Lagos Fashion Week Was Bustling With Womenswear Galore, And ESSENCE Got An Exclusive Peek
August Atiti for Cynthia Abila

After what may have seemed like a terrible last year for the Nigerian fashion industry, fashion season is finally back with a bang. Across the globe in 2020, fashion weeks went strictly digital due to the pandemic. As the Nigerian fashion industry prepared to also make its way into a digital showcase in 2020, youths rallied round the country’s most commercial state, Lagos, protesting against incessant police brutality. The championed ENDSARS protest happened at the time of the intended fashion week, and plans for digital showcases couldn’t be furthered.

On the Oct. 27, Lagos Fashion Week finally opened its doors again to all fashion lovers. This year, it took a slightly different approach, however. Designers like Lisa Folawiyo, Thompson Adeju of Lagos Space Programme, Banke Kuku, Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture, Sisiano Paolo, Andrea Iyamah, and Bubu Ogisi of Iamisigo, were supported in hosting offsite private shows. The general scene, held at Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island, was bustling with creatives from all corners of the industry. What was even all the more appealing, were designers showcasing collections that were colorful, vibrant, sophisticated and chic, especially considering the kind of year we’ve had. ESSENCe had the opportunity to meet and chat with some womenswear designers who were at the forefront of Lagos Fashion Week.

Banke Kuku

Banke Kuku is an eponymous luxury brand based in Lagos. Kuku, the founder, moved to the UK at a young age before completing a course at Central Saint Martin in fine arts, then fashion and textile at the Chelsea College of Arts. Banke Kuku first started off as a soft furnishing brand, moving to luxury textiles, before gravitating towards exploring the art of fashion designing. Since its launch in 2011, the brand has created multiple collections that are of high appeal to both local and international audiences. Her SS/22 collection, a private showcase at the Polo Towers, brought a whimsical take to elegance,through the use of original prints. Kuku used this collection to pay homage to the ’70s. “In the ’70s, fashion, culture and music was such an amazing time,” she tells ESSENCE. “My collection was inspired by the motifs of the ’70s, and how it relates to our current times — especially in Lagos.”

Bridget Awosika

Elegance, class, and sophistication are some of the best words to describe this Lagos-based label. Awosika’s SS/22 collection was filled with lushness and luxury, while also giving us some really silky and corporate-y vibes. The collection showcased well -etailed straight dresses and suit dresses with soft, visible slits. “We wanted to showcase a collection that continues to celebrate the BA girl in ‘Her element’ — refined, minimal and effortless elegance,” Awosika says. “Our process was refinement overall so we took some of our classics and further stripped them down, birthing new pieces. We worked with stonewashed silks, crepe silks and silk satin in strong blue hues, neon pink and green and black to tie it all together.”

Iamisigo

Isigo is the sustainable womenswear brand bringing a very personal approach to ethical fashion. From using hemp and plastic, the brand, founded by Bubu Ogiso, has evolved to be one of the most sought-after boundary-pushing design labels. It continues to release sartorial collections that are both thoughtful and inclusive. Living at the intersection of sustainable activism, Ogiso’s SS/22 Green Water, Blue Forest, takes us back in time with the idea of decolonizing minds and celebratory freedom of expression, using pieces that are illustrious, artsy and crafty. “This collection was all about freedom of expression, and how it interacts with body, rhythm and time,” she shares. “There are only two omni-present fibres, hemp and plastic. We wanted to show people how to use plastic as a vessel of preservation, with its container as an ultimate canvas instead of just using and disposing of it.”

Sisiano

Sisiano is one of Nigeria’s leading fashion labels. The eponymous brand founded by Sisiano Paolo, a dancer, choreographer, artist, designer and all round creative, has over time released collections that are a perfect mix of both thoughtfulness and provocation. Viewing these pieces grants some sense of warmth and peace. For the SS/22 collection titled My Eyes Before You, the brand follows with its usual aesthetics of primarily crepe-based designs, giving adaptive sartorial and functional excellence. He also plays with velvet, cotton, silk and organza. “I wanted to work with different textures for the technique of this collection — straight lines, curves, and full circles — which usually seems like where we’re heading as human beings. Going in a particular line,” he tells ESSENCE. “I was constantly inspired by life; so, flowers, the ocean, wind, colors, and everything around me were put into play — but most importantly, dance and movement.”

Ejiro Amos Tafiri

Ejiro Amos Tafiri, popularly called E.A.T,  is a label found in Lagos. This season, E.A.T delves into celebrating the style of the powerful woman-figure, Mariam Babaginda, a one-time First Lady of Nigeria. This, it did — with the production of occasion wear and lounge pieces, with high hopes of the world finally opening up to celebrations and parties. Storytelling is such an integral component of the brand’s functions, and they have managed to over time follow through with such ethos. Tafiri and her team used design details from different cultural dress forms and types, like the Babariga, Buba and Sokoto, Danshiki etc. Fabrics also ranged from Nigerian handwoven fabrics like Aso-Oke, Hand and tye-dye batik. “This collection was inspired by the style of Mariam Babaginda. I wanted to do something that was inherently Nigerian — fun and edgy — and still captures what E.A.T is about – women being comfortable in their skin,” she says. “Babangida loves her quirky fun styles. She loves big buttons, and she used to tie her scarf a certain way.”

Cynthia Abila

After winning the grant for the Fashion Focus Fund, a competition organized by Style House Files, parent company to Lagos Fashion Week, this brand experienced a pivot. It’s a womenswear brand that focuses on telling ethical, traditional stories through the lenses of modernity. The eponymous brand kept with that ethos during the release of the SS/22 collection, titled The Forgotten Gods. “Our collection is inspired by how far the world has come in terms of technology, and how we’ve moved on into more modern and happier things,” the founder tells ESSENCE. “It has nothing to do with religion, but tells you about the contrast between the old and modern worlds. We related our definition or modernity, and referenced it to traditional elements like The mask, The Raffia piece, and the inscription of the names of the gods on the orange fabric.”

Tsemaye Binitie

Pronounced Shay-mah-yay Bee-nee-tee-/ei/, the label is a womenswear brand that caters to sophisticated designs embedded in sartorial excellence. They’ve over time, produced well-tailored garments that cater to people looking for luxurious and timeless pieces. The SS/22 collection, 13 (TB 13),  isn’t any different, as it shows models basking in perfectly sewn dresses with minimal but visible details. “Being in Lagos a lot more frequently now since the pandemic. Our Collection 13 (TB 13) focused predominantly on the art of fabric couture,” Binitie says. “I was very interested in taking a fabric that’s used a lot locally and doing something absolutely different with it…making it almost unrecognisable. I wanted to elevate it even further.”

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