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.

 

Lagos Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day One Review

As the great philosopher Socrates noted, “no condition is permanent” and so it was with Lagos Fashion Week Day One which in many ways presented a change of order. Apart from the name change (design has been ditched and official has been added to the IG handle, more of that later), there was also a shift in format and of course venue. Attendees were offered for the first time a see now buy now model, a trend that has been adopted by some of the biggest global brands, and discreet order sheets were placed at the end of each bench, so one could presumably go wild in the aisles if you were buying for your store or indeed yourself. It was an important touch, as it also allowed for designers to test the temperature for certain pieces, before going into full-on production mode. Also of note was the space, the ground floor of the Wings Buildings was reminiscent of noughties New York off schedule presentations in down town Manhattan or Fashion East in London, before it got mega-investment and became glossy with it: the Industrial concrete flooring, triple height ceiling and plain white benches meant the clothes rather than any epic set were the stars of the show.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

The night opened with Gozel Green, the design duo that embarked on a glowing international show rooms tour organised by Style House Files last autumn and have garnered a loyal clientele who love their play on proportion, finishing and contrasting palettes. For this season, all of those elements were present and correct, so no major scares for the core customer. However, and this was an exciting development, we were treated to athleisure motifs which found their way into pieces from the toggles on the hemlines of skirts and dresses through to a  hoodie finish on a cropped blouse with the emblem “Me, My Earth, My Culture”.

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

Outerwear also experienced an existential moment as jackets had partially exposed sleeves, surely the cold would get in one thought, or maybe we were meant to rethink what it was to be a jacket, with the exposed opening an invitation to wear a contrasting long sleeved vest underneath? Either way it was a winner that got my pen twitching on that order sheet!

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Also of note was a lime apron dress, with pleating and body-merciful cocoon silhouette, it is no surprise that Gozel Green has managed to achieve the hallowed feat of appealing across age-groups. Worn with trainers or as the models did here with wooden sandals with net meshing and you were a Millennial, pop on some heels and if you are not delighted by your upper arms, a white shirt, and boom, Coolest Auntie Ever/Fashion forward executive. Continuity with a dollop of new doth a great collection make,

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

As Beyoncé’s ‘Party’ came blasting from the speakers it was clear that Mo Agusto’s collection was going to be for the rockers in the house. Show opener, a silk satin a line mini in midnight and ice blue was definitely revving of engine hot, and it was clear that the Mo Agusto woman would probably have ‘Slay Queen’ in her Instagram Bio.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

We were treated to a pallete that alternated between blush pink and raspberry with sheer white accents or midnight blue and ice with silver. Aso’oke featured heavily, either as a contrasting silver panel on a three quarter length jumpsuit or in all its glory in a sugar pink only for the brave or sensational of leg a-line mini dress and slim line city shorts.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

There were hints of historicism in the sheer blouses with their exaggerated ruff on the wrist, and modesty and commerciality had been taken into consideration with hemlines either at a modest mid-calf or for the brave grazing mid-thigh. She is definitely a designer whose popularity, particularly in her home market, is assured.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Last show of the night and by no means least was IAMISIGO. We knew we were in for a spectacle, or as much as one could have within the new austere space when a set of ten chairs was placed, in a formation that had me thinking of childhood games of Musical Chairs. Would the models have to fight it out for the last chair? Of course, I should have known better from Bubu Ogisi, who is far too cool to opt for such a gimmick.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Instead models sauntered in, hair in a studied bird’s nest disarray, and with white Ori chalk marks across their faces. Show opener a powder blue trouser suit with a lime overlay was a stunner. Fist bumps and double marks for the layering effect of the trousers and the contrasting colour on the jacket and the frankly inspired use of Guinea Brocade,  which is often associated with menswear, in so many of the pieces. Why should the boys have all the fabric fun so to speak?

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

The seemingly unfinished side hems on many of the pieces hinted at a girl, who just couldn’t be bothered with preening, knew when she looked great and kept it moving. A white floor sweeper dress and an off the shoulder lime and white two piece reflected this ethos perfectly: day, evening, beach, at home, all will be well, style wise at least in these pieces.

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

A collaboration with It-Accessories brand Shekudo pulled everything together as the aso’oke weave on the footwear married well with the brocade on top. A surprise and great addition was the denim sequence with one double layered coat, destined to become an Autumn-Winter hero piece. IAMISIGO ensured that Day One closed on the high we all wanted and indeed expected.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

As to what to expect from Lagos Fashion Week Official, still with founder Omoyemi Akerele at the helm, I think the clue is in the name. A focus on location (Lagos, Nigeria and also Africa in a wider sense) and the vitality and creative brilliance that has chosen here for its home is an obvious objective. Secondly, there are the aims of genuinely augmenting the diverse actors, organisations and systems that not only constitutes, but also are necessary for a healthy industry. This is seen in particular in the Fashion Focus funds that emerging designers have access to, and the order sheets which allow the designers showing presently to immediately make money. And finally, the addition of the word Official, we have all seen it a hundred times on the ‘gram, especially in issues of celebrities wanting to distinguish themselves as the ‘real deal’, but in this particular instance it is about authenticity of intent. Yes, we all love a party, especially one where fabulous ensembles come into play, but come here, show here and buy here and you are supporting an industry into its future.