For a split second I almost thought I was at New York Fashion Week. Backstage, top models like Georgie Badiel, Alek Wek and Oluchi Onweagba were getting beautified, while at front of house an army of street style photographers stalked the front row for candids of celebs and it-girls. Outside, copies of an all-African daily (suspiciously similar to The Daily Front Row) were being handed out to thousands of paying guests while the oversized tents, similar to those at Lincoln Center, were prepped for the influx.
Yet as time went on, it became increasingly clear that this was definitely not New York. This was Arise Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria–and for all the similarities–it’s a whole different ball game.
The most marked indicator of this was the running theme that bound seventy-seven collections over the course of five days. Whether literal interpretations of African garb by local labels like Davida or abstract ones by labels like Bridget Awosika – they added to the growing definition of the new African aesthetic.
Dig even deeper and you’ll see more than clothes on parade, you’ll witness the clear, vibrant and bold beginning of an era on the Continent. And while as a journalist, I’m the furthest thing from a fashion designer, I felt a part of it. After all, like many of them, a childhood in Africa, an education in London and a career in New York, had led me right back to my roots. Initially, this connection made it impossible to objectively review a collection. But once the emotions died down–the process of selecting the best came to life. Ultimately out of 77 stellar designers, ten shone the brightest. This may have been Lagos, but their collections could turn heads in any fashion capital from Paris to Milan. Collectively, the work of these emerging designers embodies the best of their generation: strong, modern design that stands on its own but pays homage – be it brash or subdued – to Mother Africa. Now, without further ado…..