The Nigerian fashion industry has grown over the years, with its footprint expanding in the global landscape despite major challenges facing operators in the country.
Some of the challenges hampering the growth of many fashion designers and entrepreneurs include poor distribution channels, power outages and lack of modern manufacturing techniques.
These challenges have made the industry unattractive to many investors, making it difficult for small brands to scale and transit to fashion conglomerates, like those in France, Italy and the United States, among others.
Despite the challenging business environment, Nigeria has produced designers and entrepreneurs that are putting the country on a global map.
The country is not only known for its many homegrown textiles and garment pieces; it has also produced top fashion designers who have developed many techniques and businesses along the way.
Below are some of the key personalities that have distinguished themselves in the Nigerian fashion industry.
Lexy Mojo-Eyes has made a mark in the Nigerian and African fashion industry. In 1996, he introduced the first major fashion event in Nigeria known as ‘The Nigeria Fashion Show’. He began by re-orienting Nigerian designers to look inwards by using local fabrics, accessories and designs in their production line. “If we wish to successfully compete globally on the world stage, then we must look inward for inspiration,” he said.
Today, unlike years back, almost every Nigerian and African designer uses mainly locally assembled materials.
The first Nigeria Fashion Show was held in 1997. Since then, it has been held annually. In 2000, Moyo-Eyes took 10 Nigerian top designers to its first international edition of the Nigeria Fashion Show in Paris.
From Paris, the event moved on to Milan, Rome, London, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Washington DC, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Shanghai, etc.
In December 2003, Moyo-Eyes signed a franchise contract in Paris with the international global fashion television channel, Fashion TV. This gave birth to The Nigeria Model Awards, whose goal is to create opportunities for young Nigerian girls who want to build a career in the international modelling industry.
Ronke Ademiluyi Ogunwusi
Ronke Ademiluyi, a graduate of Law, is a Nigerian fashion expert and entrepreneur.She is the founder of the Africa Fashion Week, a project that promotes African fashion designers through its subsidiaries, the Africa Fashion Week Nigeria and the Africa Fashion Week London.
Africa Fashion Week London is now the largest annual fashion event promoting and nurturing African and African-inspired design talent in the United Kingdom. It has showcased over 1,000 designers and exhibitors from Africa and the global diaspora to over 70,000 visitors and represented designers from 27 African countries and a further 20 African-inspired designers from countries outside the African continent, including France, Holland, USA, Brazil, China, the Caribbean, and the UK.
She has produced over 20 fashion shows including the Mayor of London’s Africa on the Square event during every Black History Month in London.
With over 27 national and international awards to his credit, Sola Oyebade, a UK-born Nigerian, brought Fashion Finest Africa from the UK to Nigeria.
Oyebade, aka Mr Mahogany, is a show producer and fashion icon. Born in London England, he has spent his entire life working in the fashion and entertainment industry.
He started as a model working on major advertising campaigns throughout Africa and later moved into show production. Such shows include London Fashion Week, Africa Fashion Week London, Wakaa the Musical, and London Lord Mayor’s Show, among others.
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi is a Nigerian fashion designer based in Lagos. Launched in 2005, her eponymous label includes couture, ready-to-wear, jewelry and hairpieces. Her collections often incorporate metallic fabrics, lace and African patterns. The Africa Fashion Guide recognises her as having “created a name for herself in high fashion in Nigeria.”
In 2011, she presented her collection at New York Fashion Week. Seen as an African luxury brand, her clothing line has been sold at Dolce & Gabbana’s ‘Concept Spiga’ store in Milan. In 2012, she was one of two designers asked to join the United Nations Fashion Development Project, which helps support her continent’s luxury industry.
In 2012, Italian Vogue wrote a piece on her, saying she has a “great following in Africa, where her designs are widely recognised thanks to the media and celebrities that support her.”
She is recognised for reinterpreting and modernising traditional motifs, making them an important part of her designs.
Ade Bakare is one of Nigeria’s most exquisite fashion designers. He is not only known for creating captivating designs, he’s also a household name in the business of fragrance.
Bakare started his trade in 1991 and has since taken it beyond the shores of Nigeria. He is the founder of Ade Bakare Couture in London and has a strong influence in Paris, Madrid and Brazil, among others.
He became involved in another aspect of the fashion industry when he created the perfume, Breeze, in 1998. He later introduced Bakare Breeze, a moderately-priced diffusion line that offers a collection of bridal dresses to cater for the design-conscious bride, award-winning signature jersey dresses teamed with ethnic textile adire as well as a series of kaftans, boubous and bubas and iros in silk and chiffon.
Folake Folarin-Coker is a Nigerian fashion designer and creative director of Tiffany Amber.
Her fashion brand, ‘Tiffany Amber’, was launched in Lagos in 1998. The brand has four standalone stores and boutiques in Lagos and Abuja. She has staged several fashion shows in Africa, Europe and the United States.
In 2008, she made history as the first African-based fashion designer to stage a show twice at the New York Fashion Week. She was the first recipient of the ‘Designer of the Year’ award at the African Fashion Week in Johannesburg in 2009 and was also awarded ‘Fashion Brand of the Year’ at the ARISE Magazine Fashion week in 2011.
In 2013, she received an Enterprise Award at the 2013 Women, Inspiration and Enterprise Symposium and made the Forbes Power Women list. She unveiled her ‘Nirvana’ spring/summer collections at DOII Designs launch.
Zizi Cardow is a forerunner in contemporary African fashion. She founded her eponymous haute couture label in 2000. After her debut year in the Nigerian fashion scene, she received the ‘Designer of the Year’ award at the Nigerian Fashion Show.
This marked the launch of her designs across the continent, and internationally – in 2001, her clothes were on the runways of South Africa, Italy, France and the UK.
In 2002, she staged a fashion show, dubbed ‘Jungle Renaissance’, which received rave reviews from both local and international critics.
Ejiro Amos Tafiri
Ejiro Amos Tafiri is a Nigerian fashion designer. She is the originator of Ejiro Amos Tafiri (E.A.T) brand, which was established to meet the fashion needs of a modern woman.
From starting out of a room in her parents’ home to running multiple outlets, labels and mentoring/training institute, she has successfully pushed her brand to become a top brand for African women.
Deola Sagoe is an haute couture fashion designer. Sagoe began designing in 1989 and became famous for her lively, colourful designs. She was once appointed to represent Nigeria in an international campaign organised by the United Nations World Food Program.
The campaign, titled “Catwalk the World: Fashion for Food,” began in Nigeria in April 2006 and later staged an event in Ghana, which brought celebrities like Damon Dash, his wife, designer Rachel Roy, and Ghanaian-born, London-based designer Ozwald Boateng.
The campaign’s goal was to raise money towards halving the number of hungry people in the world, particularly children, by 2015. Sagoe frequently exhibits her couture collection at Cape Town Fashion Week and has been an invited guest of New York Fashion Week in the past.
She unveiled her Komole collection in 2018, a selection of bridal and occasion wear, which draws upon the mood and myths evoked through the ages by royalty. Sagoe has won the ‘Africa Designs’ and the MNET/ AngloGold African designs 2000 awards, for which she was nominated by Andre Leon Tally, US Vogue editor.
Lisa Folawiyo started her label, Jewel by Lisa, in 2005 from her home. She bought 12 yards of fabric and made the first pieces with her mother. She has showrooms in Nigeria and in New York.
She incorporates traditional West African textiles such as Ankara with modern tailoring techniques and an emphasis on beading and sequin trim. Senegalese-American actress Issa Rae has worn her clothing. In 2012, she was featured in Vogue Italia.