A NEW CROP OF NIGERIAN DESIGNERS


Looks from Mai Atafo. (Photo Credit: Mai Atafo)

Nigeria, the vibrant heartbeat of Africa, is a kaleidoscope of cultures, colors, and creativity. It is home to the second largest film industry on the globe while also being the fashion, technological and creative hub of Africa, according to Nigeria’s tourism site. In recent years, a new wave of fashion designers have emerged, infusing traditional Nigerian aesthetics with contemporary flair and global appeal. There have been plenty of rising fashion designers coming out of Africa, here we will highlight a few from the new crop of fashion darlings – Mai Atafo, Banke Kuku, Cute-Saint, Dye Lab by Rukky Ladoja, and Eki Kere – all of whom are redefining Nigerian fashion and captivating the world with their unique styles.

A display from Brooklyn Museum’s Africa Fashion exhibition in 2023. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

“Currently the global fashion community is looking to the African continent for more than inspiration,” said Ernestine White-Mifetu, the Sills Foundation curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum, in an interview with NYT. “The fashion world at large is finally ready to pay attention.”

MAI ATAFO

A look from Mai Atafo. (Photo Credit: Ebuka Mordi)

With a penchant for luxury and sophistication, Mai Atafo stands as a beacon of haute couture in Nigeria. His designs are a seamless blend of classic elegance and modern glamour, appealing to fashionistas both locally and internationally. From meticulously tailored suits to breathtaking bridal gowns, Atafo’s creations exude timeless charm and impeccable craftsmanship.

Atafo’s influence extends beyond the runway; he is also a mentor and advocate for emerging designers, nurturing talent and promoting excellence within the Nigerian fashion industry. With his eponymous label, Mai Atafo continues to elevate Nigerian fashion to new heights, one exquisite ensemble at a time.

BANKE KUKU

A look from Banke Kuku. (Photo Credit: Bella Naija)

For Banke Kuku, fabric is her canvas, and she paints with an eclectic palette of colors and patterns. Drawing inspiration from Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage and her Yoruba roots, Kuku’s designs celebrate traditional Nigerian textiles while infusing them with a contemporary twist.

Each piece by Banke Kuku tells a story, weaving together intricate motifs and bold prints to create wearable works of art. From silky pajama-inspired looks to statement accessories, her collections exude a sense of joy and individuality, inspiring women to embrace their heritage with pride and style.

CUTE-SAINT

Looks from Cute-Saint. (Photo Credit: Cute-Saint)

In the fast-paced world of streetwear, Femi Ajose, the designer behind the label Cute-Saint is making waves with his bold, edgy designs that push boundaries and defy conventions with his genderless collections. He has a finger on the pulse of urban culture, Ajose’s aesthetic is raw, rebellious, and unapologetically Nigerian.

From graphic tees adorned with Afrocentric motifs to oversized jackets, Ajose’s creations for Cute-Saint resonate with a younger audience seeking authenticity and self-expression. His brand reflects the dynamism of Nigerian youth culture, celebrating diversity and individuality in all its forms. The designer also has sustainability on his mind as all his creations are made in Nigeria with dead stock fabric that comes from prior collections or has been found at the city’s famous Yaba market.

DYE LAB BY RUKKY LADOJA

Rukky Ladoja on Building a Socially Responsible Nigerian Fashion Brand Dye Lab. (Photo Credit: Okay Africa)

In an era of eco-consciousness, Rukky Ladoja is leading the charge for sustainable fashion in Nigeria with her brand, Dye Lab. Using traditional dyeing techniques and natural materials, Ladoja creates vibrant, one-of-a-kind garments that are as kind to the planet as they are stylish.

From tie-dye dresses to hand-painted skirts, every piece from Dye Lab is a testament to Ladoja’s commitment to ethical fashion. By championing sustainable practices and supporting local artisans, she is paving the way for a more environmentally friendly future for Nigerian fashion.

EKI KERE

Nigerian Actress Nancy Isime Stuns in Eki Kere. (Photo Credit: Fashion Ghana)

With her free-spirited designs and bohemian aesthetic, Abasiekeme Ukanireh, the designer behind the label Eki Kere, captures the essence of wanderlust and adventure. Drawing inspiration from her travels across Africa and beyond, Ukanireh ‘s collections are a tapestry of cultures, textures, and colors.

From flowing kaftans to embellished headpieces, Ukanireh’s designs for Eki Kere’s evoke a sense of wanderlust and whimsy, transporting wearers to far-flung destinations with each piece. Her brand embodies the spirit of exploration and self-discovery, inviting fashion lovers to embrace their inner nomad and journey beyond the ordinary.

 

Remember to view UoF’s lessons on West African textiles.

So, tell us, do you think Africa can become the next fashion destination?



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