Editorial: The Remi Lagos tribute by Okunoren fails to take off

We need to talk about the Remi Lagos tribute collection by menswear brand Okunoren.

It was undisputedly one of the highlights of the 2014 Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW) and put back in our minds the memory and legacy of Remi Lagos, a foremost Nigerian designer who passed in 2014 after a prolonged battle with breast cancer. The utter absence of any buzz or articles around this event is even more telling. This article is an attempt to redress that.

I don’t even know where to begin.

The collection itself had nothing to do with Remi Lagos. It was a menswear collection. Remi did women’s wear. It was vaguely sepulchral, with ominous Gregorian chanting and models so grim you would have thought Remi Lagos had passed only a few weeks before instead of two years. Remi Lagos was known for her vibrant celebration of womanhood, bright colours and an exultant air. Even the collection itself was not cohesive, there were rosaries and occasional nods to Catholicism, juxtaposed with maroon adire detailing on dress shirts.

In all this chaos, there was a look in particular that left everyone confused. The model wore an ill-fitting waist coast, a starched white shirt, jeans and tan boots. It was so out of place with even the vague idea of the collection that he looked like he’d walked off someone else’s runway. Then there was the one shirt with Remi Lagos’s face stamped on the back, the print work so bad, one could barely make out her features. The entire collection seemed rushed, and badly curated, it was painful to watch.

In hindsight I would have liked answers to a few questions.

The first question I’d ask is why create a tribute collection to Remi Lagos under the Okunoren brand instead of the Remi Lagos brand.

If I was going to do a tribute collection to an icon, I’d offer my services to her brand and extend her legacy with a collection. Or if that is too much of a stretch, I’d at least create a collection that stays true to the brand’s ideals and aesthetics. The Okunoren brothers did neither.

Secondly, I would like to know why the collection was so spectacularly off note.

The Okunoren brand is a bespoke brand, taking pride in the quality of its workmanship. If the tribute collection was simply billed as new work from the Okunoren brand, it would have been a lot easier to overlook. Tacking Remi Lagos’s name to a collection that was so ill executed felt like a gross misrepresentation of who she was in death rather than a celebration of her life.

This reiterates our need for a stronger feedback network to help designers avoid missteps like this while curating only the best work for the runway. Especially for the bigger designers, who have much more to lose.

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