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".
All photography courtesy of Patternity