The first of its kind to be staged before an African fashion week, The Folklore’s exclusive Buyer’s Preview trade show ahead of Lagos Fashion Week begins today. For four days, fashion retailers and buyers will have the opportunity to preview and pre-order the new collections from leading Nigerian designer brands before they walk down the runway in Lagos, without crossing international borders or boarding long-haul flights. They will also be able to book virtual appointments for the digital showrooms and meet with established designers including Abiola Olusola, Gozel Green, Onalaja, and Orange Culture.
What can be expected from the first Digital Buyer’s Preview for Lagos Fashion Week is an exclusive look at the spring/summer 2023 collections from array of contemporary Nigerian brands that are crafting their own version of the African fashion narrative with a focus on craft and conscious production.
Among them is a cohort of emerging Nigerian designers who are adding their unique vision to the dynamic landscape of the country’s buzzing fashion scene. Below are just a few that you should have on your radar this week, and beyond.
01. Cynthia Abila
Enthusiastic about storytelling and culture, Cynthia Otiyo-Abila founded her eponymous womenswear brand in 2016 with a mission to express African heritage with modern clothing. The designer interprets this through an aesthetic that uses voluminous silhouettes, colorful patterns and tactile fabrics while cultural elements are added with coral beadwork and traditional prints. From tailored separates and occasion dresses to smart jumpsuits, each Cynthia Abila piece is designed with the modern woman in mind.
Lagos-based Cute-Saint made its debut in 2019 as a contemporary, sustainably minded brand aimed at bridging the gap between luxury and affordability. The brainchild of stylist and designer Muftau Femi Ajose, Cute-Saint produces smart tailoring and elegant separates imbued with a modern sensibility, using bold color, vibrant prints, classic shapes and clean lines. The brand takes pride in creating authentic, stylish and functional designs, made with locally sourced fabrics and batiks made by local artisans who have mastered their crafts.
03. Pepper Row
Nigerian designer Omafume Niemogha launched her fashion brand Pepper Row in 2018 in an effort to translate the vibrancy of Lagos to the global fashion scene. Since then, the brand has set itself apart by using ethical materials and craftsmanship to bring its unique vision to life, with “color intuitive” pieces for bold, unconventional women while maintaining its roots in traditional African design. Through collaborations with artisans in small communities and the use of hand woven and dyed fabrics in all pieces, every collection is able to blend cultural tradition with modern influences that translate on a worldwide scale.
In just a little over a year since it was founded in June 2021 by Oríré Aleshinloye, womenswear label Oríré has established itself as a contemporary brand that is committed to artisanal craftsmanship and conscious production. From cocktail dresses to coordinating separates that express artistic flair and femininity, Oríré’s designs are produced in small runs at its Lagos-based studio, using sustainable fabrics such as recycled wool, crepe and silk. The brand also offers a made-to-order service, providing flexibility and custom fits for clients and reducing excess waste at the same time. Oríré’s ethos is built on creativity, quality, innovation and social responsibility.
05. Nola Black
With the desire to highlight “complex emotion and the ever-evolving global perspective of progressive African women,” Arinola Olowoporoku founded Nola Black in 2017. Edginess, modernism and individualism all define the brand’s design ethos, which are displayed in the collections featuring a range of styles, including patterned two-piece sets, floral embellished dresses and cut-out tops. Employing slow fashion and sustainable production processes, Nola Black’s stated mission is to promote a culture of conscious consumption that counters fast fashion with intentional, elegant designs that are created with longevity in mind.
Voluminous shapes, jewel tones and textural embellishments are all hallmarks of the maximalist aesthetic that womenswear brand KADIJU displays. Founded by Oyindamola Aleshinloye, who spent her childhood making miniature clothing for her dolls, the brand aims to create pieces that inspire confidence in women through carefully made clothes that celebrate femininity without compromising on style. KADIJU made its runway debut at Lagos Fashion Week, in 2021 with a collection that explored the symbolism of fashion as an expression of self. All KADIJU pieces are crafted by hand in its Lagos atelier from a combination of stock fabrics and recycled materials, all sourced and produced locally in limited quantities to eliminate waste and foster mindful consumption.
07. The FIA Factory
The brainchild of Funke Asinobi-Ola, Ijeoma Jibunoh and Abisose Ola, The FIA Factory is a Lagos-based label whose pieces are defined by playful patterns with a slight edge. The design trio take inspiration from contemporary African prints and traditional dress, designing with the trendy, eclectic woman in mind. One of FIA’s signature designs is the Poof dress, which gets its name from its voluminous sleeves and oversized silhouette.