Lagos Fashion Week returned after a year’s hiatus last week in fine form. The global COVID-19 pandemic and countrywide protests made physical shows in 2020 impossible and left industry insiders wondering how the pandemic would affect the African fashion industry. However, through a combination of digital-only shows, intimate presentations, and physical runways at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, Fashion Week was better than ever.
The events of the past year provided inspiration for many designers. Some turned to the Nigerian End SARS protests against police brutality, which took place almost a year ago to the date of Lagos Fashion Week 2021, while others drew on the losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and even more focused on themes of healing and surviving. As for trends, many designers had an affinity for bright primary colors and military-inspired shoulder details. The sheer number of clutches and purses on the runways proved that Lagosians are still very fond of their bags.
Below, the six best collections from Lagos Fashion Week 2021.
The show opened with a model wearing a mask and a layered multicolored gown that seemed to draw inspiration from traditional Nigerian masquerades, and the methodically playing drums helped drive this home. The rest of the collection upgraded familiar silhouettes into daring outfits, thanks to the brand’s craftsmanship. Think colorful power suits made of aso-oke, silky trench-coat dresses with shoulder details, and bright two-pieces with extravagant bottom halves complete with fringes and well-placed cuts.
Emmanuel Okoro, the creative director of Emmy Kasbit, won the inaugural African Fashion Up prize in partnership with Balenciaga in September. Fresh off his win, he returned to release his latest collection in Lagos. Inspired by the Nigerian-Biafran civil war, which occurred from 1967 to 1970, Okoro drew on the colors of the Biafran flag-red, yellow, black, and green-as the foundation of the collection. The result? Neon jackets with strategically placed gashes, bucket hats, and short-sleeve shirts paired with ties and shorts. Printed on the locally sourced cotton used in the collection were texts from the bunker of Ojukwu, the leader of the Biafran forces. The result: a stirring, applause-eliciting testament to Okoro’s skill in referencing the past and preserving the culture.
Of all the collections showcased, Lagos Space Programme’s looked the most like an art exhibit as well as a fashion show. Their spring 2022 collection-according to the brand’s founder, Adeju Thompson-was inspired by the Yoruba deity Osun, with indigo representing her connection with water. Held in Alara, the famous Lagosian concept store, the presentation featured several videos and audio clips playing scenes from annual festivals honoring Osun to create an immersive experience. Carefully designed coats, flowy culottes styled over similarly voluminous indigo shirts, and deconstructed gowns spoke to the brand’s desire to erode gender binaries in fashion.
Designer Andrea Iyamah’s knack for storytelling and subtlety sets her apart as a designer. She showcased her spring 2022 collection to a limited number of guests in a white dome away from the hubbub of the Federal Palace Hotel. With an earthy color palette, the collection explored the art of healing and thriving in uncertain times. The flowy dresses evoked goddesses, while halter tops and swimsuits in bold colors reminded viewers of a life pre-COVID-19.
The Odio Mimonet spring 2022 collection explored the art of finding happiness and joy, regardless of the current state of the world. Mimonet creates pieces that channel multiple eras while also appearing trendless. By marrying primary colors with rich textures, Mimonet crafted dresses that bring to mind Nigerian traditional silhouettes and also have a strong futuristic feel to them.
The Orange Culture spring 2022 collection began with audio from the 2020 End SARS protests. The clip, which went viral last year during the protests, featured a girl screaming, “We want to be fresh,” referencing how the police seemingly attack stylish young people. Orange Culture has a reputation for being a rebellious brand unafraid to restart essential conversation. What was new was how Adebayo Oke-Lawal, creative director of Orange Culture, paired his signature cutout tops and trench coats with new designs, including shimmery see-through gowns that stopped just above the knees and dark overshirts layered over more colorful shirts. The result was a balance between the crazy and the calm. Finishing off with performances from musicians Falana, a favorite of the brand, and Lojay, who performed his breakout hit “Monalisa,” the show was a delight.