New and established names shine at Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2015

Last week’s Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2015 (LFDW) exuded an unstoppable, effervescent energy reflective of the fast emerging Nigerian fashion industry it represents. Now in it’s fifth edition, the annual event has come of age and was in a celebratory mood as it recognised the talents who have helped put African fashion on the map while nurturing the stars of tomorrow.  

Almost 70 designers showcased their SS16 collections across four days of shows including 16 Fashion Focus finalists. These young designers were handpicked from regionals around Nigeria to present their work and take part in a yearlong programme of workshops in association with the British Council. The first session took place a week before LFDW, pairing designers with fashion professionals. Lagos photographer Lakin Ogunbanwo and London stylist Carrie Munden worked with hopefuls Onwuchekwa, Red Knight and POC to do a shoot, here exclusively debuted on Nataal. Shows by Fashion Focus alumni Gozel Green, Sisiano, Meena and Ejiro Amos Tafiri were all warmly received at LFDW too, the latter receiving an award for Emerging Designer of the Year.

Other catwalk highlights came thick and fast with menswear at the fore. Orange Culture presented Etched Journey, a series of silky, androgynous pieces inspired by conversations between designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal and the Lagos fishermen you see perfectly poised on their canoes as you cross Lagos’ epic Third Mainland Bridge. “I wanted to communicate the rawness in the journey of our fishermen and to ignite a kind of soulful beauty that doesn’t need to be loud to be noticed,” says Oke-Lawel of his diaphanous tops, 70s flares and Cubist tunics.

Laurenceairline by Abidjan’s Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud kept things simple with a capsule range of athletic separates. Electric blue Neoprene bombers, dove grey cotton shirts and bright white jersey joggers were shot through with hints of wax print. Kelechi Odu, who previously made his name with smart suits, has loosened up his man this season. Collarless shirts with gathered necklines, boilersuits and wrap-front trousers came in crisp pastel shades and natural linens. Kenneth Ize continued his exploration into nomadic aesthetics. Shawls, capes and oversized shirts layered over loose trousers while jagged stripes and checks added earthy textures. And Maxivive by Babatude Opeyemi opted for grand bubus, dungarees, aprons and sleeveless overalls held tight by safety belt fastenings. A colour palette of black, white, navy and clear PVC felt pure.

For womenswear, one of the most impressive outings came from London-based designer Tsemaye Binitie, who took inspiration from a painting of a Lagos city scene crowded with people for his key motif, which became a double faced jacquard in glistening reds, blues and yellows. Column dresses, pencil skirts and baby doll tops were unfussy and elegant. New Yorker Washington Roberts also developed a custom metallic jacquard, his take on the Adinkra symbol Kintinkantan, which he translates as Puffed Up Extravagance. “I wanted to explore geometrics through an African lens, and lavish my woman in regal fabrics,” Roberts explains. Electric hues cut through with black PVC panelling gave this line-up of on-trend off-the-shoulder tops, figure-hugging dresses and wide pants a retro rock star appeal.


Bridget Awosika was also in a generous mood. “The collection was inspired by the idea of giving the most beautiful gift and appreciating others when receiving a token of love,” she says. Dreamy silhouettes in silk crepe and pleated organza featured feminine bow detailing and petal applique. Dakar’s Sophie Zinga took a similarly uptown approach. Her tie dye jumpsuits, feathered skirts and sequined maxis in pale shades of white, orange and blue were festooned with cowry shells. “The collection is an ode to the religious, cultural and economic value these shells have long been invested with, as well as a representation of pride, elegance and reverence,” Zinga explains.

Ivorian Loza Maléombho brought her inner Zaouli dancer out to play as both she and her models jigged down the runway for the final lap, hips swaying, fringing shaking and burlap dresses flying. Meanwhile IAmIsigo crossed an American footballer with an Akan hunter for her sporty array of smocks, box tops and shorts. Velvet and lurex kente in blood red, sun yellow, black and white were influenced by warrior kings and queens. But it was Maki Oh by Amaka Osakwe, who conquered, winning Womenswear Designer of the Year for her collection of sultry adire and lace pieces.

See our exclusive SS16 Maki Oh shoot here.

Photography Lakin Ogunbanwo
Styling Carri Munden
Models KK at GI Models and Seun Logan at Beth Model Management
Words Helen Jennings