In 2017, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie launched her “Wear Nigerian” campaign, announcing that she would wear only clothes designed and manufactured by Nigerian designers for all her public appearances. As she traveled the world with her award-winning novels and TED Talk, she brought attention to Nigeria’s signature richly patterned, vibrantly colored designs, as well as the work of up-and-coming designers. Add the publicity from the international rise of WizKid and other Nigerian hip-hop and Afrobeats artists, and all eyes are on what’s hot in Nigerian fashion.
“Now, Nigerian fashion has a personality of its own. If you mention a designer, someone would likely know who you were talking about. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. Lagos was more of a tailoring city back then as opposed to the designing city it has become,” said Folake Folarin Coker, founder of the award-winning Tiffany Amber global fashion and lifestyle brand. That reputation is earned by designers like Duro Olowu, who counts former First Lady Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles and Uma Thurman as fans, and the collections from hip young brands like Orange Culture, who opened Lagos Fashion Week in October 2019.
In just eight years, Lagos Fashion Week has become the destination for African fashion. Founded by former fashion editor Omoyemi Akerele who wanted to create an event that would be a “catalyst on the scene….positioning fashion properly in Nigeria, and of course in Africa,” the event draws celebrities from across the continent and around the world.
“Lagos style, I’d say, is very unapologetic… Everyone shows up and kills it. There’s enthusiasm all around,” says Stephen Tayo, who has documented the rise of Nigerian fashion for Vogue, the New York Times and CNN. In 2019, his “Ibeji” series was selected to show at the Palais De Tokyo in Paris and his work is featured in Antwaun Sargent’s book The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion. The exhibition that accompanies the book is showing at Aperture Gallery in New York through early 2020.
See the boldness of Lagosian style and spirit leap off the page in Tayo’s eye-popping spread for Stranger’s Guide.
Stephen Tayo is a Lagos-based photographer. His work has been featured in Vogue, the New York Times, CNN and ArtNews.