS

But onto the collections themselves. For us at MO it was all about the menswear. Tokyo James in particular showed a conceptually strong collection; entitled the ‘Circle of Life’ his vision for Spring/Summer 2017 was arresting in every sense. Shirts under suits were abandoned and cuffs and bondage style harnesses featured heavily; for the ‘tops’ out there, you definitely know what to purchase your best-beloved!

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

The interplay between power, submission and indifference were also evoked by chain details, neck cuffs that would be perfect for consensual constraint, shoes with shackles (an inspired collaboration with shoe designer King David) and the outsize ‘Tokyo James’ tags which were emblazoned with the legend ‘No One Cares’ a statement that also appeared on casual t’s.

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

Tokyo has always had form with coats and there were some stand outs in this collection including a Parker that gave us Nautical-Extreme with the outsize rope fastenings.

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

The applause erupted for a white dressing-gown style wrap coat with outsize faux fur pockets but for us the winning piece was the damask pea coat with bondage motifs.

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

T.I Nathan gave us a show that was great in parts. The moment his name come up spontaneous applause and cheers were deafening and seemed more at home for a teen concert than a fashion show. Cynically we thought this was due to the opening bars of  Lukas Graham’s mega-hit 7 Years,  that was the show’s soundtrack, but then Nathan served us  a bit of Vetements flavour with his mixed gender runway, and a clever, luxe take on street-wear. With Nathan the fun was injected via his t’s that had Pop Art influences and LOL slogans galore that were firmly posited in Lagos living.

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

I guess it is at this point one should self-declare as a Popaholic.  A special mention must also go to the runs-chick reference with a barely there ensemble covered up with a bomber jacket that announced ‘Give Me Your Money’ in cursive on the left shoulder.

PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI
PHOTO KOLA OSHALUSI

Less successful were the sequence of jackets with polo-necks underneath teamed with slim-fit trousers that felt forced and jarred against the playful opening. However, Nathan is definitely one to watch.

Women’s wear was not floating our boat sadly. There seemed to be a lot of ‘incomplete’ concepts and in some cases incomplete pieces which were barely holding together as they made their way up the runway.  I said an internal prayer for one shoulder seam that was breaking for the border as the model strutted past me (I shan’t name names); and pondered how one would sit in many of the  pieces that saw models either hobbling, teeter-tottering and wincing past me. There were too many inconsequential video montages that didn’t flow with what followed on the runway (Style Temple springs to mind) and in one instance a mini-documentary that felt it belonged at a World Bank Conference (Kinabuti, we’re talking to you),  another memorable distraction was a singer closing one show who then seemed to do a runway-takeover of her own. All this smokes and mirrors action did not disguise collections that felt patchy and lacked clothes that were truly desirable, which ultimately is what these shows are all about. The biggest cheers of the night came for the plus size collective, About That Curvy Life whose soundtrack of Rihanna This Is What You Came For perked up the crowd. However, much as I was loving the idea of inclusiveness, especially when the reality of life is if one chooses a diet of Small-Chops, fast food and cake and repeats to fade, you will be in these clothes, the pieces themselves were not as fabulous as the attitude of the models rocking them. Inclusion needn’t resemble a concession which it pains me to write, this felt like. Most Plus-Size shows have models who though larger are still standard model tall, and in many instances the pieces suffered from not having the wow-factor of a Glamazon who would have sold them to us potential punters more effectively.

Overall though, the MO appetite is definitely whetted for the next three days. Connecting the dots never felt this fun and we are sure by Sunday we will be adding, never looked this sick.