Since its inception in 2011, the Lagos Fashion Week platform, under the Style House Files mother agency, has successfully managed to position itself as one of the pioneers of African fashion. From its collaborations, incubation programs, mentorship initiatives, and proffering of solutions to the experienced funding problems of fashion brands in Africa through its Fashion Focus Fund— amongst many other means, the impacts of the platform are so solid it rubs off on key stakeholders in the fashion industry including models, designers, photographers, buyers, stockist, and the likes.
The recently concluded 2022 edition of Lagos Fashion Week (October 27— October 29) saw an immersion like no other. This SS/23 season recorded well over 3,000 attendees, on-site shows at the convention center of the Federal Palace Hotel, and private shows/presentations by designers like Dye Labs, Banke Kuku, Lagos Space Programme, Sisiano, and a few others.
This season, themed ‘Collaboration, Co-creation and Community,’ saw individual works, collaborations, and partnerships with other high-profile agencies, all targeted at a way to elevate the African fashion industry. “To maintain our three strategic pillars for the season— collaboration, co-creation and community, we at Style House Files and Lagos Fashion Week have had to think of new ways to engage the African fashion ecosystem in a way that can generate lasting impact, which is the ultimate goal,” founder of Styles House Files and Lagos Fashion Week, Omoyemi Akerele, tells ESSENCE.
Following this, LFW continued its ongoing relationship with Global Fashion Exchange through the Swap Shop initiative, a program where consumers could bring their graded fashion items in exchange for another. Global Fashion Exchange is currently established in over 90 countries and has over 250 partners across the globe, including Lagos Fashion Week. “The Lagos, Fashion Week community, is doing such an incredible job in promoting sustainability and circularity,” Patrick Duffy, founder of Global Fashion Exchange, tells ESSENCE. “What’s great about this is that it opens a whole new door of ‘swap-ortuinities’ for people looking to engage with fashion week and beyond.” Sustainability is an important topic within the fashion ecosystem, and Lagos Fashion Week is using this to further the conversation.
Also, through the Green Access program, emerging designers are trained, mentored, and supported to build brands that affect economic, environmental, and social impacts, all in a bid to establish a more eco-friendly environment in the future. Whether it’s through the Swap Shop where established brands like ATAFO or emerging brands like Abiola Oluso are being racked, or it’s through the presentations from Green Access finalists, one thing is certain— it’s an avenue for the African fashion industry to thrive. “This has been the driving force behind our initiatives,” Akerele says.
Africa’s fashion retail sector has also been influenced by the LFW platform. For example, Lagos Fashion Week worked with retailer, Zinkata for its XRetail initiative and with e-commerce platform, The Folklore for its first-ever Digital Buyer’s Preview. Each of these sales models were targeted at bringing brands off the runway and closer to the market. “Lagos Fashion Week is important because it’s afforded us the opportunity to discover new brands,” Amira Rasool, founder of The Folklore, tells Essence. “You know, when people are looking for the best of African fashion— not just Nigerian fashion, they’re looking to Lagos Fashion Week.”
In establishing this partnership with Lagos Fashion Week, brands of interest are easily within their reach, as they’re able to work with them on B2B wholesale levels. “[Lagos Fashion Week] were gracious enough to open up their list of participating brands to us, providing their contact details, and sharing with those brands what our platform presents,” Rasool continues. “A partnership like this that furthers a wholesale e-commerce capacity is definitely invaluable and something we’re extremely thankful for.” Through this, consumers are able to digitally find these designers and are able to engage with them digitally and in one location.
Nigeria’s beauty market was not left out. Over the past months, Nigeria’s cosmetic market hit NGN1 trillion turnover, and a record of about 14.5% growth. The Lagos Fashion Week platform has for a very long time, built successful sponsorship deals with high-profiled beauty brands like Lush Hair and Mac Cosmetics. “Lagos Fashion Week is a big platform for us, and can be likened to other top fashion weeks like Paris Fashion Week,” Bimpe Onakoya, the creative director of Makeup for Lagos Fashion Week, and artistic director for Maybelline New York, tells Essence. “This year, Mac Cosmetics came onboard due to the large influence Lagos Fashion Week has, and it’s really interesting to see the collaboration between fashion and beauty come into play here.”
Watching tens of models pose for cameras backstage or effortlessly strut the runways is a definite stamp on the impact the platform has had on the modeling industry. From Beth Models Few Models, and 90’s Models Management, to MyBooker Model Management, and LED Model Management, the platform has provided itself as a stepping stone for models, most of whom are now being snagged internationally.
“It’s been a journey ‘cause we started from Lagos Fashion Week, but it’s exciting to see that we’ve finally gone international,” says image consultant and founder of 90’s Models Management, Maurice Sokari, to Essence. “We have models walking for the most prestigious fashion houses in the world. Lagos Fashion Week gave us the forefront we needed to push these models internationally.”
With Nigeria being a conservative country and with guardians hardly willing to allow their wards to chase dreams in the direction of modeling ,Lagos Fashion Week, which is a well-known and trusted platform, has “strategically been placed as a channel for access to these ones, since it’s something they can see,” Sokari continues. Currently, a number of male models from 90’s Model Management like Hamaam Peleruwa, Nonso Ojukwu, and Feranmi Ajetomobi, are all exclusive to fashion house, Prada, while others continue to walk for powerhouses like Bottega Veneta, Balmain, Dries Van Noten, and Celine.
“Lagos Fashion Week is a platform of discovery. It gives a great impact to the modelling industry, especially to the upcoming models,” Perpetua Oforah, one of the breakout stars from this season of Lagos Fashion Week, says. Signed to Reivon Management, Oforah walked a total of thirteen shows— one of the longest walks this season recorded. Lagos Fashion Week continues to set precedence for the African fashion industry, and grant support to her industry dwellers. “Lagos Fashion Week is about trade, not aid,” Akerele adds. “It’s about the finest craftsmanship that Africa can boast of. It’s about creativity and innovation. It’s about job creation and empowering people. It’s about collaborative efforts, it’s about setting the pace for African fashion to thrive and it will.”
The increasing effort of the Lagos Fashion Week platform to contribute to pivoting the African fashion industry is a very obvious one, and certain key stakeholders are beneficiaries of it. Beyond its influence in the diversified sectors of the industry, it has been a means for sensitization on key functions in the industry— sustainability, collaborations, funding, partnerships, etc. There’s, for sure, a renaissance in the African fashion and beauty space, and it’s exciting to see where it’s headed.