A wave of ennui has invaded the Nigerian menswear industry, especially among the established designers for whom the bulk of revenue comes from older customers who are less inclined to experiment. So the designers have chosen not to either.
Each season, they trot out variations of the same suit silhouettes, only occasionally deigning to excite us with suits in adventurous fabric. The Mai Atafo brand might have been guilty of this in the past and it was most certainly guilty of this at its most recent showing at the Lagos Fashion and Design Week.
This is why the real excitement at the Mai Atafo showcase at the 2015 Lagos Fashion and Design Week really started when the first female model took the runway. The Mai Atafo brand is a multi-headed hydra, with a mainstay menswear line and women’s and bridal lines that have suffered some neglect in the past. So Atafo showing women’s wear line two years in a row sends a message that maybe he is looking for creative outlets elsewhere.
The women’s wear pieces were modern iterations of menswear, a continuation of Atafo’s claims of traditional menswear silhouettes which began with his Ebelebo collection of 2014. There are a number of safari style suits, superbly cut and cinched at the waist with cords of fabric. The silhouettes are spartan, except for the loose-fit pants that Atafo seems to favour this collection. He also plays with menswear suits, shrinking the proportions to flatter. The colours are playful and he almost entirely shies away from loud prints. Crisp collars and cuffs are other menswear elements that he borrows.
There is no grand theme or overarching exploration with this collection and with the kind of tailoring Atafo is synonymous with, this does not seem necessary. If only this untethered curiosity could lend itself to the brand’s parent menswear line.