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    Lagos Fashion & Design Week – Day 4 Highlights

    Day 4 of the glittering Lagos Fashion & Design Week was the last in the runway shows, and what a way to end a week of great creativity, fashion and style.

    We were spoilt for choice in putting together our highlights on a day when the showcasing designers really pulled out all the stops with their innovation and creativity, a lot of them borrowing from traditional African influences but adding a contemporary edge we hadn’t seen at any of the other shows on such a consistent level.

    The ever-evolving Nkwo combined the old and the new with upcycled denim and re-imagined traditional Yoruba-inspired silhouettes. Similarly Ade Bakare’s luscious luxury fabrics and elegant balloon sleeves, IAmIsigo’s bold colour sports luxe pieces included traditional frocks complete with cowrie shell detailing, and House of Kaya’s beautiful flowing robes all carried a unique, yet distinctive African flavour that was oh-so-refreshingly authentic! It’s not possible to state just how refreshing it was. The prolific designer Lanre da Silva Ajayi’s collection, with custom designed fabrics in gorgeous geometric prints on flattering feminine shapes that stayed true to her signature, was another success.

    Congratulations to the organisers of LFDW, an event that’s proving to be a force to be reckoned with on the international fashion calendar.

    Take a look at what made the cut, and see if you don’t fall in love – photos courtesy of Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week.

    Lagos Fashion Design Week Lanre da Silva Ajayi Lagos Fashion Design Week Lanre da Silva Ajayi Lagos Fashion Design Week Lanre da Silva Ajayi Lagos Fashion Design Week Lanre da Silva Ajayi Lagos Fashion Design Week Tsemaye Binitie Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Ade Bakare Lagos Fashion Design Week Kiki Kamanu Lagos Fashion Design Week Kiki Kamanu Lagos Fashion Design Week Kiki Kamanu Lagos Fashion Design Week Nkwo Lagos Fashion Design Week Nkwo Lagos Fashion Design Week Nkwo Lagos Fashion Design Week Nkwo Lagos Fashion Design Week Nkwo Lagos Fashion Design Week April Kunby Lagos Fashion Design Week IAmIsigo Lagos Fashion Design Week IAmIsigo Lagos Fashion Design Week IAmIsigo Lagos Fashion Design Week IAmIsigo Lagos Fashion Design Week IAmIsigo Lagos Fashion Design Week Sisiano Lagos Fashion Design Week Sisiano Lagos Fashion Design Week Sisiano Lagos Fashion Design Week Sisiano Lagos Fashion Design Week Sisiano lfdw4 rayo lfdw4 rayo2 lfdw4 rayo3 lfdw4 house of kaya lfdw4 house of kaya2 lfdw4 house of kaya3 lfdw4 house of kaya4 lfdw4 Weizdhurm Franklyn lfdw4 Weizdhurm Franklyn2 lfdw4 bridget awosika lfdw4 bridget awosika2 lfdw4 bridget awosika3 lfdw4 lanre da silva 5 Lagos Fashion Design Week Lanre da Silva Ajayi

     

     

    Lagos Fashion & Design Week – Day 4 Highlights

    Day 4 of the glittering Lagos Fashion & Design Week was the last in the runway shows, and what a way to end a week of great creativity, fashion and style. We were spoilt for choice in putting together our highlights on a day when the showcasing designers really pulled out all the stops with their innovation and creativity, a lot of them borrowing from traditional African influences but adding a contemporary edge we hadn’t seen at any of the other shows on such a consistent level. The ever-evolving Nkwo combined the old and the new with upcycled denim and re-imagined traditional Yoruba-inspired silhouettes. Similarly Ade Bakare’s luscious luxury fabrics and elegant balloon sleeves, IAmIsigo’s bold colour sports luxe pieces included traditional frocks complete with cowrie shell detailing, and House of Kaya’s beautiful flowing robes all carried a unique, yet..

