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The History of Lagos Fashion Week


Image Credit: Lagos Fashion Week 2022


Established in 2011 by Omoyemi Akerele, Lagos Fashion Week (LFW) is organised by the fashion business development agency Style House Files. This event endeavours to elevate the Nigerian and broader African fashion sectors to international prominence by congregating media, buyers, manufacturers, and consumers. This article delves into the journey of Lagos Fashion Week from its nascent stages to its current veneration as a focal point of African fashion. Through a lens sharpened by academia, we unearth the synergy between fashion and cultural identity and how Lagos Fashion Week has become a potent platform for not only sartorial expression but also social and economic discourse.


As a paramount event on the global fashion agenda, LFW features runway exhibitions, showroom presentations, and the digital platform LagosFW Digital. Moreover, LFW sponsors various initiatives, lectures, and competitions, such as Woven Threads, Fashion Focus Africa, Fashion Business Series, Green Access, and the Visual Makers Fellowship. In its pursuit of international collaboration, LFW has forged partnerships with renowned fashion weeks and entities like the British Council, London Fashion Week, and Pitti Immagine. The history of Lagos Fashion Week encapsulates a dynamic evolution reflective of Nigeria’s socio-political milieu and its burgeoning positioning on the global stage.


Situated at the heart of Nigeria, the Lagos Fashion Week (LFW) stands as a testament to the city's pulsating creativity, weaving together threads of contemporary design, traditional craftsmanship, and social narrative. Its inaugural event in 2011 showcased over 40 designers, including Lisa Folawiyo, Nkwo, Maki Oh, and Bridget Awosika. Concurrently, The Fashion Focus Fund, previously known as Young Designer of The Year, was instituted. This annual contest was birthed to build the upcoming generation of Nigerian fashion visionaries. The initiative encompasses a year-long incubator programme designed to impart designers with the requisite organisational and operational frameworks, promoting scalability, sustainability, and business expansion. Distinguished alumni of this initiative include brands such as Emmy Kasbit, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Orange Culture, Kenneth Ize and IAMISIGO.


With each succeeding year, LFW expanded its horizons, inviting a more diverse roster of designers and, in turn, getting the attention of global fashion moguls. The intermingling of myriad creative philosophies at LFW has not only spawned a unique fusion aesthetic but also inspired dialogues about sustainability, ethical fashion, and the socio-economic potential of fashion industries in developing economies.


Image Credit: Lagos Fashion Week 2022


Since 2015, Heineken Nigeria has been the primary sponsor of Lagos Fashion Week. That year also marked the inception of the Green Access competition and runway show, promoting sustainable fashion choices among Nigerian students. In 2017, Omoyemi Akerele, the founder, contributed to MoMA's advisory committee for the "Items: Is Fashion Modern?" exhibition, which showcased African designers like Loza Maleombho and textiles such as Kente, real Dutch wax, and Lagos' Dashiki. Akerele also addressed African fashion's global influence at the subsequent MoMA Live conference. By 2019, the event attracted over 30 international designers.


During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Woven Threads initiative was introduced, emphasising Africa's transition to a circular fashion economy. This initiative, backed by Heineken, explored traditional textiles, waste management, and technology's role in fashion, featuring expert sessions with industry leaders. Concurrently, a Design Challenge celebrated African sustainable design. In 2021, Omoyemi Akerele was awarded a 500 million Naira grant to assist thirty Nigerian fashion brands, and by 2022, Lagos Fashion Week's runway footage was highlighted at the Victoria & Albert Museum's Africa Fashion exhibition. Akerele, who played a pivotal advisory role, also delivered the keynote speech at its inauguration.


Image Credit: Lagos Fashion Week 2022


Beyond being a visual spectacle, LFW has emerged as an engine of economic invigoration. The event annually galvanises local artisans, designers, and small-scale enterprises, providing a coveted platform for exposure and networking. Moreover, it has propelled the dialogue surrounding sustainable and ethical fashion, pushing for a more conscientious fashion ecosystem.


LFW has also become a venue for articulating social discourse, with designers often leveraging the platform to spotlight societal issues and foster conversations about identity, tradition, and modernity. The trajectory of Lagos Fashion Week encapsulates more than just the maturation of a fashion event; it narrates the vibrant tapestry of socio-cultural and economic discourse within Nigeria and its interaction with the global community.


The LFW continues to be a potent symbol of Africa’s sartorial renaissance and a dialogue between tradition and contemporaneity, promising an even more captivating narrative in the years to come. This historical overview illuminates the substantial dimensions of Lagos Fashion Week and its growing imprint within and beyond African borders. Through the interweaving of fashion and socio-economic narratives, LFW orchestrates a compelling story of cultural, economic, and social ingenuity and interaction.



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