Fashion Cities Africa exclusive: Lagos street style with commentary from Nigeria’s creative industry
Fashion Cities Africa opens at Brighton Museum this month celebrating the style scenes of Joburg, Nairobi, Casablanca and Lagos (read more here). For Nigeria’s culture capital, the show has assembled pieces by Maki Oh, Lisa Folawiyo, Deola Sagoe, Clan, I.Am.Isigo, Tiffany Amber, Lanre da Silva Ajaye and Orange Culture that together express it’s sophisticated fashion landscape. Meanwhile the accompanying book, edited by Hannah Pool and published by Intellect, also meets the influencers, stylists, models and consultants who are powering the scene. Having roamed the city with photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo for the book, here’s our snapshot of Lagos street style with insights from those creatives who know it best.
Uju Nwobodoh, model, wears Orange Culture shirt, Un.Sung trousers
“I moved to Lagos in 2009 to become a model. It was tough starting out. Then came Arise Magazine Fashion Week in 2011, which was exciting. Now the scene has grown – more shows, more designers, more retail. We’re going in the right direction but we still need to push harder to get to the point that we’re fully recognised internationally.”
Shem Paronelli, shoe designer, founder Shem Paronelli Studios, wears own designs
"I got interested in fashion from seeing how everyone dressed for church when I was young. So I got my hands dirty and began making shoes. I’ve been experimenting with finding my creative metronome and have collaborated with Kenneth Ize and Lisa Folawiyo. My design philosophy is precise and minimal. I start with something familiar - work shoes, party shoes, sandals - then try to push the boundaries."
Eku Edewor, presenter, actor and co-founder Lewa Studio, wears Jewel by Lisa dress, Celine mules
“Lagos style is individual. In London the fashion set follow the rules but here everyone is so expressive and translates fashion differently. It’s the same with the older generation who go to a tailor to have their own styles made. I have fun with trad for special events – I might wear a Lanvin top with a wrapper. And I love to experiment with my gele – a fan shape or turban – anything goes as long as it’s big!”
Veronica Odeka, stylist, founder Vane Polish, wears I.Am.Isigo jacket, Rag & Bone jeans, Marni t-shirt
“I came back home five years ago and started out as a stylist. Back then there were only a handful of us. Now styling is a recognised career. Most of my clients are very receptive to wearing local designers. We’re in an era where it’s cool to wear Nigerian and there’s more choice. I’ve also launched the first Nigerian nail polish brand Vane and the response has been overwhelming. Beauty is big business here and everyone likes to look done.”
Arie Esiri, filmmaker, wears Flamengo top, bangles from Balogun market, tailor-made trousers
"My first projects were fashion films for Maki Oh then I moved into narrative and feature films. I worked on Half Of A Yellow Sun and had the film B For Boy premiere at the London Film Festival. I’m excited about what’s happening here, about telling our stories through music, fashion and film. We’re totally in it together because the creative community is still relatively small."
Ré Olunuga, composer, founder Lagos Philharmonic, wears All Saints shirt, Diesel jeans, Paul Smith shoes
"I’ve been building the city’s first orchestra since 2010. Our goal is to be world class with a sound that is epic, modern and African. I’ve also composed music and playlists for designers. There are a lot of people doing amazing things in fashion. It’s about being the best and that’s what I find inspiring."
Ejiro Amos Tafiri, designer, wears own designs
"My parents were in the military and I went to a local college. Fashion has elevated me completely, I’ve changed my status in life. Within a year of launching I’d shown at Arise Magazine Fashion Week. That was a defining moment. And in 2014 I opened my own store. People think you can’t make money from fashion here but you can if you go at it as a business and cater to your customers’ needs. As designers we need to take ourselves more seriously and inspire our people to change our country for good."
Bukky Karibi-Whyte, PR executive, The Bobby Taylor Company, wears Gap shirt, Deola Sagoe jeans
"When I moved home in 2009 there was a budding music industry and in fashion Tiffany Amber and Deola Sagoe were the big names. You could feel something was happening. Now we have the world’s eyes on us and people are bringing it. I work with global brands who want to speak the local language."
Obi Obi, PR and marketing executive, Grey, wears Grey top, Balmain jeans, Bottega Veneta sandals
"I started Grey in 2009 with Rukky Ladoja and Tola Ayanwale to fill the gap in the market for affordable, easy ready to wear. There’s more options in this niche now such as Republic of Foreigner and Meena. As for the guys, you can wear everything from native – wool, lace or Ankara - to a three-piece suit. But the best business to be in is wedding fashion. There are weddings most weekends, each with its own dress code. Designers such as Lanre da Silva Ajaye, Odio Mimonet and Toju Foyeh do it well."
Hauwa Mukan, radio & TV producer / presenter, wears Fulani top, Ann Demeulemeester trousers
"Lagosians are more flashy than most. We’re put together and have style. You see people on the street who don’t have money but they’re never underdressed. Our mothers’ generation wore Ferragamo, Fendi, Gucci, Chanel – all the labels. Today we’re wearing Nigerian designers too and the creative industry is in the spotlight. Nigeria is a giant on the continent so it’s time that we step up and deliver."
Tokini Peterside, strategy consultant, Tokini Peterside Collective, wears Banana Republic top, Maki Oh skirt
"Lagos has a brigade of designers who have built brands and images people respect. However they still need to become sustainable businesses that can grow beyond their founders. For that the industry needs to attract investment and develop both retail and ecommerce. I’m excited by luxury brands that can be strong cultural ambassadors for the continent. I’m working with organisations and entrepreneurs that are part of this broader mission of changing the discourse around Africa through their strength and determination."
Bolaji Animashaun, creative director, The Style HQ, wears I.Am.Isigo shirtdress
"I launched The Style HQ as a place for fashion enthusiasts to get an insider’s perspective on African lifestyle. The industry has opened a lot in the past few years. We’re so adamant about doing things with our own people, in our own way, that it’s causing a demand. Our designers are making amazing stuff that stands up against their counterparts anywhere."
Words Helen Jennings