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    FT.com Features Lagos Fashion (& My Two-Pennies’ Worth, Of Course)

    Nkwo

    Nkwo

    Whenever I read something positive about Africa – and especially about African fashion – written in the mainstream press, it lifts me up. Literally elevates me. For those not paying attention to what the media covers in terms of Africa, being uplifted by one news article might seem a rather exaggerated response to something so seemingly trivial.

    But when you’re fully immersed in the business of promoting something as original and beautiful, and as yet relatively unseen on the global scene as African fashion, this is a small victory. To anybody who ever doubted it, I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact  that only a tiny part of what’s reported about Africa is positive; and in the fashion press, African fashion barely gets a mention at all.

    So waking up this morning to read this FT.com article by Melanie Abrams entitled ‘Lagos: Global Fashion Hotspot’ – which quotes me on why Nigerian luxury brands are doing well – has totally made my weekend.

    I met Melanie Abrams when she attended our Clerkenwell Pop Up Boutique in the Summer. She was interested in Nigerian fashion and what it had to offer the high-end international fashion market. She was curious about why Lagos had emerged as a clear leader in the luxury space, as opposed to other fashion capitals on the continent.

    Talking to her raised in me some interesting observations, and highlighted the huge opportunity that Lagos has to carve out a niche on the global luxury fashion scene. Economically, Nigeria alone has enough of an emerging middle class (and a substantial super-rich class) to fully sustain labels such as Jewel by Lisa, Lanre da Silva Ajaye, Iconic Invanity and Nkwo (to name a few) – and the majority of these designers’ customers are indeed home-grown.

    Jewel by Lisa

    Jewel by Lisa

    However, not only can these labels be desirable to Nigerians and other Africans, there’s also an international appeal to the diverse colours, textures and silhouettes that draw from centuries of culture and craftsmanship, which these designers are taking advantage of. What’s evident in Nigerian and also African popular culture (whether music, film, art or fashion) is that there is a certain pride in the influences inherited from past generations which perhaps wasn’t there before.

    No longer is the West the only source of inspiration to creatives across the continent. I remember growing up in a time when youth culture valued American music over local, and did our best to emulate every fashion trend coming out of London and New York. But thankfully attitudes have changed, and this new-found pride is what will drive the exportation of fashion, art, music and even film to the world.

    What remains now is exposure beyond the shores of Africa. Proper exposure: an alternative viewpoint, a steady drowning out of the negative vibes that are so often linked, bound even, to ‘Brand Africa’, and permeate even the editorial desks of fashion magazines.

    Lately we’ve seen high profile individuals like Michelle Obama and Beyonce Knowles don Nigerian labels with pride. And so must this trend continue. Which is why an article such as this (and many more of the same please!) are crucial to getting the global consumer to appreciate, trust and embrace what’s coming out of Africa as legitimate and worth a look. We must move from featuring Western labels using African designs as inspiration as a one-off, to covering African labels doing that as a matter of course.

    Sapelle isn’t a player on the luxury fashion stage, but I believe that continued exposure to top African labels and changing mindsets in the luxury space will see benefits flowing to the mid-market players we work with, who have lots to offer in terms of beautiful, original, relevant fashion for everyday wear.

    So hats off to you, Melanie Abrams and FT.com. And thank you for making my weekend!

     

    Of African Mamas, Itchy Hemp and Other Clichés

    I’m buzzing with excitement as we finalise our upcoming Summer range coming out just in time for Sapellé’s first pop-up appearance in London from 16 to 28 April.

    There’s lots of discussion with the team, deciding pieces that’ll work well together and showcasing the range and depth that our shoppers expect. And also introducing one or two things that might pleasantly surprise and help break some clichés.

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    Burberry’s African-print inspired collection last year raised some considerable debate about how ‘African’ it’s production was (or wasn’t), but the publicity did help shine a positive light on the use of print for contemporary design.

    When I talk about breaking clichés, here’s where I’m coming from. A typical conversation I have when introducing Sapellé goes like this:

    Me: “We sell contemporary African-inspired fashion created by a selection of Africa’s top design labels and crafters”.

