The African Fashion Week That's Getting Major Industry Buzz

Arguably the best aspect of fashion is that it reaches all points of the globe. In some capacity or another, regardless of scale or recognition, the industry is relevant where you are. When we receive the opportunity to seek out these lesser-known corners of style, that’s when we become hyper-aware of just how all-encompassing fashion is (and how much we still have to learn about it). Such is the case with Lagos Fashion Week, the Nigerian event that just wrapped up its eighth season and is garnering attention for the design talent coming out of the production.

This year, major industry players like Suzy Menkes and Tamu McPherson were in attendance, and publications across the board covered the shows and street style. Stylist Joan Reidy traveled to Lagos for the second year in a row to work on directing, casting, and styling for the week, and we had the opportunity to pick her brain about Lagos Fashion Week. Scroll down for exclusive photos from the event and for excerpts from our chat with Reidy.

On noteworthy designers coming out of the week:

“House of Desola, Clan, Mai Atafo, Studio 189, Lisa Folowiyo, Ugo Monye, Emmy Kasbit, just to name a few.  I felt the menswear collections really stepped up this year and were incredibly strong.”

On the week’s notable attendees:

“I saw Suzy Menkes sitting from row this year! That was super exciting because she is such a hero of mine—she calls it as she sees it. … I got to chat a bit with the lovely photographer and writer Tamu McPherson of All the Pretty Birds, who came to give some talks during the week.”

On the street style scene:

“It’s real and vibrant. It is literally more colorful and varied than any other city I have been to during their fashion weeks. As it is a centralized platform, people show up hours before the show to show up and flex their style, and some wardrobe changes definitely happen. People turn up and turn out. Fashion is their hustle.” 

On the fashion industry in Lagos:

“I see Lagos as a platform bursting with talent and creativity. … I have so many incredible conversations with designers, all in different stages of their careers, about how to shift the shows to really be less about entertainment and more about promoting and building the industry overall. We spoke on everything from the traditional fabrics some designers have woven for their collections, the challenges of working with limited resources and infrastructure, to the need for production on a larger scale. Online sales have been an incredible opportunity for designers, but they spoke to me about a need to be able to expand their sales and production. … I’m so curious to see Lagos five years out from now.”

On the vibe backstage:

“Backstage at Lagos Fashion Week is similar to fashion shows I have styled during NYFW, except it is as if the entire fashion week is happening all at once. During NYFW after a show, the model runs to the next show at another location. In Lagos, they just have to run back to their rack for the next collection. It is more of everything. More clothes, more designers, more hair and makeup people, more photographers, more chaos, more laughs. And definitely more dancing. Way more dancing.”

On the African fashion market:

“One of the things I want to stress is the range of designers and collections shown. It’s a Pan-African platform, so there are designers from Nigeria, Dakar, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Ghana, to name a few. The range of collections is astounding, from younger brands like Emmy Kasbit or JZO to more established, internationally known collections like Maki Oh, Mai Atafo, Orange Culture, Lisa Folawiyo, or Maxhosa by Laduma. The collections range from minimalist RTW to streetwear to formal gowns. The continent is multifaceted and varied, and Lagos Fashion Week is a true representation of that.”

On diversity in fashion:

“I think there have been different types of growth in terms of diversity, be it in the casting process in terms of race or gender, or even what we consider beautiful. There has been a growth of diversity over the past few years in terms of designers, be it women or non-white men leading fashion houses. But this needs to be the norm, not a trend. I want to see more diversity not just on the creative side but the business side as well. The CEOs, CFOs, the head merchants. To prevent diversity from being a trend or backsliding from where we are now, there needs to be diversity in the boardrooms as well as the studios. It’s an ongoing project and discussion we have to have. What we think of as diversity will also shift and change over time, as the culture shifts, but keeping the discussions at the forefront is what keeps it from becoming stagnant in our industry.”

Up next: the outfit trick that was all over street style during fashion month.

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