Lagos Africa most cosmopolitan city, hosted first world class African runway show. Like Lagos Arise Fashion week connects modernising traditional textiles and challenge gender binaries, this year’s Arise introduced a new generation of African talent to the world stage.
Nigerian-born, Austrian-raised designer Kenneth Ize who is LVMH Prize nominated Designer of The Year Award for his exceptional incorporation of traditional textiles into his boldly contemporary aesthetic, became the star of the day at The Lagos Arise Fashion week.
Overblown, saturated lace that pays homage to both his Nigerian and Austrian upbringing; artisanal weaves transformed into louche, modern tailoring; pleated fabrics sculpted with an easy elegance – Ize’s ability to modernise heritage fabrics and place them within a fresh context is remarkable. This season, modelled by Naomi Campbell, Alton Mason and Liya Kebede on the Arise runway, they appeared profoundly relevant.
That is one of the most exciting elements of the Nigerian fashion scene: that it is offering opportunities for both local and diasporic designers to author their own narratives and build their own infrastructure within an industry that has often either appropriated their culture or overlooked it entirely. While long-established brands like Tiffany Amber and Lanre Da Silva showcase as part of Arise’s programme, it is the new generation of talent who appear most determined to shatter stereotypes. Maison Artc’s opening look – a woman dressed in a couture-grade burka, shown as part of a collection that reworked vintage textiles into deconstructed modernity – appeared on the cover of the ThisDay Style newspaper over Easter weekend, in a country divided between Christian and Muslim faith – while one of London’s guest designers, Asai, sent out a capsule collection of his hot wok creations on a cast of models that included Ms Carrie Stacks.
One of London’s party scene fixtures, the queer DJ sashayed down the runway with an entirely fabulous ferocity. “Fashion is a great way to challenge conventions and I met some people here who told me it was really important and special to have Carrie bring the drama to the runway,” shrugged A Sai Ta. “It’s time to challenge people’s views on gender and sexuality. Where better to do that then Nigeria? And who better to do it than Ms Carrie Stacks?”
“Everything I do is for my people,” smiles Mowalola, the Nigeria-born, London-based designer whose determination to combat cultural traditions has thus far been a defining facet of her work, and whose return to Lagos starred scantily-clad models who had an Hermès-clad row of women clutching their Birkins in fury.