    Other person: “Oh, wow, that’s great! I happen to know someone from [Insert name of African country here], she loves African fashion. I’ll let her know about you.”

     

     

     

    Whereupon I launch into an explanation that our products aren’t just for Africans, that we’ve had delighted customers from  all backgrounds, that they’re modern, appealing and perfectly suited to the modern woman. Etc, etc, etc.

    Usually when I show them pictures of our products, it helps bring home the point that we’re just adding another dimension to the typical high street range of styles without going off on a completely different style tangent.

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    One of our newly-signed labels, Taibo Bacar’s latest collection has global appeal

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    Taibo Bacar showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    So therein lies one challenge. Blowing the cliché that African fashion is the attire of  ‘African Mamas’; that it’s all about elaborate turbans in clashing colours, and flowing boubou gowns, stiff with embroidery.  Of course traditional African fashion is as glorious as all this. But that’s certainly not all there is to it.

    As we know, there’s a growing movement of talented designers taking African inspirations, fusing them with diverse global style influences, creating looks that fit effortlessly into any modern setting. It comes in all forms: from the printed, the woven, the intricately embellished, the hand-dyed and even the plain. Yes, African-influenced fashion can also be elegantly and simply understated.

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    Thula Sindi, who’s joining our group of designers sets off the flattering shapes of his garments sometimes with plain fabrics

    Sadly, I’ve heard stories from African designers who’ve felt the weight of expectation to produce collections that fall under one fixed ‘tribal print’ umbrella, who have then faced apathy from press and public when they didn’t deliver to those expectations.

    Could it be that while the fashion runways have helped to bring the African fashion banner to the mainstream, their representations haven’t ventured from the narrow animal print and ‘tribal print’ interpretation? If so, this is the perfect opportunity for the emerging African designers to broaden the public’s view and showcase the breadth of range they have. Let’s not forget also that they themselves are drawing their own influences from the wider world too, which is what makes it all so exciting.

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    Moschino’s latest Cheap & Chic line is playfully tropical and the African print connection is strong.

    There’s a saying that the best way to break clichés is to live the truth. One of the exciting things about our upcoming Summer 2013 range is that we’re introducing some beautiful ‘atypical’ pieces that help chip away at the clichés about African fashion. These pieces go beautifully well with the rest of our more ‘typically modern African’ range, including the gorgeously vibrant prints we love. All of which we hope will appeal to customers seeking complementary printed pieces for their wardrobes, or simply something more subtle.

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    One of our listed designers, Nkwo (via Afromania) uses an adventurous design process that creates beautiful, unforgettable pieces.

    So that’s the African fashion cliché challenge in a nutshell. Then there are the perceptions around Sapellé as an ethical fashion retailer. Here we also have the challenge of dispelling the ‘itchy hemp’ clichés that built up around ethical fashion ages ago, which still prevail despite the huge strides we’ve seen in the sector. There are many different ethical products being produced globally – they feel great, they look fantastic and most of the time, they’re miles better than their ‘unethical’ counterparts.

    As for the role we’re playing to trade only with ethical suppliers, we relish the relationships we’ve built with our partners because of the tangible impact of every order we place with them. When we do this, we’re supporting the fair employment of  machinists, metalsmiths, women’s groups, supporting recycling and responsible production, respecting the environment, and creating sustainable income. It’s a really, really good feeling.

    London Fashion Week 2011 - Fashions Finest at the Westbury Hotel

    Uganda’s Jose Hendo (who will soon be joining Sapellé) switches with ease between classic and avant garde. Her current collection in shades of cream uses organic cotton grown in her home country.

    But the thing we ethical fashion retailers must remember is never to push the ethical agenda down shopper’s throats as if that alone should justify the purchase. So our focus is on sourcing the high quality, irresistible pieces that stand up on their own merit. We hope that the added bonus that they’re ethically-sourced is a great story that’ll make customers even happier with their purchase.

     

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    French label Tamboo Bamboo (also joining Sapellé with their Summer collection) European with bold Afro-Caribbean tones. The result: a unique, fun look that works across cultures.

