Nigerian fashion and the journeys of return (2), By Folorunsho Coker

Superstar model Naomi Campbell and Alton Mason parade at the Arise show wearing Kenneth Ize dresses. Photo credit: Afrodyssée on Instagram.

Currently, the highest expressions of the connection between tourism, destination / marketing events, and sartorial convergence in Nigeria are in Fashion Weeks, which have seen several iterations in different locations across the country. As of around 2007, some of the most distinguished of these events, offering platforms for many designers to showcase their offerings to a local and international audience, consist of Lagos Fashion Week, Arise Fashion Week …

A growing tribe of fashion lovers

As a precursor to these new events, Nigeria’s most prodigious concert between fashion and tourism has grown continuously since the late 1990s when the big fashion events that allowed travel to both local and inbound destinations began. These have spiraled into large-scale tailoring exhibitions and fashion weeks that have now become important platforms for showcasing Nigerian skills and talents, while pointing to the potential of a resurgent textile industry in the country, along with the enormous possibility of the media, hospitality and related sectors.

While these events have grown in prestige and sophistication enough to bring celebrities and icons to the global fashion industry, such as Ozwald Boateng, Grace Bol, Matthew Williamson, and superstar model, Naomi Campbell, who has equally supported the cause of Nigerian designers at the level international and mounted an advocacy for the publication of a Vogue Africa in recognition of an industry that has fully entered into the merits, etc. Furthermore, the events also saw the amplification of the work of a new generation of designers, from Kenneth Ize to Mazzi Odu, Onalaja, IAMISIGO, Banke Kuku, Lagos Space Program, Huddaya, TjWho, Kiko Romeo, Pepper Row, RÉ Lagos, VicNate and TI Nathan, among a host of others.

Yet what can be described as a modern fashion industry in Nigeria stands on the shoulders of matriarchs such as Shade Thomas-Fahm of Yaba’s famed Shade Boutique, who came to the scene in the early 1960s in Lagos after forming in the UK. it is known as a trace of a distinctive modernity that involves the use of traditional African fabrics / materials in patterns and styles that adopt a western orientation.

Additionally, she is known for creating the boubou, a “feminized” version of the men’s agbada, along with other one-of-a-kind pieces such as Ankara shirts, beaded shoes, aso-oke dresses, etc. Contemporaries of Shade Thomas-Fahm who also had significant impacts on 1970s Nigerian fashion included Folorunsho Alakija, Abah Folawiyo, Betti O and Nike Okundaye.

Since the early 1990s, a generation of Nigerian referees of taste in fashion has evolved, reaching and establishing global standards of recognition, to become notable pioneers in their own rights. While they are the champions of urban tourism and place marketing, who have put Nigeria, especially Lagos, on the international fashion map, they have done so by creating brands that have compared themselves to the best in the world.

This frontline cohort has grown to include – in no particular emergency order – Deola Sagoe of the House of Deola, Lisa Folawiyo, Tiffany Amber’s Folake Coker, Ade Bakare, Mudi, Frank Oshodi, Modela, Zizi Cardow, Lexy Mojo- Eyes, Mai Atafo, Ituen Basi, Soares Anthony, Lola Faturoti, Amaka Osakwe, Duro Olowu and many others. Interestingly, the industry is seeing an intergenerational component, with Deola Sagoe’s three daughters – Teni, Aba and Tiwa – picking up the gauntlet and launching the increasingly admired CLAN label.

As the Nigerian tailoring industry is gaining more attention, locally and internationally, both in the wake of fashion weeks, other major industry events, along with huge tourist flows, there has been a business boon, which will inevitably intensify – from the explosion in the number of ateliers, small and medium-sized workshops engaged in the production of distinct garments, to the opening of shops and the deepening of the presence on e-commerce platforms.

Fashion Weeks – In the tourism empire

The progression in the global appeal of Nigerian ateliers as a source of unique creations and a renowned fashion destination is testament to their innovative practice and cumulative industry, which have continued to capture the imagination of many around the world.

