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brandsWednesday, 18 November 2020

The Best Nigerian Fashion Designers to Know

From hand-embroidered garments to innovative silhouettes and culturally inspired prints, the African fashion scene is truly diverse, with unique differences in design seen throughout every city in the continent. In Lagos, Nigeria, a community of emerging designers have caught the eye of Amira Rasool, founder of The Folklore — a concept store in New York City that specializes in fashion from Africa and the diaspora. Here, she tells FARFETCH about Nigeria’s most exciting fashion brands to watch.

About The Folklore

 

Based in New York City, The Folklore stocks the best of African men’s and women’s fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. ‘I created The Folklore back in September 2018 to provide a space for designers to tell their own stories,’ says founder Amira Rasool. ‘We are intentional about bringing in a diversity of contemporary African design. We want people to disassociate from the idea that Africa in its design industry is monolithic – on the contrary, it’s extremely diverse. The things that a designer in Cape Town is doing are drastically different to what somebody in Johannesburg is doing, and that’s only a two-hour flight away.’

 

Not only does African fashion provide styles for every type of wardrobe, but there are also many designers creating one-of-a-kind and handcrafted pieces. ‘This isn't a mass-market,’ stresses Rasool. ‘When you get a piece from these brands, you might be one of three people in the world to own that particular style. It’s a special item that’s going into your wardrobe; most of these products are handmade.’ This uniqueness is also evidenced in the fact that, globally, many people don’t even know of these brands yet. ‘For so long, cities like Cape Town and Lagos have been ignored by the fashion community,’ notes Rasool. ‘What people are seeing now is fresh in their eyes — even though that’s something they’ve been doing for over a decade — and that freshness gives the wearer an advantage. With these pieces on, they’re introducing something that’s truly unique to whatever environment they enter.’

The Nigerian Fashion Designers to Know

 

CLAN: empowering prints and colors

 

Lagos-based sisters Teni, Aba, and Tiwa Sagoe created CLAN to empower women through a range of modern silhouettes and bold, unique patterns that celebrate individuality. It’s this individuality which caught Rasool’s eye on Instagram, before she even launched The Folklore. ‘I kept seeing their collections come out and what I really liked about CLAN was that they had a very feminine approach to design without it being soft,’ she remembers. The design trio does so by combining colourful long dresses, sheer panels and prints with boxy fits and broad shoulders. Rasool describes it as ‘a sense of masculinity, specifically in the blazer looks’. ‘There’s usually a great blazer-dress in each collection,’ she adds. ‘In this current collection, they really focus on the small details, making sure that they highlight those and produce them on a super-high level; their quality is some of the best that I’ve seen.’ A special highlight for Rasool is ‘their use of print and textures and how they unexpectedly combine them whilst keeping the pieces very graceful’.

Andrea Iyamah: ultimate resortwear

 

Since 2013, Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah has used her African heritage to offer a new kind of resortwear, under the name Andrea Iyamah. Inspired by a bold palette and diverse cultures, the brand offers eccentric swimwear, ready-to-wear and custom-made bridal dresses. ‘Andrea Iyamah originally started as a cult swimwear brand,’ remembers Rasool, who describes the designer’s versatility as ‘really amazing’. ‘Everything is very much in sync, from an Andrea Iyamah swimsuit, to a gown or a jumpsuit.’ On the selection of pieces The Folklore stocks, Rasool highlights ‘flowy silhouettes and long dresses that you can wear at the beach and for dinner at the resort’. ‘I’m glad to have this collection coming to FARFETCH,’ she adds. ‘It’s truly for the people who are planning those holiday trips, where they can bring one of her long gowns under which you can easily slip a swimsuit – that’s something that people want on vacation.’

Fruché: everyday versatility

 

Fruché is a brand that explores the rich, historical and modern stories behind Nigeran women and men, seeking to challenge the way they’re expected to look and dress. ‘Out of all the designers we stock, Fruché is the most emerging,’ says Rasool. ‘I found Frank [Aghuno] – the designer – on social media,’ she continues. ‘Frank is really in tune with what women want to wear, and how we want clothes to make us feel – he manages to connect his designs with our daily lives.’ This is what makes his pieces reach everyone; not only fashion insiders, but also ‘women who may not be as daring’. A special highlight for Rasool is ‘the Osagie shirt dress’, which The Folklore previously sold out of and have now brought back for a new season in different colours. ‘Even though there are a lot of bands [of fabric] going across it, it’s not distracting and you can still move in it,’ she says. ‘I think he really has a woman in mind. It’s been great to see him grow over the years and get in tune with the women that he designs for.’

Lisa Folawiyo: African luxury

 

Launched in 2005 in Lagos, Lisa Folawiyo’s eponymous label blends traditional West African fabrics with modern tailoring and beaded embellishments. ‘I discovered Lisa Folawiyo early in my journey to exploring the African fashion industry, back when I started doing research in 2016,’ says Rasool, who was compelled by Folawiyo’s intricate designs — as well as her personal style. ‘She mixes her pieces with other amazing designers, and that’s really what The Folklore is about: putting our luxury on the same level as others outside of Africa. It’s about mixing and matching; about finding those pieces that can complement other great designs and live around the world, while still standing out as unique.’ Making women ‘look good and feel good’ is key for the brand, says Rasool. ‘[Lisa] actually loves fashion. It’s this really strong luxury brand that looks at prints and colours in a very contemporary way.’

Orange Culture: modern androgyny

 

Orange Culture’s Adebayo Oke-Lawal described his label as ‘a movement’, offering a mix of Nigerian-inspired prints and colours with a contemporary streetwear feel. All pieces are manufactured in Lagos, from ethically sourced, local Nigerian fabrics. Orange Culture was shortlisted for LVMH's 2014 Young Fashion Designer Prize and was recently nominated for the International Woolmark Prize in 2018. These awards are what brought the brand to Rasool’s attention, ‘before [she] even thought of launching The Folklore’. ‘What I really like about Adebayo is that he tells a story with every collection; there’s a lot of purpose behind it,’ she says. The first collection that The Folklore is bringing to FARFETCH is called Flower Boy. ‘What’s great about it is that he really leans into androgyny,’ comments Rasool. ‘He’s designed products that are truly unisex — I’ve actually seen both men and women wear the same items — and they’re super-flattering for both genders.’ According to Rasool, some key features from this collection are the use of different textures and embroideries applied to some of the silk pieces. ‘I really admire his talent – his pieces are really wearable art.’

Tokyo James: stage-worthy silhouettes

 

After relocating from London to his home state in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2015, Tokyo James launched his namesake menswear label. He designs for modern men who appreciate simplicity with a contemporary edge. ‘Tokyo loves a good suit and thick leather pants. And leather jackets are his big thing,’ says Rasool. ‘I really like that he is able to put colours that people don’t typically find masculine but the silhouettes alone still give them that aura.’ The balance between bold colours and sleek lines are what give the pieces a ‘stage appeal’: ‘A lot of musicians love wearing his products. You could wear his designs out on the streets, at night to a party, to a red-carpet event, and you could also wear it on stage.’ James’ clothes are perfect for men who are looking to dazzle out on the streets, says Rasool: ‘When I think of his latest collection, it gives me ‘Bad Boys’, 1990s vibes but in a polished, fitted way. You’ll see that in the black ruched leather pants as well as the leather jackets.’

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