“Nigerian fashion is greatly influenced by the country’s spirit and culture. The flamboyant, colorful and vibrant qualities of its culture are well represented by Nigerian clothing and fashion.” — Chuka Udeze
“Personally, the vivacity of the prints is what I’m most captivated by. The patterns seem to all tell an exciting story; they are like stand-alone works of art.” —Stephanie McLean
“My focus is not to dictate to women what they should wear; my job is presenting them with beautiful options.” — Duro Olowu
The Nigerian fashion industry is ever expanding, and Nigerians are people to watch out for when it is about styles and trends. The industry is worth over 2 Trillion Naira (i.e., $5.5 Billion) and has been a source of employment for many in the country. The possibilities of the fashion industry in Nigeria is colossal and growing daily.
When talking about the African market, Nigeria could be said to be at the forefront—seeing how the rich and ostentatious culture has been infused into her current trends. Beyond the shores of Africa, these styles and trends have been prominent because of some trendsetters who have been instrumental in putting the industry on the map.
Source: Deola Sagoe
The legendary fashion designer is the founder of “The House of Deola Sagoe.” Her take on styling and designing is noteworthy. Her craft has won her respect and global recognition from personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith. It has also won her the MNET/Anglo Gold African Designs 2000. She refers to herself as “a woman with many layers,” and this can be seen in her designs. Presently, her works include hand-dyed Adire fabric. Deola is the ambassador of “Catwalk the World: Fashion for Food” a program initiated by the United Nation World Food Program.
Source: Tiffany Amber
She is the founder of the famous brand “Tiffany Amber,” which started sometime in 1998. At an early age, Folake Folarin-Coker was exposed to different cultures. Though she was born in Lagos, she schooled in Europe—Scotland, England, and Switzerland. Having interacted with and observed the intricate dynamics of these cultures, her love for fashion emerged. Her colorful and elegant designs—tailored for the everyday woman—have earned her global recognition as the only African designer to grace the New York Mercedes Fashion week two years in a row. She has also been mentioned on the Forbes Power Women in Africa list.
Source: Zizi Cardow
She is a multi-award-winning designer that has showcased Nigerian culture and fabric at the global level. At 17, she got her first fashion job in a boutique owned by an Italian, and this spurred her interest in fashion. Since launching her label, Zizi in 2000, she has been a recipient of several awards. She is also recognized as a proud promoter of the Ankara fabric. Her designs have featured on many catwalk events in Milan, Paris, United States of America (USA) and have many top figures as clients. Top international media houses such as CNN, Channel O, The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) have featured her. Through so many mentorship programs, she has given back so much to the society earning her even more awards.
Source: New York Times
The Nigerian-Jamaican professional lawyer cum famous fashion designer is known for this quote “My focus is not to dictate to women what they should wear; my job is presenting them with beautiful options.” His name is known and respected both locally and internationally. His colorful African prints incorporate the Nigerian culture. A recipient of numerous awards, his exquisite creations have gained him global attention. He has big names such as Michelle Obama, Uma Thurman, Solange Knowles, Linda Evangelista, and much more as clients.
The male bespoke designer is the owner of the brand, Mai Atafo. A Master’s Degree holder in Information System and Technology, Atafo resigned from the corporate sector in 2010 to take up his passion as a fashion designer. His designs have gained much recognition as well as top Nigerian personalities as regular clients. He launched his Wedding line “Weddings by Mai,” which also endeared him to lovers of bridal fashion. He has bagged many awards and is a name that has come to stay.
Source: La Mode
A former model, model manager and choreographer—the make-up artist and fashion designer paint the true picture of the dynamism and energetic spirit of Nigerians. He had modeled for many fashion houses including Dakova, Nikki Africana and done TV commercials for Maclean’s toothpaste before becoming a model manager. He ventured into choreography and make-up, launching his label—House of Bunor and Fashion Designing. He gained recognition when he was selected by Silverbird as the designer and make-up artist for the 2001 winner of Miss World, Agbani Darego. Since then, Oshodi still remains a force to be reckoned with in the industry, also being behind fashion events that have put Nigeria at the forefront such as The West African Fashion Week 2008.
Source: Lisa Folawiyo
Known by her label—Jewel by Lisa—she is famous for her creativity in using Ankara prints to create elegant designs. She owns a diffusion line, J Label, which reflects the Nigerian culture in a blend of Afropop and Urban Chic designs. She has showcased internationally in the New York Fashion week 2010, Paris Fashion Week 200, and more. She has been reviewed by international media houses including Style.com, Gotham, and Women’s Wear Daily. Lisa is a law graduate from the University of Lagos. Her taste in fashion has set her apart and won her celebrity fans like Beyoncé, Tasha Smith, Eve, and Kelis.
Source: African American Magazine
The Nigerian-born fashion designer developed an interest in fashion since childhood. She establishes that her grandmother, who was also a fashion designer, was the reason she became interested in fashion. Drawing inspiration from her roots, she creates prints that are reflective of her origin. She rose to fame when she made a dress with the words “Oluwa gba President Barack Obama” boldly printed on it during the Obama campaign. Having worked in many boutiques in New York, she moved to Milan to advance in training. Her passion for African fashion has set her apart and since put her in the spotlight.
Source: Ade Bakare
With exquisite, classic female designs and over two decades in the fashion industry, Ade Bakare is a household name in London and Nigeria. After schooling in the (UK), he was employed by top fashion houses. He started Ade Bakare Couture in 1991 and made wears for boutiques in the UK and France. He has salons in London and Nigeria which caters to his big clientele and has a perfume line, Breeze, adding to his works. He has had the privilege of his works showcased around the world and has won him many awards among are those from Conde Nast Publication and the Paris Academy.
Source: Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera
Anthony is a young, talented designer and the owner of the clothing line, Soares Anthony, known for making unconventional yet sophisticated male designs. As a young boy, Anthony explored fashion by drawing and sketching most of the time. He draws inspiration from the Nigerian fabric and Japanese tailoring style. His pieces have been worn by well-known politicians and celebrities, and are sold globally in the US, UK, and France. His work has also earned him awards, and he runs a program where he mentors upcoming Nigerian designers.
Our fashion future is fun, full of life and rising
We can unquestionably say that Nigeria is on the radar of the fashion design macrocosm. This list has shown us the wealth of talent that is springing up in the Nigerian Fashion Design world. The figures that we have seen above are the A-Listers of the Nigerian Fashion Design world from a Nigerian perspective. The list does no justice in elucidating into the wealth of talent that we have in the industry. However, there are many more emerging Fashion Designers that we will explore in future articles that we will be writing under our fashion category. The Nigerian Fashion design industry is undergoing a fast-changing metamorphosis. This is just a tip of the iceberg with regards to the future of the fashion industry in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Our fashion future is fun, full of life and rising.