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How Arise Fashion Week in Dubai Shows The Global Appeal of African Fashion


Each year, Arise Fashion Week lights up Nigeria’s fashion capital of Lagos to showcase the best of its design talent, and attracting a host of insiders/revellers in the process.This year, the show went on the road, trading the shores of Lagos for the Middle East. On Friday December 3, Arise Fashion Week became a one-night only event as part of Nigeria Day at the Expo 2020 in Dubai.

Set against the backdrop of the iconic Burj Khalifa, the runway at the show saw looks from talented Nigerian fashion designers the likes of Lisa Folawiyo, Onalaja, TJWHO, Banke Kuku and Kenneth Ize. Iconic supermodel and longtime supporter of Arise and African fashion, Naomi Campbell, opened the runway show in a printed three-piece look by Lisa Folawiyo. Kenneth Ize sent down his signature woven designs while Onalaja presented the embellished tailoring it has come to be known for.

Onalaja runway show at Arise Fashion Week at Expo 2020 in DubaiOnalaja runway show at Arise Fashion Week at Expo 2020 in Dubai

Arise Fashion Week has long been a leader in highlighting and celebrating the new generation of African fashion designers, and their potential for connection and creation within the global fashion industry. Last year’s fashion week saw the introduction of the Arise’s 30 Under 30 Contest “New Stars”, a four-day design competition with a $100,000 first-place grant, which was handed out by Campbell to the winner Kenneth Ize.

In line with the Expo’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, the show, which was held at the Armani Hotel, exhibits the value that designers from Africa and the diaspora bring to the fashion industry as a whole, and to their homeland in particular. 

Onalaja runway show at Arise Fashion Week at Expo 2020 in DubaiOnalaja runway show at Arise Fashion Week at Expo 2020 in Dubai 

The role of fashion cannot be underestimated in placing the African continent within the global discourse as an international hub of design, film, music and art. Across the continent, the emergence of fashion weeks in major cities such as Lagos, Accra and Johannesburg, have played a key part in the increased visibility of fashion designers. In an industry that is projected to be worth more than $10bn by 2022, it is a fertile sector that is ripe for investment. Further, a recent report on Nigeria’s creative industry showed that the sector is positioned as the second-largest employer and has the potential to produce 2.7 million new jobs by 2025.

Nigeria is one of the biggest emerging markets in the world, thanks to its high number of young people aged 30 and under. For a while now, the country’s many talented creatives have been making swift breakthroughs across various sectors on the world stage, whether through Afrobeats music, Nollywood movies or art and design. The prolific crop of creatives emerging from the continent and the diaspora show that Africa’s artistic and dominance is more than a passing trend, and is here to stay.