Nigerian Fashion: Through the Years

Nigerian Fashion: Through the Years

By Uduma Kalu

IN 1993, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, former national President of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) and owner of Rose of Sharon (House of Fashion) travelled to the United States of America to attend the Black Expo Exhibition. She went there again in 1999 and did some shows in New York, Washington D.C. Atlanta, Georgia, Mississippi and Maryland as part of the International Black Buyers and Manufacturers Expo at the Washington D.C. Centre.
At both exhibitions, Folorunsho tried as much as she could to meet up with her western counterparts but failed. This failure later made her realise that she could not compete with the westerners in their own line because they know it better than she does. It is not in African countries, she thought, to work with fabrics like pure virgin wool.
Yet, the fashion designer wanted to compete amongst the westerners. She thought of the way to do so. Then suddenly, she got the answer. “Rather than compete with them using their pure virgin wool and their cotton, I opted for something from the eye of Africa.”
So, Folorunsho started working with ethnic fabrics that celebrate Africa, capturing and representing the styles, symbol, sign, dreams and aspirations of the people. On designs, she decided that it is necessary to understand that fashion is relevant, relative and dynamic. It must be relevant to the culture and environment where it is being sold.
The result of her research was the production of designs that were originally African but also embraces contemporary realities. For her, therefore, the designs must be a hybrid of African heritage and exemplary western designs. She felt that this way, new designs would be made without them being wholly African but a blend of western and African designs.
This research by Folorunsho seems to be the idea controlling contemporary fashion in Nigeria today. Through this way, the Nigerian design has been able to make an impact in the world fashion scene.

