GTB Fashion Weekend 2018 Day Two Review

“People of colour are determining culture today.” Dapper Dan declared at GTB Fashion Weekend, in a Masterclass full of insightful and surprising vignettes from his four decades plus career in fashion. Indeed, one could expand his thesis and argue that Nigeria, as the world’s most populous black nation has the potential to dictate how culture is not only steered but also in which direction. Day two definitely shared some of that intentional approach with a masterclass roster that included footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood and fashion editor and style icon Julia Sarr-Jamois and grand fromage names both on the catwalk and on the front row. It hinted at an agenda that was one-part shock and awe the audience with a fashion immersion session like no other and another part create a celebratory and euphoric atmosphere that reflected the enthusiasm and love most gathered had for fashion For the most part it worked.

Opening the night with Lanre Da Silva Ajayi or LDA as she is affectionately known, whose presence guaranteed that the frow was a veritable who’s who of Nigeria high society. If you are a lady who has graduated from turning right in an aeroplane and maybe left the civilian world of moving around in commercial craft altogether, it is more than likely you will be a loyal and regular customer and possibly on first name terms too with Lanre. Like a Giambattista Valli Haute Couture customer, the LDA woman isn’t really wearing pieces such as this to do the school run or get the green light on her proposals from the board. This is high-octane glamour with even the day pieces only worthy of the most elegant and exquisite invitations, and included a sequence of lilac floral lurex pieces, black and copper or alternatively metallic sea green camouflage trouser suits that consisted of oversize jackets teamed with cigarette trousers and pencil skirts trimmed with ostrich ostrich feathers. Da Silva Ajayi continues to add a dollop historicism to her collections with leg of mutton sleeves on blouses, a disco diva worthy shot teal suit and reprising the underwear as outer wear concept via a lingerie inspired two piece. But the overall theme remains never knowingly leave the house under-dressed. Some fashion critics argue that LDA from season to season is somewhat repetitive and is thus is not as exciting as some of the more avant-garde designers working in Nigeria, however there is much to be said for a designer who understands deeply how her core customer wishes to present themselves, interprets their wants and creates collections they keep desiring.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

Ji Won Choi was a bold and choice for a runway presentation. The Parsons School of Design graduate has placed sustainability at the heart of her business and her pieces are designed in such a way as to be worn in numerous ways, thus reducing excessive consumption. For the audience, seeing silhouettes that referenced far east Asian cultures (Choi is originally from South Korea) might have been quite the aesthetic jolt but it was refreshing nevertheless.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

In the instance of Taibo Bacar, the audience was treated to a collection that screamed resort by way of one’s Upper East Side apartment. matching trouser suits with jewelled headbands and monogrammed silk shirts felt very Tory Burch-lite and compared to previous collections from him  there were few stand straight to attention moments.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

Tweed coats, navy metallics, lace and proportion play and black patent flats teamed with every ensemble certainly gave IDMA-NOF’s collection a cohesiveness visually but beyond that it never fully took flight. As with many brands that have niche and in the instance of IDMA-NOF, famous customers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the wheels will continue to turn but this collection doesn’t stand as one the brand’s best.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

Gert-Johan Coetzee has a reputation as the go-to for the red carpet in his native South Africa  and beyond with the likes of  Bonang Matheba acting as the brand’s muse and many a wealthy bride opting for one of his creations as their reception or indeed bridal shut down dress. It was thus a shock that this collection saw him dabble with streetwear and denim. This being Coetzee the silhouette was close to the body wherever possible and sweatshirts were given the necessary bling via sequins and embellishment. Evolution in a designer is always welcome but the overall effect felt somewhat forced and lacking in the insouciance and youth propelled exuberance that is innately part of streetwear’s DNA. This is not to say that he should remain in an evening gown silo, but a collaboration might have been a wiser  starting point before a deep dive into an aesthetic that is clearly not his forte. More successful was the other big theme of the evening in his collection which was the Italian Renaissance with silk prints that echoed the works of the grand palaces of Venice and Florence and brocade evening jackets for men that would be worthy of any black tie event.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

A year is a long time in fashion and it speaks much of the eventful one had by LaQuan Smith that he returned to GTB Fashion Weekend to close the event itself. By many metrics he was worthy of the slot: a year that has not only seen him continue to dress the likes of Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Gigi Hadid but also sign a lucrative deal designing for online behemoth ASOS.com. Furthermore, his take no prisoners fierce and sexy aesthetic is one that will resonate with the Nigerian market, where slaying is not so much a nice to have as a mantra to live one’s life by. This season sheer dresses were teamed with oversized jackets and more modest iterations of revealing bodice and trousers or high slit evening skirts also offered. Smith also proposed a return for the lycra body suit for both genders with the women’s iteration being super high legged and in both instances  soliciting cheers from the audience who he had eating from his hand from the offset.  Luxe fabrics were aplenty with fur and rich velvets being the cover up of choice for the scandalous transparent pieces. Overall, Smith’s hip-hop hottie aesthetic is very in tune with the popular mood right now and in many ways reflects Dapper Dan’s comment of black culture informing popular culture today. The collection refines some of the motifs but still feels authentic – no wonder the tills continue to ring.

Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu
Photo: Chukwuka Tolulope Obu

And so GTB Fashion Weekend concluded with an after-party where the worlds of fashion, finance and society collided in a standing-room only VIP Lounge. It is interesting times for the event, which by virtue of its focus of combining domestic and global talent on the runways, a huge retail fair in the main hall and masterclasses with an international roster of speakers continues to garner support and influence. Whether the tripartite approach has scalability is open to debate and indeed it would be interesting to see how the event evolves as Africa’s place in the global fashion landscape changes.

 

 

Arise Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day One Review

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

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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