The Lagos Fashion and Design Week’s Fashion Focus programme has proven to be quite the breeding ground for excellent fashion talent in Nigeria. Designers like Adebayo Oke-Lawal, Kenneth Ize, Rodney Emeka of McMeka, Bubu Ogisi of IAMISIGO and Paolo Sisiano of the brand Sisiano all went through the system and are now all established brands with dedicated followings and a distinct aesthetic.
The LFDW Fashion Focus class of 2014 was in most ways the most adventurous batch as a whole. 2014’s showcase introduced us to some of the most interesting and innovative designers this side of the equator. Alumni like Babatunde Oyeyemi of Maxivive has grown his label from a faux luxury brand to a functional alternate menswear label, invited several times to show at the South Africa Menswear Fashion Week. Frank Aghuno of Fruche, Adeju Thompson and Titi Bello with their eponymous lines and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and/or expected from Nigerian fashion. And there is no way you can talk about the class of 2014 without giving due mention to the inimitable Enekwe twins of Gozel Green who have literally spawned a movement with their left of field approach to women’s wear. With dedicated fans like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wearing their clothes to international functions and concessionary deals with Grey Velvet and Zinkata, they’ve done pretty well for themselves.
In some ways the LFDW Fashion Focus class of 2014 has changed the way Nigerians approach fashion, the class of 2015 in comparison, have barely made a dent.
So what has the class of 2015 been up to since they were debuted to Nigeria’s fashion community?
Releasing capsule collections it seems.
Since the showcase ended, a handful of the labels have released campaign images and look books for their LFDW capsule collections. Which is surprising because the class of 2015 was almost entirely comprised of labels that had at least half a decade of experience in the Nigerian fashion industry, maybe even more. So they were not novices by any stretch of the imagination.
Labels like Wanger Ayu, Onwuchekwa BCD and House of Kaya had been in business since the early 2010’s and Chechi Arinze had done not one, not two, but three fashion competitions similar to the LFDW Fashion Focus programme prior to the showcase. She has almost 10 years of experience behind her, and stints working for Design label Mai Atafo. So it is understandably frustrating that save for P.O.C Lagos, who released an underwhelming sophomore collection, these labels are still coasting under the steam of the push Fashion Focus gave them and the collections they debuted there.
Fashion Week is coming, and that would be the perfect time for them to prove to us, it’s a final chance to prove to us that their class can surpass or at least match the ingenuity of the previous labels that have come up through the programme.
We’re holding our breath.