[Why Nigerian fashion is taking on the world lately]`

But this was not the case some 20 or so years ago, no thanks to colonialism which for over 100 years, condemned African ways of life, including the fashion. The result of that indoctrination was a rise of a mindset amongst the people that what is African or made in Nigeria was not good enough. To break away from this thinking is only possible when the people are made to experience and appreciate the beauty and depth of their heritage.
To some extent, it seems this effort to bring the people to appreciate the African culture is paying off. With the campaign effort of late Mazi Mbonu Ojike of boycott the boycottables fame, which caused the federal government to make it compulsory for its public servants to wear Nigerian wears to their offices on Fridays, to the flamboyant traditional wears of late Chief Okotie Eboh, former finance minister, prominent Nigerian politicians and leaders such as Chief Tom Ikimi and Ibrahim Babangida began to notice the need to wear Nigerian inspired clothing. The more celebrities or role models are in this crusade, the better for the industry.
[Origin of Fashion]`
The difficulty associated with promoting Nigerian design and clothing may actually be based on the origin of fashion as a concept.
The fashion industry, which is today a multi-trillion dollar business in the world, is understood as part of a cultural and social history. Fashion cannot be separated from our daily lives; even those who refuse to follow fashion, it is argued, do so in order not to partake in trends.
But fashion itself is a modern European phenomenon. Its rise is inseparable from the emergence of capitalism in Europe. Fashion, in a narrow sense, is a development out of the bourgeois 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution. In the words of Folorunsho, in her book Fashion: The African Connection, before fashion evolved, there were traditional costumes or clothing worn by people the world over. Apart from its distinguishing factors, clothing was solely used functionally for covering up of the body and for protection from heat or cold or other environmental factors.
In Africa, apart from the use of clothes for decoration of the body, the body was equally adorned with painting, tattooing or by the wise use of jewellery.
Among sociologists, clothing, other than its functionality, has from the beginning of time been used for the decoration of the human body. The origin of fashion, they argue, is therefore, the desire to adorn oneself.
The difference between clothing and fashion in the modern sense, as the argument continues, is that unlike fashion, clothing has no defined purpose.
Many people would have owned few clothes if their desire were solely functional. Fashion, it is said, suggests that man is not satisfied with functionality of clothes alone.
Traditional clothing separates social classes and regional groups. It is standard, and its costumes symbolise a community and constancy. It never changes. City and rural dwellers in Nigeria can distinguish the Eastern way of dressing from that of the Northern or Western as each identifies with the various ethnic groups.
Traditional clothing hardly ever changes. If any change occurs, it is only in very little details, and this can be very slow. It hardly expresses individual personality as it indicates group membership and is timeless.
Fashion, on the other hand, is not standard as it derives its appeal from its transience nature. However, fashion emphasises belonging to a certain social stratum but it expresses individual personality.
In the late middle age, the bourgeois and the aristocrats began to use clothing not only to separate themselves from other social classes and assert their social positions they also used it to express their individuality. That was when the word fashion became a concept.
[The Hair Ways]`
Hair has always been seen as part of body beautification for the Nigerian man and woman. In the pre-colonial times, it was given a special attention during important occasions and ceremonies. Men and women, in Nigeria, adorned themselves in almost the same way. Low cut was the norm, as long hair was not given much attention. They could scrape the hair almost bare and leave only some patches.
But this evolved as contact with colonialism affected it. Many readily perm their hare or do jerry curls today. But a glance around will show that the hairstyles of the old have returned, strongly. And it seems to have taken over from the perms and jerry curls.
The return of the hairstyles is a thing of joy to the Nigerian fashion industry. It shows that we are going back to our roots, and that one can still look beautiful with or without curls and silk.
[Hair Styles in Nigeria]`
Two traditional techniques of styling hair have survived to this day. They are braiding and hair threading. Braided hair, worn in various styles, was either for daily or ceremonial occasion.
The braided hairstyles, worn by women in simple occasions, had the hair arranged in neat ridges, and this worn daily. The braided ones for ceremonial occasions had some intricate styles and were reserved for special occasions.
The technique of braiding is generally one in which the hair is braided firmly at the surface of the scalp. It also depends for its effects on the patterns or intricate formed on the scarp through hair parting.
Recently, there have been countless innovations of braiding. There are the traditional Yoruba norms for basic styles such as Suku, (basket), Ipako Elede (occiput of a pig), Koroba (bucket) and Kolese (leg less).
[Hair threading]`
The Igbo method of plaiting with thread is on a return but this time, most people use wool or the nylon thread to avoid the mundane appearance of the old style.
Among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria, and the people of the Niger Delta, changing hairstyle signalled the growth of a girl towards maturity. As the girl began to spot breasts on her chest, she started to dress her hair in a way to attract men.
In a period of eight years, the girl adopted a style annually; each style would be to display her neatness and choice of variety. During her wedding, a particularly coiffure marked the day. The hair was generally coated with a mixture of charcoal, clay and oil, moulded into a crest, which was decorated with coils of hair, coins and brass ornaments.
The Fulani, also known as the Fullah, are a Negro-Hermetic race of nomadic pastoralists found in semi-desert Saharan region of West Africa. Because they are very much scattered, there are noticeable differences in their dresses and hairstyles. Traditional dressing among the Fulani women has survived in spite of the requirement of the Islamic faith, which requires women to conceal their hair with shawls.
The dressing of hair, among them, starts at a very early age. Styles are linked to clan, age set and locality.
Girls have their hair corn rowed or simply braided until they are married when they begin to don more feminine styles. Young boys have their heads toncilled so as to leave tufts of hair in various designs, a practice that persists until they are circumcised. After this, the boys will begin to wear their hairs in braids, which become more elaborate during courtship. They shave their hairs clean after marriage.
The Fulani sometimes adopt simple hairstyle but some special occasions require very complicated traditional coiffures, which range from the imposing crests worn in Guinea and Mali to the exquisitely united hair of the Shuwa Arab of Northern Nigeria. Some of these are so complex and take long time to finish that the wearers lie on the head dressers lap while she work on them. Such styles are often decorated with ornaments such as coins, shells, beads and coins.

