Lagos Fashion Week S/S 2019 Day Three Review

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

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

Photo: Kola Oshalusi
Photo: Kola Oshalusi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.