Lagos Fashion Week’s SS23 comeback saw young Nigerians turn a series of creative looks across the city
When the SS23 edition of Lagos Fashion Week kicked off on a sunny Thursday afternoon last week, there was cause for celebration – finally, after two-and-a-bit years of COVID-induced uncertainty, the event was well and truly back.
As one of Africa’s most prominent fashion events, Lagos Fashion Week has long served as an incubator for many established African designers, including Kenneth Ize, Orange Culture, Thebe Magugu, IAMISIGO, and Andrea Iyamah. And after its unanticipated break, it continued in this vein, spotlighting fresh new talent like Metakay, Oshobor Nigeria, SVL, and Scheherazade Essrhir.
But it wasn’t just the catwalk offering up creativity and inspiration this season. As ever, there was plenty happening on the streets, as young fashion fans slipped into their best looks and headed out to the shows. Like the SS23 runways, the city’s street style across the event exemplified the ways in which a new generation of Nigerians continue to use fashion as a tool not just for self-expression, but also protest, indulgence, and storytelling – as well plain old peacocking and showing up and showing out.
Diving into subcultures as diverse as Afro-futurism, grunge, goth and beyond for inspiration, kids in the city are putting their own spin on style. Here, we took a look at what Lagos’ coolest fashion fans are wearing right now.
From amoeba-esque patterned two-pieces, to barely-there, form-fitting looks, knitwear was everywhere this season – despite the sunny weather and warm temperatures, fashion week-goers were committed to the cause.
23-year-old Bolaji Akinwade, a writer and ready-to-wear fashion brand founder, was looking to add colour to his wardrobe, so had a mustard top custom made to complement his grey pants, black purse, and matching yellow coat. “The crochet top was inspired by Nigerian stylist Swazzi,” he explains. “Prior to fashion week I was scrolling through Instagram and saw it in white, so I contacted the designer and had it made in yellow. I love it with my black nails and tonal accessories.”
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In recent years, Lagos Fashion Week has become a haven for young Nigerians whose style sensibilities don’t align with convention, and this season more than ever attendees leaned into fashion that defied gender binaries. Male-presenting attendees opted for gowns and bright, diaphanous chiffon blouses layered over ruffled pants and skirts.
YouTuber Victor Emmanuel Vicwonder, rocked a long red dress trimmed with tassels, and matched it with dark sunglasses and brown sneakers. The 24-year-old found the dress at a swap-shop set up by the Global Fashion Exchange Program in a bid to encourage sustainable fashion redistribution. “I loved wearing it,” Emmanuel says. “It’s red, so it’s loud. I loved the attention it attracted and the conversations it ignited inside and outside of my circles.”
An otherwise understated light blue suit elevated by dramatic, winged lapels. A dark green suit pomped up with a ruffled blouse and broad shoulder. A white, off-the-shoulder jacket paired with louche, floor-skimming pants. This year, young Nigerians flipped traditional formal wear on its head, ducking and diving into different eras for inspiration and clashing what they found there.
A standout look came via Izuchukwu Udokwu, whose white suit was covered with hand drawings he himself applied to the fabric. The designer explained that creating the piece “felt like writing a story”. “Sometimes you don’t know where the story is going, and you let yourself be carried by the flow and the independence of your characters. With this outfit, I was also telling a story of how deeply connected we are, which you can see with the lines, and yet how unequal the world can be, and how the actions we take can alter someone’s life forever, which can be joyful or painful.”
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