With the help of celebrities like Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Obama, Rihanna, and Kelly Rowland, African designers are slowly emerging from the shadows, taking their place on the international stage. And at Lagos Fashion Week, the pulse of African creativity – along with a platform for rising stars, designers, and fashion leaders alike – are expecting their global influence to rise and sales to surge 45% by 2024.
“Culturally, there’s a limit to how seriously the creative industry is taken, which makes it feel like a constant battle to get a seat at tables that matter. But not to worry, we’re steadily creating our own tables,” said Aisha Obuobi Ayensu, head of Christie Brown, a Ghana-based brand that has shown in Johannesburg and Paris. Lagos Fashion Week, which closed Oct 26th, is undeniably in the spotlight, and Lagos – a city with a population of about 20 million, larger than London and New York combined (of which the majority of its inhabitants are millennials) – is at the heart of this resurgence.
Interest in Lagos Fashion Week has benefitted from a demand for diversity from the international fashion scene and an insatiable quest for the new and desirable that eventually led tastemakers to sub-Saharan Africa. “[There is a] necessity for us Africans to embrace our culture and assist our native style ecosystems,” said Omoyemi Akerele at the opening dinner. Akerele founded Lagos Fashion Week in 2011 in order to position local designers, as well as those living abroad, to benefit on a commercial level.
Africa’s LFW provides a physical platform that is gradually taking fashion to new heights and turning it into a means of generating income and nurturing young talents in Nigeria, as well as abroad. For instance, London’s Selfridges featured such initiatives through a pop-up collaboration between Orange Culture & Davido. And also, the introduction of SheTrades, an initiative of the International Trade Centre (ITC), was established to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals by creating an ecosystem of integrated solutions that empower women economically through trade. Via country-based activities, SheTrades enables female entrepreneurs to improve the quality of their products and services, as well as driving sales and raising competitiveness for female entrepreneurs.
AAKS, Afrodesiac, Aprelle Duany, Anyango Mpinga and Christie Brown, Eclectic Chique, Grey, IAMISIGO, Nkwo, Maki Oh, Style Temple, Tilayo, and Zashadu are among the names promoted by the platform.
Studio 189, the Ghana-based fashion line founded by actress Rosario Dawson and entrepreneur Abrima Erwiah, along with other designers such as Maki Oh and Lisa Folawiyo, have been key catalysts that have created scalable luxury businesses that put quality first.
Outside the official runway venues, Lagosian street style enthusiasts generated a buzz. Shimmery hair, masks made of beads, colorful braids, and bantu knots were among the standout looks. On the runway, Maki Oh unfurled a collection of creations embellished with tassels, Bordeaux sequins, fluid fabrics, and strategic bare skin, while Christie Brown brought an extra touch of class and elegance to the show with her collection themed “She is King.”
In its ninth year, LFW brought 2000 guests, among them key players in the Nigerian and African fashion industry together, as major partnerships with organizations like the British Fashion Council have drawn international media attention and buyers.
“Once you understand that some of the most important things are purpose- and passion-driven, combined with a deeper need to make a difference beyond self... it is certainly more fulfilling,” emphasized Akerele, who foresaw the potential in Nigerian creativity and continues to promote fashion retail as a key contributor to Nigeria’s economy.