Nigerian Fashion Industry, Nigerian fashion and designers are growing in popularity like never before. It’s safe to say that there’s never been a better time for Nigerian fashion than right now. Looking back on this creative industry, there has been growth—perhaps not as much on the economy or infrastructure as it should have been, but those baby steps of yesteryear are leaving their imprint.
What the Nigerian Fashion Industry has today is the result of unconventional designers who decided that “a tailor need not be on the streets, cheap and cheerful” in order to make a mark. After all, Nigerians like Frank Osodi, Dakova, Remi Lagos (of blessed memory), and many others were onto something.
Deola Sagoe of DEOLA/House of Deola and Folake Folarin-Coker of Tiffany Amber were among the first to boldly take Nigeria fashion to the rest of the world. They gained international attention by showcasing at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) – every designer’s dream to showcase, and the younger creatives, including Maki Oh, will get the chance to do so almost every year! Isn’t that something?
The Nigerian fashion industry is evolving which is exciting to see. It’s also interesting because, for once, the art of fashion designing isn’t regarded as one for illiterates. Or left a despised roadside tailor. Even the roadside tailor now know their onions and have realized their worth in the modern era.
On the wings of Nigerian fashion to the world, award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie launched the Wear Nigerian Campaign, promising to push creatives by wearing made in Nigeria brands for her public appearances. So far, Adichie has worn nearly a hundred brands outside of Nigeria, including Orange Culture, FIA, Idma-Nof, and many others, as well as her favourite street tailors.
“…Fashion is an industry that many people do not understand. Acceptance is coming slowly…” Folake Folarin-Coker told Suzy Menkes in a Vogue interview, and truth be told, acceptance is catching up.
The creative industry was fired alive in Nigeria with ARISE; the glam, the stage and the ultimate showcase. It all began glamorously with media mogul Nduka Obaigbena. This was put to rest only to resurface six years later in 2018. Naomi Campbell’s walk for Tiffany Amber was undeniably memorable.
Omoyemi Akerele came with Lagos Fashion Week (LFW). The 4-day annual fashion week, arguably Nigeria’s most prestigious fashion week is currently doing the most for creative designers.
Of course, there are many more, such as GT Fashion Weekend, African Fashion Week Nigeria, and others that are constantly pushing the fashion narrative.
But there’s no denying that the industry has grown in some areas; designers and brands have benefited from the international exposure that trailblazers brought them.
Emmy Kasbit’s young creative Emmanuel Okoro had his piece on British Prime Minister Theresa May, who chose a custom aso-oke jacket from his Spring Summer 18 Collection for her trip to Abuja, Nigeria in 2018.
“The Nigerian fashion industry is in the spotlight right now. Lots of African countries look up to Nigeria as the high flag flyer of the fashion industry, from prints to fine finishing… there are many talents in Nigeria who just need the right platform to showcase their craft to a wider audience and if given that will attract international fashion holders who would comb the Nigerian fashion industry and invest in it” Emmanuel Okoro of Emmy Kasbit -who won the LFW N5M Fashion Focus Grant powered by FETS Wallet in 2018- summarises what every fashion enthusiast believes.
Akerele has assisted designers in attending Pitti Immagine in Italy and has leveraged collaborations to place designers on a global pedestal. They have their pieces showcased, viewed, and stocked globally, providing even more exposure for Nigerian creation. Not that they need this approval, but gone are the days when they were relegated to their ‘local corners.’
Fashion is one of the reasons Nigeria and, by extension, Africa have travelled so far and so wide.
“The industry has morphed and grown in all ramifications but still has a lot to do in terms of discovering true real fashion underdogs with talents and guts by giving them a platform” award-winning stylist Tosin Ogundadegbe of The Style Infidel shares his truth about the industry. While there is talent and craftsmanship present, the noise cannot overshadow the works.
There’s no denying that there are a lot more undiscovered creatives, and even more talented ones who haven’t been brought to the forefront yet, and work needs to be done to ensure that these talents aren’t overlooked.
Thankfully, with new projects launched by The Assembly X The British Council and opportunities created by Style House Files’ Fashion Focus, amongst others, to push emerging creatives, it’s only a matter of time before a creative explosion occurs – but only if the right people are given a chance.
For years, LFW has continued to raise the profile of made in Nigeria brands, attracting international acclaim. It’s not uncommon to see Suzy Menkes in Nigeria casually watching a Tiffany Amber show in Alara or picking out her favourite pieces from the runway.
Tamu McPherson has established herself as a front-row regular; the anticipation of LFW season is palpable! Vogue coverage has now devolved into one of those fashion week reports around here; it’s all progress, but it could be better and, most importantly, profitable.
“From my perspective as an editor-in-chief working in digital media, I’ve seen the power social media has had on the Nigerian fashion industry. Just over a decade ago, we wouldn’t believe that powerhouse celebrities like Beyoncé and Naomi Campbell… would be rocking Nigerian brands frequently but now many are looking to African fashion to see what’s hot. Inspiration has always been taken from Africa but not at this rate or level (or in a way that is actually benefiting local designers the way it is now.
Beyond this, however, what I would love to see from Nigerian designers is proper brand targeting. Serving multiple audiences the way established European and American brands do: by serving the high fashion/high income/premium audience but also serving the everyday middle-income fashion lover with diffusion lines. Few labels in Nigeria do this (like Tiffany Amber/TAN and Jewel By Lisa/J Label) and I’m sure they have good reasons but I believe this is a smarter way to increase profit margins” Dami Odufuwa, Digital media strategist & Co-founder, Wine & Whine says about building an industry that’s profitable.
A structured manufacturing company should be in place – reports say Akerele is in the final stages of establishing one – but in comparison to the rest of the world; China, Indonesia, and other textile behemoths, Nigeria is still taking baby steps. And for a country that makes great use of fabrics and is currently courting global attention, this is unfortunate for an otherwise bankable industry estimated to be worth around N1.55 trillion- There is still no accurate data for the fashion industry!
Nigeria is a sitting duck; Kano-based God’s Little Tannery has been reported to supply luxury brands abroad with hide shipped to Italy, where it is purchased by leather agents. If this and other products were designed specifically for export, profit margins would skyrocket.
Then there’s collaboration, which has helped the music industry a lot. While a few designers have this under their belt, more collaborations would have helped the industry a lot more. Let’s not even get started on training, equipping artisans, and making loans to SMEs more accessible.
Tiffany Amber, Lisa Folawiyo, DEOLA, and LDAs paved the way for the impressive Orange Culture, Maki OH, whose pieces have graced the bodies of Michelle Obama, Solange, Lupita Nyong’O, and others. There’s the rapidly growing Style Temple, Abiola Olusola, IDMA-NOF. The unconventional Bubu Ogisi, the Ejiro Amos Tafiri, MEENA, Onalaja, Denike, Titi Belo, and the list goes on with incredibly talented people striving to make a name for themselves, and it’s about time.
“I’m impressed with how far we’ve come as an industry but I’m even more interested in the new, emerging names like Abiola Olusola and Style Temple. They, I believe like many in this new class of designers are the future of the industry” says Richard Akuson, fashion editor and founder of A Nasty Boy.
This goes without saying.
Olamide ‘Elemdee’ Olarewaju is a Fashion Editor, Consultant & editor at large at Fashionandco.ng