Lagos Fashion Week S/S 2019 Day One Review

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lagos Fashion Week A/W 2018 Day Three Review

Last days of anything are always tinged with sadness, and so it was with Lagos Fashion Week. You get into a sort of rhythm and there is something about the different elements of the fashion industry coalescing, from designers, to conveners, to buyers, models and enthusiasts that reaches fever pitch at the end. We all have a part to play and together, with a prevailing wind, something can emerge.

The day’s opener Maxivive certainly had community front and centre in his collection, with its glitter glitter drenched set that had ‘Glistening” emblazoned on a theatrical curtain. A baby’s bath and a lilo were placed stage left and right, a reference to water and it’s ability to both cleanse and renew. When the first model walked out, looking fab-u-lous in a green and red trimmed single breasted suit, hair in a bouffant and in full drag-make-up, we knew we were in for a drama filled ride that referenced the high-season of drag culture which was chronicled in the seminal documentary feature film, Paris Is Burning. The film was a watermark in putting a spotlight on the African-American and Latin Gay and Transgender communities and how they found self expression and freedom via the ball-culture, which in itself ended up in the mainstream via Madonna and her 90’s mega-hit Vogue.

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

Our ring-mistress for the presentation, held court, as an array of men indrag make-up and women who were bearded and butched-up paraded around the set in the gender neutral pieces. Some viewing might have been so immersed in the theatre of the show that they missed the clothes so to speak, but there were plenty of pieces that were marvels in construction, and could, once runway styling was removed, be worn with aplomb. A midnight blue single breasted jacket with buttons on the back was shown here in for the evening only satin,  however in a wool rendition would be a conversation starter and deal closer in any boardroom. Okay, maybe in an advertising agency or film studio rather than bank, but the main point is construction is second to none at Maxivive. Equally charming and is my own personal wish-list was a crisp white women’s shirt with dove grey gloves attached, a simultaneously practical, arresting and insane idea that solved the perennial winter minefield of lost gloves. And for those who have fully embraced athleisure and utility but want to up the ante, a tangerine boiler suit and an ensemble featuring lurex leggings worn with a jacket, oversize t and trainers were chilled by way of the disco-glam. On a deeper level creative director Papa Oyeyeni was daring us to embrace our fierceness, queerness and individuality. Life was all too brief and glorious to fade anonymously into the background and the clothes we wear should be a statement of intentional living. Do you, and for goodness sake, take it up a notch.

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

 

Photo: Kadara Enyeasi
Photo: Kadara Enyeasi

In contrast Sunny Rose’s Maureen Okogwu had entirely different ideas for the women wearing her pieces and the mandate said pieces provide. For the Sunny Rose woman life is all about luxe-living with a capital L with some gauzy silk aso’oke print and lace for good measure. The collection was evening and cocktail heavy, with a ball gown among the pieces alongside silk pewter jumpsuits, lace pencil skirt suits layered with turquoise long sleeved chiffon blouses and hip skimming boot cut pants in brushed gold and aquamarine. A sequence of teal, grey and white aso’oke pieces, the finest of which was a maxi house coat, brought to mind an At Home, the African edition, in a grand colonial era villa, complete with trays filled with champagne coupes  and Salif Keita playing on the discreet Bose speakers as guests toasted the host on another successfully concluded multi-million dollar deal. Does the Sunny Rose woman work? Certainly, although the pieces evoked private income and philanthropy rather than running through the city hustle game on and with her spare phone plugged into a power-bank. But if a collection is about distilling what living the dream looks like, then this most definitely was it. And everything that went on the runway, had sell-fast and sell-out for a certain well-heeled customer.

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

Before it had even commenced the Emmy Kasbit show was a sell-out as guests squished onto benches and resorted to standing to see the latest from this evergreen and ever-popular brand. The ethical fashion moniker certainly helps in these environmentally conscious times and the added celebrity endorsement in the form of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also a great way to ensure the tills keep ringing. However, this evening we also saw an assured collection that lived up to the hype and the major fandom action that was evident in the audience. Conceived with a clear eyed vision the palette was restrained with pinstripes in black and camel underpinning the collection and pops of colour coming courtesy of either olive green aso’oke panelling or red and yellow  rhombus patterned aso’oke. Polo necks in fire engine red, sky blue or grass green were the winter warmer of choice and accessories came in an assortment of outsize and exotic hides, some bearing slogans and art that are guaranteed to make even the dourest smile on the morning commute. The silhouette was slim and dare one say it unforgiving, but assuming you had been minding your carbs and visiting the gym you would look more than fantastic in everything. An assured showing for a brand that only seems set to grow stronger with each season.

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

The night concluded with Onalaja, and she chose to do a sartorial deep dive into the art of dressing entirely in black. But with one caveat, make sure it’s high octane glamour, your heels are high hair scraped off your face and eyes are lined fullu. Hemlines and silhouettes moved around as colour was the only unifier so offerings ranged from a frou-frou A-line polka-dot netted cocktail dress to a long column dress, embellished evening coat,  textured and structured culottes teamed with a silk vest and a pour-your-body-into boot cut jersey pant with beaded tunic top. It was very easy to see both the commerciality of this collection and by having such an array of silhouettes the way it would appeal to an audience, who judging from their cheers like to go out a lot and needed everything shown, like yesterday. A fitting end to a Lagos Fashion Week governed by the see now, love now, buy now model.

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

As the crowds walked  out into the night, until the next October edition one couldn’t help but feel that increasingly Lagos Fashion Week is reflecting what the fashion industry is and should be: diverse, experimental, commercial, glossy and with a necessary dash of rebellion. Just as we all do not look the same, nor should we all dress the same, and the twelve designers who showed shared their vision and kindly invited us to partake should we wish to. Some designers are clearly heading for the stratosphere, but all are an essential ingredient to the industry’s continued growth. Whatever the world may say Lagos is  an undeniable fashion capital, and with the necessary capacity building and further industry cohesion it will soon become a retail destination too.