I'm kicking myself for not taking up the opportunity to head out to Lagos, Nigeria for Arise Magazine Fashion Week, even though technically it overlapped with Paris Fashion Week and I would have been operating at the pace of a sloth even if I did make it out there.  Therefore it's down to the lovely Anna Murray of Patternity, to venture out to Lagos and kindly report back with a vast photo story here that documents both on and off the catwalks and all the patterns that they saw in everything from crazy pavement tiling to Nigerian textiles.  I don't normally allow guest posts on Style Bubble but this was an exceptional exception, where I would have given my two left thumbs to do a body switch with Anna for the week to get out of a fashion comfort zone and into what I perceive to be the great unknown.   

Here, Patternity give us a little account of their experience of the week: 

"It's always exciting to visit a new country, to get a new perspective and to return home inspired.  Patternity's trip to the sprawling metropolis that is the Nigerian Capital Lagos, and host of Nigerian fashion week 2012, was no exception.

Invited to the Arise Magazine Fashion Week, Patternity documented the textures and patterns that made up the week, as well as consulting for British designer David David with his Lagos debut winning him an award for 'Most Innovative Show 2012' .

Capturing on camera both the schedule of seventy-seven African or African-influenced designers on and off stage, and in true Patternity style, getting out and about in Lagos seeing the abundance of pattern everywhere from the mundane to the magnificent, forming a tapestry of where much of the original inspiration comes and where it has ended up. 

Best summed up, it was in essence a week spent observing extreme contrasts, both in and out of the fashion arena. The Lagos landscape sees towering shiny buildings which sit alongside shanty towns. The glitz and glamour of the red carpet frequently descends into darkness owing to intermittent generator power cuts. This is the week where international models walk behind local Nigerian girls and boys who were discovered just 2 weeks ago, some of them winning life changing awards to go to New York. In the pattern and colour rich markets we chatted and laughed with the locals, but always with the slight discomfort that we had to be accompanied by an armed guard. 

Only in it's second year of running, (with thanks to publisher Nduka Obaigbena who funded the whole week) and judging by the high standard of this years design talent, its clear events like this make way for a furthered cultural understanding as the world look towards Lagos for inspiration, well and truly putting Africa on the map for Fashion Weeks to come." 

What's interesting is the schedule of designes that Obaigbena put together from all over the world for the week – some native from countries in Africa, some that have roots in Africa or in some cases, the Caribbean and reside in different countries and then a few that have no connections with Africa at all, other than they are influenced by the aesthetics of African textiles.  I apologise in advance if I'm using Africa as a loose umbrella term but Arise's fashion week event seems to mix it all up into a hot pot, where countries of origin don't seem to be the main focus.  Rather it is about celebrating African derived fashion talent as a whole.  Not surprisingly, the key designers that Patternity singled out as standouts reside outside of Africa but take elements of their own culture to inject into their designs.  

Laurence Chauvin Buthaud of Laurence Airline is someone, who I'd love to investigate more with a possible trip to her native country Ivory Coast, where she has set up a workshop that teaches couture sewing techniques to locals.  Profits from sales of the collection are invested back into the project.  What's better than this bit of do-gooding is that the clothes are really quite lovely.  It's menswear that either sex could get stuck into.  Buthaud has a focused way of mixing textiles with polka dots, Scottish plaids and peacock plumes all occupying the body with geometric lines.  Laurence Airline also has an office in Paris which evidently will help the brand make the connection with sales.

Oheme Ohene and Buki Akib are two other labels which make use of their respective Ghanaian and Nigerian roots in their work but are both based in London.  Then there are the New York-based designers such as Telfar, William Okpo and LaQuan Smith, who pointedly don't incorporate African aesthetics into their work.  Finally you have British designer David David who hosted a retrospective of his work, where the sporty geometrics bear some resemblance to its often tessellated surroundings in Lagos, as photographed by Patternity.  This mighty mix of designers that come from a plethora of backgrounds must have been exciting to witness as a gathering.  

As an outsider, without having seen it all for myself, I still end up asking the same questions though.  Is it absolutely essential to inject recognisable "Africana" codes into the work of designers of African-origin in order for it to be valid and accepted?  Why do these "Africana" aesthetics continue to be perpetuated by European/American designers and does this in turn dillute the work of genuinely Africa-originated designs?  Funnily enough, I've also picked up on an article by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg in the latest issue of Bon Magazine that investigates the fallacy behind so-called African "Real Dutch Wax" prints, as they in originate from textile companies in the Netherlands.  This is a colonial mishap that has led to the assimilation of those eye-catching clashing prints and colours to become part of our vision of "Africanness".  Therefore, I find it more interesting when designers of African origin, don't bind themselves to these perpetually regurgitated aesthetics or feel pressurised to resort to designs that would at the end of the day cater to a Westernised view of all things "ethnic" and "exotic".  

