Renowned Nigerian Designers Lanre Da Silva, Folake Coker and Lisa Folawiyo were among others showcasing their gorgeous collections at the Nigeria@60 virtual event organized by THISDAY ARISE group.
Lagos-based designer Lanre Da Silva Ajayi set the tone with a collection that consisted of bright colors, patterns, ruffles and exaggerated sleeves. The designer, considered to be one of Nigeria’s leading couturiers, incorporates traditional African prints and motifs into her elegant, modern and timeless designs. Her eponymous label is suitable for women of all ages. In the spirit of Independence, Ajayi said she could see Nigeria going to a higher level in the next 60 years.
Against a very green backdrop of leaves and foliage, Folake Coker, founder of fashion powerhouse Tiffany Amber, showed trendy, classy pieces on the night. Models in sleek ponytails strutted the runway in modern evening gowns, and an eclectic mix of aso oke, traditional prints and modern cuts. Coker made history as the first African-based fashion designer to stage a show twice at the New York Fashion Week.
Meanwhile, celebrating Nigeria on the occasion of her diamond jubilee was a major theme in all collections seen on the runway. For Lisa Folawiyo, it was important to explore and showcase her heritage through fashion.
“Nigeria is home to me and Nigeria turning 60 is me celebrating home, who I am, where I am from,” Folawiyo told ARISE News before hitting the runway. “And as a designer, Nigeria has always been my main source of inspiration…I dig deep into [its] diverse cultures [and] religion.”
For her latest collection, Folawiyo seamlessly blends modern trends, such as a power blazer, with traditional Ankara prints. Her take on African fashion is fresh, refined and innovative. Lupita Nyong’o, Thandie Newton and Solange Knowles are just some of the big names to have rocked her designs, and her pieces have appeared on the pages of some of the world’s leading publications.
Tania Omotayo stunned with a flowy, elegant collection from newer fashion house, Ziva Lagos. Like other designers, Omotayo used prints, headscarves and bright colors in pieces that ranged from long breezy gowns to shorter dresses and form-fitting jumpsuits. Omotayo, who founded the affordable, ready-to-wear label just four years ago, is part of a new crop of designers and creative directors in Nigeria. She said she was grateful to be witnessing the country’s creative boom.
“I feel like a lot has changed in the creative world in the last ten years in Nigeria and I’m grateful to be part of it in my own little way.”
Juxtaposing Nigeria’s culture and art in every piece was the main inspiration for Odion Oseni, founder and creative designer of haute couture brand, Odio Mimonet. Oseni draws on a true love of art to create pieces for the everyday woman that are wearable, unique and set her apart from the crowd- as seen in her Independence Day collection. One of the turning points for the brand, according to Oseni, was starting the ready to wear, high fashion line, Mimi. She was named the most innovative designer a few years ago at Arise Fashion week, and her pieces have been showcased in different parts of the world and stocked in high-end stores like Selfridges.
“Nigeria in itself has shaped the brand. Apart from Nigeria being the giant of Africa, Africa is the new convergence… and new focus of the world of fashion. Nigeria is driving that because we have great talent here. The talent that we have here is shaping the African story,” Oseni said.
“I think Nigeria can lead and can help Africa into the new.”
Finally, Deola Sagoe was inspired by what she said was a lack of appreciation in the West for Nigerian history, culture and art on the runway. She employs genuine African fabrics- “woven fabrics of antiquity”, as she puts it- to create pieces that are “authentically African and internationally appealing.”
“It is obvious when you look at my work, and the trajectory I have been on, that I was chosen to put Africa, not only Nigeria, on the map. To empower us and to beautify our lives,” Sagoe said to Arise News.
Her love for African art, history and music (her models sashayed to the tune of Nigerian legend Fela Kuti’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’) was evident on the runway. Her collection was an exciting fusion of traditional African textilesand Western silhouettes- a combination that has kept her at the cutting edge of high fashion since her debut.
‘For me, it’s all about the future. When I started designing in 1999, it wasn’t for the present only. I was designing for always.”