Commencing from a more decentralised format in the previous year, with designers organising independent LagosFW-supported shows within the Lagos Fashion Week Calendar, the highly anticipated 2023 edition will feature designer collections in runway shows and presentations taking place in LagosFW tents in and around the vibrant city of Lagos from October 25-29.
This format is “a triumphant development in so many ways, indicative of how far we’ve come as an industry,” says Omoyemi Akerele, founder and CEO of Lagos Fashion Week and fashion business development agency Style House Files.
In our interview, Akerele elaborates on the effect of Lagos Fashion Week, the continent's most recognised fashion showcase, and how the organisation consistently demonstrates its commitment to funding, capacity building across retail and manufacturing, sustainability, and education through its diverse initiatives and programmes.
Since its inaugural season in 2011, Lagos Fashion Week, initially aimed at Nigerian designers, has seamlessly evolved into a dynamic platform that provides opportunities for emerging and established talent across the African continent, offering vital support to designers at varying stages of their existence through the organisation's three strategic pillars: community, collaboration, and co-creation.
Lagos Fashion Week’s sustainability programme, Green Access has been instrumental in influencing the African fashion industry by promoting sustainable and responsible practices. However, since its inception in 2018, it has evolved significantly. “It started as a fashion accelerator programme with a focus on resource efficiency, biodegradability, longevity and recyclability as guiding principles. Over the years, it has grown into a platform that spotlights fashion enterprises committed to environmentally, socially, and ethically conscious production.”
Noteworthy designers such as Pepperrow, Maliko Studio, Lohije, Kadiju, and Elexiay, have taken part in the programme. In the previous cycle, Themba Shezi from Heru Shezi (SA) and Lu Adesola from Lul’la House (Nigeria) were recipients of grants from The OR Foundation aimed at bolstering their brand growth.
This season, in alignment with the theme “Standing The Test of Time,” Green Access will welcome five young Nigerian designers, with a significant focus on designing from recycled materials.
Moreover, attendees can anticipate a diverse array of talent from across the continent at this season's LagosFW showcases, from esteemed fashion houses like Orange Culture, Sisiano, Maxhosa, IAMISIGO, Adama Paris, Free The Youth, to rising stars in the industry such as Kente Gentleman, Orire and more.
In addition to the runway presentations, the fashion week's lineup of engaging activities will include the Fashion Business Series, a platform where key players from the Nigerian and Pan African industries and beyond engage in conversations. Swap Shop is a space created to facilitate new conversations and the exchange of ideas on sustainability within African fashion. XRETAIL is a curated shopping experience across key cities in Africa and LagosFW Showrooms where fashion enthusiasts can shop some of their favourite brands. The after-parties will be an opportunity to experience and be immersed in Lagos’s nightlife while connecting with some of Africa’s creatives in a relaxed environment.
It's also worth noting that earlier in the year, LagosFW hosted its annual exhibition showcase, Woven Threads. This year, they joined forces with Selfridges for a London pop-up spanning six weeks. Akerele sheds light on the pop-up, elaborating, “we sought designers who exemplify African fashion’s diversity and creativity, representing a range of styles, aesthetics, and cultural influences. The criteria included a strong commitment to sustainability, innovative design and a unique perspective that reflects the richness of African fashion but also translates commercially”. She goes on to emphasise, “these designers contribute to a more inclusive narrative, showcasing the continent's vibrant creativity and cultural heritage on a global stage.”
This collaboration, among others, epitomises Akerele's commitment to achieving a more significant impact through tapping into collective strengths. “Collaboration allows us to tap into diverse perspectives, pool resources and create something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s about fostering an ecosystem where designers, artisans, stakeholders, and fashion enthusiasts collaborate to drive positive change.”
Another significant collaboration is the Lagos Fashion Week Scholarship in partnership with the prestigious global fashion and design institution Istituto Marangoni. Born from a shared vision between Lagos Fashion Week and Istituto Marangoni (Dubai), the Scholarship came into existence in 2022, driven by a profound commitment to empowering emerging creatives through world-class education and mentorship. Omoyemi underscores the significance of education in her contribution to the industry, “we can’t speak to working to see the African fashion industry reach its full potential, without investment in education. Access to knowledge acquisition, skills/knowledge exchange, and a decolonised curriculum is integral. We are very passionate and committed to educating and training people around the clock, it is for this reason SHF (Style House Files) Trains was founded, amongst others.”
Lagos Fashion Week, under the visionary leadership of Akerele, continues to be a driving force, shaping the future of African fashion, and demonstrating that collaboration, sustainability, and education are not just words but actions that are powerful catalysts for growth and innovation in the industry. As it enters the 2023 season, Lagos Fashion Week continues to inspire and set new standards, showcasing the rich creativity and cultural heritage of African fashion to the world.