Exciting Nigerian Designers You Should Know About
Nigerians are widely seen as witty, social, and upbeat, and nowhere is this more prevalent than the creative industry, which encompasses the music, film and, of course, fashion. It’s no secret that the Nigerian fashion industry is a force to be reckoned with, thanks to many rising stars and emerging talent across the country. A key player in the international fashion scene, Lagos has its own fashion week, Arise Fashion Week, which annually showcases designers that are looking to shape and make their mark on the industry with their idiosyncratic designs and unique outlook.
Putting their Nigerian heritage at the core of their craft, these naturally diverse designers reflect the very best of the country’s vibrancy and one-of-a-kind nature. From self-taught creatives to well-trained designers, they all have clear visions of what they want their brands to achieve. As part of The Folklore’s aim to help enhance the visibility and success of the African fashion industry, below is a small selection of Nigerian designers that are proudly showing what their country has to offer on a global stage.
A graduate of the Istituto Marangoni fashion school, Kanyinsola Onalaja studied fashion design before founding her eponymous label in 2014. A true scholar of fashion, Kanyinsola also studied for a master’s at the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome and honed her skills with brands such as Christopher Kane and Giles Deacon. Her love of color and craftsmanship is evident in her designs for Onalaja, which are full of shimmering evening gowns, sequinned dresses and textured separates. Combining her Nigerian heritage with Italian design and classic British sensibility, Kanyinsola considers her designs to be “wearable art”. Onalaja’s motto is “it’s all in the details”, and we have to agree.
Twin sisters Sylvia and Olivia Enekwe-Okoji are the designers behind contemporary brand Gozel Green. Founded in 2012 in Lagos, the brand is on a mission to promote African narratives and tell stories via explosive designs that employ bold colors and unconventional silhouettes. Part of the storytelling the brand does is incorporating the twins’ Igbo heritage into their designs, for example, by adding words from the language on T-shirts. The designers are also inspired by art – specifically their artistic parents – and nature, which shows in the use of color-blocking, geometric lines and asymmetry in their designs. Gozel Green also takes the environment and sustainability very seriously. Great care is taken to source materials that are local to Nigeria and the Gash Dress, one of our favorites, is made using up to 60% recycled materials.
The brainchild of designer Frank Aghuno, Fruché was founded in 2014 and specializes in combining traditional artisanal techniques with a modern sensibility. The brand offers a fresh take on classic wardrobe staples, such as its Osagie Shirt Dress, its version of the button-down shirt. Through its output, Fruché aims to showcase the rich, historical heritage of Nigerian fashion while challenging the cultural notion of the way women are expected to look and dress. This results in fashion-forward designs and innovative creations, yet each piece from Fruché is wearable and versatile. With all its distinct looks and pieces that you won’t find anywhere else, Fruché is a thoroughly modern brand for a modern woman.
Born and raised in Nigeria, designer Abiola Olusola credits the stylish family members she was surrounded by for her interest in fashion. Abiola studied fine art and fashion at the Paris outpost of Istituto Marangoni, and returned to Lagos to start her eponymous label in 2017. Imbuing her brand with her Yoruba roots, Abiola brings her designs to life with the use of adire fabrics, eye-catching prints and modern silhouettes. By working with local artisans and craftspeople, Abiola is able to highlight the ways that traditional methods, designs and fabrics can still be a part of a contemporary lifestyle.