True, Nigerian fashion has only just really begun to break into the international market but we do have designers who, over time, have been able to develop brands with a strong sense of identity. For example, Deola Sagoe‘s garments are so meticulously crafted that they could be worn inside out. She also championed the use of aso-oke to make modern fashion.
Lisa Folawiyo has gone from embellishing ankara to developing her own prints in boxy silhouettes that miraculously still have sex appeal, thereby debunking the myth that only body-con dressing equals sexiness. Even young brands like Sisiano, who has become a household name because of his approach to an almost nomadic fluid sense of dressing, have developed a brand that could grow to become a worldwide sensation.
One could go on and on about the Nigerian design talents that have their own unique voices. But what happens after they retire or are long gone? Would their brands continue on? Would their labels be referenced for future fashion?
It could happen. It could happen if we believe in fashion as a lucrative business instead of a frivolous sport. It could happen if we nurture emerging young talents instead of back-patting established moneyed designers. It could happen if a proper structure for the Nigerian fashion industry is developed. It could happen if the talent is chosen over nepotism because it’ll be such a shame if in the next, say, 50 years, one can’t say “that looks like a 2016 Bridget Awosika”, the way 70’s (Yves) Saint Laurent or 50’s Christian Dior are currently referenced.
To develop a legacy, one needs to have a strong sense of self. As I write this, the LFDW Identity exhibition ended last week. It couldn’t have come anymore timely than now, encouraging other designers and spectators to ask one of the most hard-hitting questions ever: “Who am I?”