He sinks into the sofa and bursts into tears. This September 28, backstage at the Palais de Tokyo, Kenneth Ize has just opened, covered with applause that moved him, Paris Fashion Week, with his high-necked shirts and ample sets in aso oke fabric (woven by the Yoruba people). At 31, Ize is one of the great hopes of fashion in Nigeria, the country where he was born and where he has set up his studio, in Lagos, in the district of Sabo Yaba. Seeing him open the most famous fashion week in the world is not the only outward sign of the interest he is arousing: on his painting, collaborations are pinned (with the Karl Lagerfeld brand in the summer of 2021), prestigious distributors (Farfetch or Matchesfashion), renowned collaborators (like Ibrahim Kamara, the most influential stylist of the moment, who supported him for this September show).
Like Kenneth Ize, Nigerian fashion talents are swarming. At Milan fashion week, it was the young Joy Meribe who this season launched the festivities with her asymmetrical dresses, when the Lagos Space Program brand was one of the 2021 candidates for the LVMH Prize. Elsewhere, labels like Orange Culture, NKWO, Post-Imperial and Fruché are gaining visibility. “Nigerian fashion is one of the locomotives of the African continent, observes journalist Emmanuelle Courrèges, author of Swinging Africa. Le continent mode, a beautiful book to be published by Flammarion on November 24th. The country has advantages: being the most populous in Africa, having a growing middle class. And experience a cultural change, seeing the birth of a form of patriotism, a pride in consuming local and supporting young creation. “
The latter’s awakening owes a lot to Omoyemi Akerele. This stylist, at the head of a development agency, Style House Files, launched in 2010 a fashion week in Lagos, the new edition of which was held from October 27 to 30 (after being canceled in October 2020 at the continuation of #EndSARS, movement against police violence). “I was frustrated at first to see that in Nigeria, fashion was regarded as superfluous entertainment, a relaxation for bored housewives, she explains. I wanted to show that we also had talents capable of shining and dressing the local populations. “ It finds sponsors, brings in journalists and foreign buyers, helps the emergence of designers for whom fashion was not easy.
Adebayo Oke-Lawal, the founder of Orange Culture, is one of these young shoots. “With us, success stories revolve around doctors or lawyers. No designers. I learned everything on my own. My grandmother gave me the basics to sew, and then I improved my skills by my knowledge, or by watching a tutorial on VHS, delivered with my first sewing machine. “ In ten years, he imposed his style, satin, glitter, festive and androgynous, distributed by Farfetch or Browns, and convinced his family that, despite his studies in finance, he had done well to change careers. Before his spring-summer 2022 collection shown on October 28 at the fashion week de Lagos and inspired by “The activist resistance that we must oppose to police brutalities done to those who are different, dye their hair, pierce their faces, wear colors”, his latest vintage for fall – sets of trousers placket, white V-neck shirt, quilted coat that shines, opera gloves and head scarves… – is a reflection on masculinity.
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Fashion: the ferment of young Nigerian talents