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David David

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Laurence Airline

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Ozwald Boateng

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Ohema Ohene

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All photography courtesy of Patternity

Comments (26)

  1. Elisa says:

    Great photos, it’s nice to see fashion week things that look and feel different. Some superb prints and colours, I would love to take the fabric worn by all these women as dresses in the street, and make a knee-length pencil skirt out of it. Fashion envy.
    Elisa Eymery
    Wandering Minds
    http://www.ourwanderingminds.com

  2. prints used in a mundane kind of way… amaazing.. thanks for sharing

  3. Top Moumoute says:

    So interesting to hear about an aspect of fashion that is completley new to me, and one that, I have to admit, I never really new existed. It reminds me that there is much more out there than the usual New York, London, Milan, Paris, however good they may be.
    http://www.topmoumoute.tumblr.com

  4. I love the idea of celebrating a whole countrie, mixing in culture with art and bringing in locals as well as outsiders. These designs are so beautiful.
    Material Fixations

  5. m says:

    Nice! Glad Patternity made it out to my home city, and it’s always good to see fashion week pics outside of the big four (I’ve been feeding on Arise pics all week :-)) Susie, maybe a feature on some up-an-coming designers off the beaten path? I’ll gladly go first ;-)
    http://minkudesign.com

  6. I’ve been dying to see something different for ages in fashion. Although I can always look to Vivienne Westwood to give me something totally out of the ordinary, she is only one of thousands of designers creating for the same market!!! I am absolutely astounded by this post!!! I saw nothing that I thought next picture or that’s boring. And it’s not just the creative thought proccess but the amazing craftmanship and tyling in every outfit! I particularly love the tartan designs and plan to check out Alive’s fashion week much more intensely. I am so happy you allowed a guest blogger! Thank you sincerely!!! Please delve into this more!

  7. This is just fabulous! I can see why you’d have given your thumbs to be there. So refreshing to see something in the fashion world so far out of the ordinary.
    http://styleseer.blogspot.com

  8. Alan says:

    Great post!
    Kudos for turning some focus on emerging African talent, saw quite an interesting presentation at LFW last month which showcased Nigerian and South African designers, which promoted in some cases quite literally ‘Trade Not Aid’
    An empowering concept non?
    http://stylogasm.com/

  9. serdane says:

    Very great post !

  10. steffi says:

    great photos. i like the composition of colour and form, it´s absolut amazing
    thanks for this nice, pics

  11. Nek says:

    yay Nigeria!!! I love that fashion is starting to look past the top 4 cities, i cant wait to start seeing more fashion week updates from Nigeria, Indian, China and Brazil etc

  12. Peter says:

    Thank God for this post!!! Fashion is so white and overall normative – it makes me dislike the industry sometimes, even thought I draw so much inspiration from it.
    Peter @ http://low–couture.blogspot.com

  13. Joanna says:

    So happy to see some attention on African fashion week. I was at AFI (Africa Fashion International)in Johannesburg, that was also unfortunatly on at the same time as Arise fashion week. I’m the Videographer for Marie Claire TV and Pop Africana as well as my blog http://www.postjoannaimrie.blogspot.com so expect video’s on Monday!

  14. Nastya K says:

    wow! so bright prints!!

  15. Different groups of people, searching and finding their way home. That is interesting at the same time very appealing.

  16. Ngozi says:

    Glad to see some focus on African fashion, yeah we truly do bold, bright and sometimes dramatic fashion. please check out my blog for street style post from the show.http://dressed2dnines.blogspot.com

  17. Danielle says:

    Interesting post! I appreciate your point that African designers should be free to create work without feeling pressured or limited to work in recognizable “Africana” prints and colors that reference their ethnicity or heritage. There should be room however, for those same designers to use colors and prints without being judged, esp. by people who do not share their cultural background, for exploring what could potentially be meaningful or relevant to them. We all have to take special care to be open minded when we step into territory that isn’t familiar to us.

  18. er… so much awesomeness in one post

  19. Wonderful photos and it’s lovely to see some exposure for African Fashion Week. The clothes are just so alive and inspiring, and I love Ozwald Boateng in particular.

  20. zee says:

    I was at the event, and I was really pleased with the collections that weren’t limited to African prints or ethnic/tribal stereotype.
    http://uberchicmichi.blogspot.com

  21. Jane Alisa says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I found it so interesting and the clothes so inspiring.
    http://janealisa.tumblr.com

  22. Nathan says:

    omg i have to totally agree with this statement you made about how “being inspired by your own culture is [not] in any way a bad thing but sometimes, it can feel like a designers of minority ethnicity are shackled to that and see it as a way of standing out against Caucasian peers.” I’m gonna quote u some day from that because u worded out exactly what I’ve always thought. In some ways I become MORE critical if you plan to use your culture as a stand out because I always think “it better be really original and interesting or I’d just disregard it as another plot to help some company meet their ‘quota’ or something, like being the token ethnic…” I LOVE how you constantly word my thoughts out, if only I could put my thoughts down into ink like u do… :)
    http://style-niche.blogspot.com

  23. Sarah says:

    I may have mentioned him before on this site – artist Yinka Shonibare’s work explores these issues, and uses those very wax prints, combined with 18th-century European clothing styles, to do so.

  24. Jilbab says:

    i agree from you but i also agree from Telfar, William Okpo and LaQuan Smith.
    hijab

  25. rita says:

    I met Laurence Airline in the latest edition of Pitti Image! loves her collezzione

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