Meet the pioneering Nigerian designers who look close to home
to dress the global nomad

There is a fresh mood in Nigerian menswear. The classic suit is being challenged by a new generation of designers who embrace a minimal, androgynous and culturally engaged aesthetic. Drawing on sportswear, futurism and local craftsmanship, these young talents are dressing men with a nomadic take on style.

Men like Yegwa Ukpo, co-founder of concept store Stranger Lagos. “A lot of our designers are expanding their range of influences so it’s an exciting time for Nigerian fashion,” says Ukpo, who opened his niche menswear shop-meets-coffee bar in 2013. “Stranger is about moving away from the existing centre and creating a space for new possibilities. I’m seeing more asymmetry, more volume and the use of traditional fabrics such as ase oke.” Ukpo is in the process of installing an indigo dye pit at Stranger and launching his own line Sunless.

Orange Culture by Adebayo Oke-Lawal is a rising star, who was shortlisted for the 2014 LVMH Young Designers Prize and has just shown as part of the Constellation Africa menswear show at Pitti Uomo 88. “My brand is poetic, modernist, African – my love affair with my home,” Oke-Lawal says. “I’m playing with the line between masculinity and femininity to create collections that tell stories.”


"Stranger is about moving away
from the existing centre and creating space for new possibilities"


Fellow designer Kenneth Ize, who says he’s inspired by everything from “Bauhaus to Berba and Yoruba cultures,” made his catwalk debut at Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2013, which earned him an internship at EDUN, and has just completed his MA at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. His collections focus on natural fabrics, loose tailoring and heavy draping.

And reflecting fashion’s current global move toward the boy-meets-girl style (Selfridges recently opened Agenda, a department dedicated to unisex clothing), Bubu Ogisi of I.Am.Isigo presented her recent womenswear collection Taboo on both men and women. A homage to the Wodaabe Fulani tribe whose attire and ceremonies are renowned for their displays of beauty and sexuality, her ponchos, skorts and fluid dresses layer to form an itinerant wardrobe for harmattan nights. “The brand experiences both African and Western worlds through a clear yet anonymous sense of style,” explains Ogisi.

These three designers participated in Metamorphosis, Nigeria’s installation at the British Council’s International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week in February, which won Ukpo an award for its curation. He transformed the exhibit into a science laboratory complete with bubbling test tubes and hazard tape. Warning: Nigerian menswear is about to explode.

Photography by Lakin Ogunbanwo
Wale Bello from Beth Models Africa
Assistant Toyin Oyeneye
Words by Helen Jennings