Currently, the highest expressions of the connection between tourism, destination / marketing events, and sartorial convergence in Nigeria are in Fashion Weeks, which have seen several iterations in different locations across the country. As of 2007, some of the most distinguished of these events, which offer platforms for many designers to showcase their offerings to a local and international audience, consist of Lagos Fashion Week, Arise Fashion Week and African Sourcing and Fashion Week ( ASFW- Lake). Likewise, there are the most recent Abuja International Fashion Week and Port Harcourt Fashion Week, alongside the business / social responsibility driven instances of the GTCO / GTBank Fashion Weekend and Zenith’s style, among others.

While Lagos Fashion Week is considered by many to be “Nigeria’s most important fashion event”, attracting participation from far and near, the glamor and large media fair of Arise Fashion Week was particularly unmistakable, with the its stars and now multi-location (as the last show was held in Dubai), these fashion events have become thriving platforms for showcasing talents and collections of designers who are “glocal” – being both global and local to the same time. And also international in-depth themes and destination visits, which are on the rise as large entrepôt and fairs for Nigerian fashion customers.

Founded in 2011 by Omoyemi Akerele, although its reputation makes it seem like it has been in existence for more than a generation, the inspiring prestige of Lagos Fashion Week is evident in its being covered by mainstream international media such as CNN and BBC and Piace magazines. Harpers’ Bazaar and the American Rowing.

In response to a major disruptive situation like the advent of the coronavirus and its associated pathology, COVID-19, many of the fashion shows have become hybrid experiences, which are now carefully curated as physical and online shows. Their main attractions – such as fashion shows involving the presentation of collections, exhibition / shopping events and even interactive forums, both as work sessions and as industry masterclasses – have equally adapted to this amalgam. Furthermore, the appeal of these tailored display cases has increased in their exploration of socially conscious themes such as sustainability and environmental concern through design.

With its growing influence, Nigeria is also regarded as the fashion capital of the continent. This is due, both to its demographic spread (over 200 million), and to its economic dimension within Africa, which supports a diverse profusion of talents, including designers, stylists, creatives in the sector, associated human resources and a vast multimedia support infrastructure that includes photographers, bloggers, creators of different content, etc. Furthermore, even though South Africa currently attracts a larger share of the continent’s fashion spending, yet from the breadth and range of its fashion offerings, Nigeria has the ability to stimulate demand and patronage in the foreseeable future, in a way impossible to rival in all of Africa.

As the Nigerian government further activates its economic revival program, the Nigerian fashion industry will fare much better with the huge revival of the textile industry, which would surely intensify the impact of destination travelers’ return trips to Nigeria. , who are not only attracted to its locally produced fabrics, but also to see its fashion fairs / events and savor the novelty of designs, products and venues.

Go digital and extend trade routes

As the Nigerian tailoring industry is gaining more attention, locally and internationally, both in the wake of fashion weeks, other major industry events, along with huge tourist flows, there has been a business boon, which will inevitably intensify – from the explosion in the number of ateliers, small and medium-sized workshops engaged in the production of distinct garments, to the opening of shops and the deepening of the presence on e-commerce platforms.

It is heartwarming to see how social media platforms, such as Instagram – and the growing tribe of bloggers, have accelerated and expanded the Nigerian fashion scene, as they continue to gain awareness of its novelty and appeal to the wider world, thus inciting the desire to touch industry and physical space first hand.

There are dozens of Nigerian fashion brands straddling the virtual space, and in particular on Instagram, and these tend to extend the perception of the fashion industry not only as being essentially tied to high fashion or the luxury and mid-market segments. , but also the expanding presence of numerous prestigious brands. These include brands like Canill and 21 attires, which actually serve the largest number of people and are perhaps the largest sources of employment, economic performance, and even wish – in terms of volumes involved in their patronage.

Without a doubt, the fashion industry is set for more growth in the current times with the intervention and support of agencies such as the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and the Central Bank of Nigeria. In addition, the fashion fund established by the Banca dell’Industria will give a significant boost to the fashion business, empowering professionals and making the sector more attractive to enthusiasts from all over.

As the Nigerian government further activates its economic revival program, the Nigerian fashion industry will fare much better with the huge revival of the textile industry, which would surely intensify the impact of destination travelers’ return trips to Nigeria. , who are not only attracted to its locally produced fabrics, but also to see its fashion fairs / events and savor the novelty of designs, products and venues.

Folorunsho Coker is the general manager of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the main seller of the Nigerian destination.

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