     

     

     

    The Versatility of Ankara

    Ankara is so uncompromisingly vibrant. No, we’re not talking about the capital of Turkey (although we’re sure it’s true of that city too). Rather, the traditional wax-print fabric, known also as Dutch wax print, chitenje, kitenge, khanga, among other names depending on where you are on the vast and varied continent of Africa, and used to make garments for all occasions.

     

    A shwe shwe-inspired wax print dress, from sapelle.com

    Many African cultures have integrated Ankara fabric and created shapes and silhouettes that give them a distinct identity,  adapted to suit the local taste – a traditional Ankara print dress in Ghana for instance will be very different to a Zambian  or Ugandan one – and yet the common thread remains – the fabric itself’.

    But let’s stop here before we get carried away waxing on about the geneology of Ankara (yes that was an intended pun – but only for those of you still paying attention). We’re actually bringing you a feature all about Ankara (the fabric, not the city) soon. But for now, here’s a taster of some of the exciting cross-cultural appearances we’ve spotted Ankara making  in the fashion world, proving just how versatile it is not only across Africa, but way beyond.

    NOH NEE: Bavaria meets Ankara

    We love the boldness of NOH NEE, the German label that combines the structured feminine Bavarian Dirndl dress with the most exciting and colourful Ankara fabrics, often combining two or more prints to create irresistible pieces that we just want to get our hands on.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ankara in the East

    Crossing over into Asia, when you think about it, it’s makes complete sense that Oriental traditional fashion would pair up wonderfully with African textiles. After all, Japanese dress for instance is expressive and colourful, holding nothing back in the use of colour to express opulence, serenity, femininity and a host of other messages to the observer – which is not very different to African fashion. So why wouldn’t  fusion of the two combine well? And here’s evidence of how well it works. Nkwo, the popular UK-based designer who’s been using African prints to create bold, eye-catching styles for a few years now, borrowed some Japanese inspiration to produce this Kimono-style top, to great effect.

    And this is what Cameroon born industrial designer, Serge Mouangue has to say about his innovative Kimono designs in African print fabric.

    “They may appear different on the surface but they do share some cultural similarities. Both societies are very tribal and have a respect for hierarchy and an appreciation of the power of silence. And then there are the differences, In Japan there is no improvisation. Here, improvisation can mean trouble, shame, difficulties. But in Africa, it means life, renewal, health and spirit. The kimono is an icon of Japan, I’m fascinated by the cut and the attitude and poise it creates among women when they wear them.”

    On the Streets of London

    It goes without saying that Western fashion has been playing around with African prints from all corners of the continent, not only Ankara.  The catwalks each season bear testament to that, as do the high streets, increasingly. But we couldn’t help but smile, very broadly, when an institution of conservative British fashion, an icon that has stood alongside the bowler hat and Wellington boots as symbols of  British attire, was given the Ankara treatment this year – the Macintosh as redesigned by Burberry Prorsum. And it looked good too! We’re pleased Vogue’s Anna Wintour shares that view – and if you needed proof that African print fashion has made it into the critical eyes of those in the know, well here it is.


     

    Ankara in this sense is like an indie band which has now come into the mainstream after years of playing to a fiercely loyal following that knows exactly how good it is. Welcome to Ankara! We think the march of the Ankara continues: we’ve seen Ankara-covered baby buggies, suitcases, handbags, baseball caps, boots, iPad covers, lampshades and sofas. Ankara is fun, it’s bright and it’s expressive. There’s one for every mood and personality: from subdued to vivacious, calm and outrageous, and everything in-between.
    And most of all, now the cat’s out of the bag and it’s proving its versatility and staying power – frankly, we want it to stay that way!

    Solange Knowles in Boxing Kitten’s Ankara bustier

    Get a variety of Ankara-infused looks for all persuasions, visit Sapellé’s online store and express yourself!

    Ankara meets West: Swing dress meets Ankara. Dress by Modahnik, available now at sapelle.com

    Credits:
    http://makosewe.blogspot.co.uk
    http://japantimes.co.jp