By Oloruntobi “IBK” Jaiyeola
New York, Paris, London, Milan, and Lagos? The first four cities are synonymous with fashion production, and Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, may soon follow suit. The MTN Lagos Fashion & Design Week ran from October 24 to 27, and drew European high-fashion brands such as the United Kingdom’s Selfridges & Co., Matthew Williamson, and Munich-based online retailer MyTheresa.com to Nigeria for the first time. The event was in collaboration with MTN, Africa’s leading telecommunications provider, and it served as a platform to bring together the media industry, fashion enthusiasts, buyers, and consumers to view the best of Nigeria’s fashion and design production.
Although Lagos is fairly new to the international fashion scene, this is not the first time it has drawn the attention of big names in the industry. Previous initiatives like Le Petit Marche and Music Meets Runway, locally, and the Arise Magazine Fashion Week celebrate African style and culture as a whole, gathering designers and international media and buyers from across the globe. What makes Lagos unique is the consumerism culture, appetite for fashion and the ability to make local designs globally appealing. “Lagos women…they dress like no other. They love haute couture. They look the part, they get fashion,” says Penny McDonald, Arise Magazine Fashion Week organizer.
In the age of technology and online marketing, fashion designs are selling well before their brand names are recognized. Deola Sagoe, one of Nigeria’s top designers, has gained recognition from U.S. Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley and actress Anika Noni Rose. London-based Duro Olowu is considered one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers. Maki Oh has dressed American singer Solange Knowles and Hollywood actress Leelee Sobieski from her Lagos shop. Jewel By Lisa, who has also dressed celebrities, recently designed limited edition BlackBerry mobile phone skins and jeweled cases for Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion Ltd, emphasizes this cross between fashion, media and technology.
Nigeria is known for its booming population, rising movie industry known as Nollywood, rich literature, and thriving musical industry with names like Chinua Achebe, Tuface Idibia, and the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti among others. But with events like the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, Nigerian designers and labels are bent on including fashion on the commercial city’s extensive portfolio. With these efforts, the vision for making Lagos the fifth fashion capital of the world will not be a challenge.
Photo by Kola Oshalusi from BellaNaija.com