Why Nigeria is so interesting to the fashion industry
For the Eurocentric fashion industry, Nigeria is now becoming what Georgia turned out to be a couple of years ago – a new, partly exotic experience, a source of stories about events and phenomena that, on the one hand, are unique for this country, and, on the other, are very similar to the world ones.
We think of Nigeria as some large and densely populated country (being the 31st largest country in the world, it ranks seventh in terms of population). But in fact, its main quality is multinationality and multiculturalism. Before the territory became a colony of the British Empire, the country as a whole did not exist – many peoples inhabiting the area had their own kingdoms, languages, and religion. A single Nigerian nation was never formed, and a few years after the declaration of independence in 1960, a multi-year civil war broke out in Nigeria. Even after its completion, although the country retained its territorial integrity, the population remained quite segregated by ethnicity: now more than 250 indigenous peoples and tribes live in Nigeria, the largest of which are Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Fulani. All of them have preserved their own languages and rich indigenous culture. Young creative people in Nigeria have many themes to think about: postcolonial development, civil war, gender inequality. Remember the We Should All Be Feminists T-shirts from the Dior collection that gave rise to a lot of memes, controversy and speculation? The creative director of the brand, Maria Grazia Chiuri, took this slogan from the speech of Chimamamnda Ngozi Adichi, a Nigerian writer who works very closely with the problem of gender discrimination in her works, but at the same time intertwines it with the social context of her home country – a combination of the uniqueness of Nigerian history and awareness of how what worries these people is close to all of us.
Thebe Magugu: Gender Collection
Thebe Magugu: Gender Collection
All of these factors contribute to the abundance that Nigeria has to offer to world culture. “It has been accumulating for a long time, since the 2000s, when there was a lot of noise around Nollywood (this is how, by analogy with Hollywood and Bollywood, the Nigerian film industry is called, which is the second largest film industry after India in the world – Esquire) and its kitsch significance , before football and music. Take it all, look at their interaction, and you have a wealth of material for innovation and creativity, ”says Yegwa Ukpo, founder of Lagos concept store Stranger and one of the pioneers of luxury retail in the city. Designer Adebayo Oke-Laval confirms this: “Our stories are very strong. We have a lot of cultural references, besides there is a certain amount of roughness, raw material, raw material. “
Of course, the local industry has its own difficulties: its development requires government support, which, according to many Nigerian fashion figures, is lacking. “Fashion is expensive and the majority of the population cannot afford it, there is only a small group of customers and brands are competing for them,” adds Ukpo. Obviously, this is becoming one of the reasons why local brands are starting to focus more on the international market – and with the development of social media, this is easier than ever to do.
An image from the Maxivive Harmattan 2019 collection. Since the seasons in Nigeria are not divided into “autumn-winter” and “spring-summer”, but into dry (the season of the Harmattan wind blowing from November to March) and wet, the collections are sometimes divided accordingly. instagram.com/maxivive
An image from the Maxivive Harmattan 2019 collection. Since the seasons in Nigeria are not divided into “autumn-winter” and “spring-summer”, but into dry (the season of the Harmattan wind blowing from November to March) and wet, the collections are sometimes divided accordingly.
However, the phenomenon can be considered more broadly and talk not about the interest in Nigeria, but about the interest in the whole of Africa from the fashion industry. It is important to take into account that, on the one hand, some condemn this approach: to unite Africa into a single whole is the position of Europeans, who understand little about the differences between the peoples and cultures of the continent. On the other hand, Nigeria as a country is also an artificial generalization. Many African countries have common problems – colonial trauma, wars, humanitarian crises – and all of them equally require reflection in the modern cultural field.
This upsurge in culture in general and fashion in particular is catching the attention of the industry. Thus, the winner of this year’s LVMH Prize was Tebe Magugu (Thebe Magugu brand) from Johannesburg, South Africa. Magugu places great emphasis on thinking about gender issues through clothing: behind bold deconstructed raincoats and dresses with semi-abstract portraits, there are stories of social constraint and inequality in South Africa. Ghanaian designer Jason Jermani Asiedu and his brand Jermaine Bleu participate in Lagos Fashion Week, but the collections
devote the history of their country – these are stories about the struggle for independence, the culture of Ashanti (one of the peoples of Ghana) and their role in the modern world: on bright monochrome jackets of the European style, brooches-amulets from cowrie shells and buttons with two crossed akrafen daggers appear – a symbol the power of the kingdom of Ashanti.
Jermaine Bleu spring-summer 2020 instagram.com/jermainebleu
Jermaine Bleu Spring-Summer 2020
In the spring of 2018, supermodel Naomi Campbell, who, as mentioned above, is trying to support the African fashion industry and young designers from different countries of the continent, asked Condé Nast International to launch an African version of Vogue: “We must have Vogue Africa. We already have Vogue Arabia – and this is what the next step should be. Africa has never had the opportunity to make a name for itself in terms of fashion, although there are great fabrics and designers to be featured on the global platform. “
And although the publisher did not respond to the call of the model, soon after Naomi’s announcement, the site Industrie Africa, a virtual showroom of 80 designers from 24 countries of the continent, began to work. According to the founders of the platform Nishi Kabar and Georgia Bobley, African fashion is more than a passing trend, the world needs it, and the site will become a connecting point between designers, media, buyers and buyers around the world. And it is not surprising that Africa is becoming an important fashion center because of its identity. There are a lot of unique manual techniques and a completely different culture, and this is not enough in the modern globalized world.
Making aso oke fabric for Kenneth Izeinstagram.com/kennethize
Creation of aso oke fabric for Kenneth Ize
“Culture moves faster than politics. Culture is something that people want to sit down and listen to. And I feel that fashion and design are now becoming a way of politics, ”says Kenneth Isedonmwen of the role that fashion plays in defining modern mores and today’s society as a whole. And in this sense, Africa has great prospects.