The Online Festival Putting Nigerian Fashion on The Global Map
While it’s undoubtedly reductive to think of an entire continent as a trend, there’s clearly a growing appetite to connect with stories out of Africa, as demonstrated by Beyoncé’s stunning Black is King visual, which invokes symbolism from a broad range of ancient African traditions.
And, with the rise of Afro-beats (the genre was recently given its own official music chart) and African designers such as LVMH prizewinner Thebe Magugu, it has certainly become a cultural force to be reckoned with of late and that’s not lost on Grace Ladoja, CEO of Metallic Inc. and co-creator of Homecoming, the festival that prides itself on “taking the world to Africa and Africa to the world.”
“Obviously, there’s so much focus on Africa, but I think it’s really important to learn from those who have experienced the culture firsthand rather than the U.K. or elsewhere deciding what Africa is,” explains Ladoja. “A continent with 1.3 billion people, 54 countries, 200 million Nigerians, over 50% under 30, has so many stories to connect with globally. They are going to be in charge of the narrative.
They’re the future.” Now in its third year, the festival has earned a reputation for putting cool, on-the-rise creatives on the map via its pop-up shops, workshops, and riotous live shows in Lagos, Nigeria. She is excited that, despite the pandemic, Homecoming will still be able to lend its platform to exciting new voices from the continent, starting with a virtual pop-up featuring 15 up-and-coming labels from the diaspora including British-Nigerian designer Mowalola, Lago-based skate crew Motherlan, and British-Nigerian tailoring specialists Tokyo James that goes live today on Browns Fashion. “It’s about empowerment, platforming, equality, ownership, and education,” she says.
Several designers championed by Homecoming over the last three years have experienced huge success, among them Kenneth Ize and Mowalola, who has garnered a cult following for her provocative, body-skimming leather designs. Ladoja, who met Mowalola when she was at university in 2017 and started buying her pieces back then, describes her as a “a once-in-a-decade designer.”
“We’re so happy to have had her be a part of our story and that some people met her through our festival,” she says. “We’re just a platform and we want to position people in the right place. We’re not a production house trying to break brands, we’re just trying to make people connect the dots.”
While there’s been an uptick in interest for Nigeria fashion, it’s still relatively difficult to get your hands on the clothes themselves. This year’s partnership with Browns will help bring this talented new generation of designers to a global audience.
Beyond shopping, the festival is also a marketplace of ideas. Browns will host a limited-edition e-zine, a collaboration between a number of publications leading Nigeria’s cultural conversation, including music connoisseurs The Native and the thought-provoking team behind The Republic. It features fashion editorials from Sheffield-born British-Nigerian photographer Ruth Ossai and artwork by Nigerian Gothic and Moses Adesanya.
To round off the week, there will be a series of panels on August 27 and 28 that give attendees a chance to learn from heavyweights across the cultural spectrum, from the U.S., the U.K., and Nigeria. Virgil Abloh, Gee Patta of the Amsterdam-based streetwear brand Patta, and AWAKE founder Angelo Baque will discuss how Africa can regenerate streetwear with the founders of Motherlan, Vivendii, and Daily Paper.
Ladoja predicts that this is one area of fashion in which “Africa can set a new blueprint” due to it being more affordable and therefore accessible. Wale Lawal, the editor of The Republic, Post Imperial creative director Niyi Okuboyejo, and Tremaine Emory of No Vacancy Inn are also coming together for a talk, entitled “Pushing the African Visual Identity Discourse Forward,” which aims to dissect the cultural impact of the continent.
Overall, the event is a testament to a new crop of young creatives who are bringing Africa’s rich style history into the future. “I hate trends. I lean towards designers that have their own consistent identities, but if there is a ‘trend’ on the horizon, it’s seeing how these traditions will be reimagined, reinvented, and modernized by the next generation,” she says.
“There’s a new generation flipping tradition and bending old practices with the new. You see this with the weaving that Kenneth Ize does or the Adire dyeing that Post Imperial and Waffles N Cream do, and that’s never going to get old.”
Content courtesy of Vogue & Nairobi fashion hub