Two Nigerian Menswear Designers You Need to Know

Orange Culture Spring/Summer 15

Lagos, Nigeria: the cultural capital better known for its oil reserves, is fast becoming the go-to destination for new fashion design talent. This new Lagos aesthetic is shaking off the expectation for its designers to make traditional gowns, and instead offer fashion that is vibrant, creative and most importantly, modern.

Fashion consultant, Omoyemi Akerele, has been instrumental in raising the international profile of indigos designers through the launch of Lagos Fashion & Design Week in 2011. It has enabled Nigerian designers to gain international exposure, whilst building relationships with the British Council and Pitti Immagine.

Kenneth Ize Spring/Summer 15 

Outshining the many talents shown at Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2014, was menswear designer Kenneth Ize. Honouring the high-life customs of his heritage, Ize’s collection looked at what Lagos was in the 1960s and 70s, fusing it with the urban dress codes of America. “I grew up listening to high-life music,” he explains, “but when it comes to dressing, my dad is always traditional. He’s a dandy who likes to dress properly, so the button line of his shirt would sit directly in line with his pants zipper. My brother, on the other hand, is more of a street-style kid. All of these influences helped me to create the collection.”

Moving to America as a toddler, Ize grew up listening to the high-life sounds favoured by his parents, but it was on a trip back to Lagos that he found a new interest in what its rich culture had to offer. “I went back to Lagos because it was different from what I expected,” he states over Skype. Part of the difference he speaks of includes the shopping opportunities of Lagos’ Victoria Island.

Victoria Island is to Lagos what Bond Street is to London: a shopping mecca. A long-time favourite retailer of the locals is Temple Muse founded by ex-Selfridges buyers, the Wadhwandi brothers. They realised that Nigerian locals were seeking high-fashion locally, rather than having to travel to Europe and Dubai. Now they have a stockists featuring Givenchy, Duro Olowu and Monolo Blahnik. Meanwhile, Ermengildo Zegna has built a loyal customer base by choosing to open their first and only outlet in sub-Saharan Africa in Lagos in 2013. Luxury watch retailers, Rolex and Cartier, understanding that there is a market for luxury goods, also hold franchises in the city.

Going hand in hand with Lagos’ new “look good business” is a new attitude to nightlife, where it’s becoming commonplace to not stay in one club all night. You may start with the cool kids in Stranger, then head to Liquid, where you may rub shoulders with Afrobeats stars Ice Prince and Don Jazzy, before popping for a few bottles at Rhapsody.

 

Orange Culture H.E.R Spring/Summer 15

London-based Nigerian designer, Adebayo Oke-Lawa of Orange Culture, was shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Designers. The collections demonstrate how his mind is clearly far-reaching with nods to both Africa and Europe. Often infusing elements of sportswear with African print, his designs don’t cry ‘Africa’ to subtly fit into a Western wardrobe.

With its creativity brewing and boasting the world’s 11th largest oil reserve, it’s no wonder Lagos’ economy has consecutively grown 6% each year for the last seven years! Luxury designers are setting up shop, whilst homegrown talents are making a name for themselves internationally. In fact, it may be safe to say that Nigeria is becoming known for more than Fela Kuti. Who knows, in a few years’ time the Fashion Week schedule may read New York, London, Lagos, Paris and Milan!

Images courtesy of Kenneth Ize and Orange Culture