[Jewellery]`
Jewellery as ornament is indigenous to Africa, since time immemorial. The Egyptians used it, and among the blacks Africans of the continent, it is lacerates every facet of their history making it impossible to separate the two.
Jewellery matters to people based on the value they place on it. For example, the coral beads are obtained from the seabed and are very dear to the people of the Niger Delta.
Gold is another example. In the Northern part of Nigeria the people adorn themselves and their children with it at a very tender age.
In the East, the beads and others such as jigida are treasured and worn around the waist of the maidens as a symbol of virginity. Today, beads are part of the ever-growing fashion world.
[Where to find Nigerian jewellery]`
The making of jewellery requires craftsmanship. Usually, it is passed down from generation to generation. Different beads precious stones and cowries have different ways of producing them.
In Nigeria, precious stones can be obtained easily in Jos where they are produced and processed. Different stones are processed from beginning to the finish with a resultant different shades and hues at different stages.
And Nigerians are very good at it, being a very meticulous and creative people. The jewellery they produce has a marked difference in the world, and has quality. African jewellery is reputed for its market value and can be used as collateral
But getting jewellery is a difficult task, requiring mines, excavators, water pumps and others. It requires deep digging, and yet, when they are got, it will not be the end as its natural form calls for cutting and polishing in order to be a finished product. Good stones not cracked are required. So, the machine is not supposed to break them, especially, gold.
Coral beads are however got from the sea. To get them is as hard as mining precious stones. It could be easily produced through modern Japanese technology by injecting an oyster and it duplicates. The coral beads come big and are very expensive. Wearing it places a certain position on you because if you do not have money, you cannot afford to wear the real coral beads. What it is easily available is the lay-by.
Among those that wear coral beads, it is believed that the coral beads in the common market are not the first class ones. They do not come cheap either.
The production of jewellery however depends on jewellers and where they get the beads.
Some of the jewellers are onyx, which is found in Jos, and it can be designed to one’s choice. There is smoky Kwaz, which could be mixed with Amethyst for a stunning effect.
They are pink, opal, blue, green topaz and cat eye. These entail an easy procedure, as they require only a stringy. Beads could be held with copper wires. Some earrings are cast in gold but being an African concept, it is better done in an African way.
Inscription on pendants involves the use of some sort of iron blade. It is put in the fire and the design painstakingly drawn out. In the North, the pendant inscription is cherished and the people are known for this. They are good at this as their art works and engravings can testify.
Cowries are unusual but they were used as money centuries ago. Today, they are part of fashion and evidence of Nigerian heritage.
Elephant tusks are also popular for making distinct Nigerian jewellery. But the prevalence led to widespread poaching and increase in the number of elephants killed for their tusks. Trading in elephant tusk is banned in Nigeria and several African countries.
Jewellery may have evolved from various stones which the metal worker, through hammering, soldering, repose, welding, and engraving has turned into beautiful ornaments. The enameller, the gun cutter and the maker of glass paste and other substitutes for precious stones played part in the history of the art too.
Necklaces, earrings and bracelets could be worn as decorations just as amulets can be worn for magical and religious purposes. Crowns and chains also designate position.
[Corals]`
The coral has been part of Nigeria that in some sections such as the riverine areas, it is part of the dress culture. It also has its own significance as a sign of dignity.
Fashion designers these days have had some range of traditional wears using coral as designs or decoration on them. This new evolution has brought the coral to the fore, away from its local background position.
The coral called ivie in Urhobo and Edo languages and Iyun in Yoruba is a symbol of title and is related to water and the goddess, Emere, is reputed to be its custodian.
It signifies respect and dignity but designers believe that it is important and dynamic in fashion.
It is there common to find fashion loving Nigerians wear a coral and don a western suit at the same time. This is a marriage of effect utilising African ornament with western wears.
It is important, as fashion designer say, “to break down the myth and symbolism of our ancestors so that they will be relevant to time and not become extinct, so that people of this generation might be able to walk into it”.
To this end, Nigerian designers have revolutionised the use of this great jewellery by infusing it as accessory on clothes for the distinctive African appearance. One of these creative costumes has the face of Mandela, an abstract face patterned with coral.
This use of the fashion is said to be the reason why some Nigerians believe that the African fashion statement is not fashion for fashion’s sake. It is not to look good alone but to speak, to show and hear Africa. It captures the temperament, elements, and philosophy of the people as well as their heritage.
[Fabrics]`
Some of the companies like ABC, WAX, AFPRINT and WICHEMTEX in Nigeria have good fabrics, and are usually sold in the local market. But some fashion designers like Folorunsho would not want to buy those fabrics sold at the common market. This is her reason for not doing so: “Fabrics sold to the Nigerian market are used mostly by the women folk to do wrapper and tops, and I think is a little uncomplimentary if I make clothes for a guy and he adorns it to go to a party, only to see a woman selling groundnut (epa) along the road, tying it as a wrapper. I have done it before, so I opt to use fabrics that are not common in the local market”.
Some Nigerian designers therefore prefer fabrics that are not commonly found in the country. Some of them work with Woodin in the Cote dIvoire, an affiliate of CFCI Textiles in Holland. Its textile tends to reflect true African looks, especially their patterns that capture the Adinkram symbols of Ghana. These are symbols of sexuality or the rituals of rites and passage of Africa like circumcision. The Ank denotes the omnipotence of God.
Woodin fabrics also capture the wild life of Africa in addition to the theme of celebration, which is contemporary. The clothing must be relevant to people that are young for they are the ones a lot of colour and varied patterns appeal.
Some designs go to Ghana, South Africa etc. to get fabrics. However, most of the prints in the African fashion market are made outside of the continent, telling much of the development of textile manufacturing as development on continent Fabrics come from China, India and Bangkok displaying the spirit of African culture. Textiles like Lentex, Spandex and Stretch fabrics have ethnic patterns reflecting the life and elements of Africa. The Asian textile industry can be a role model for Nigerians to learn from, as they seem to be catching up with trends more than we are.

[Nigerian Fabrics ]`

[Tie and Dye]`
Dyeing is one industry done for Nigeria, not for tourists, as it is not highly demanded by them. The trade thrives, largely in the North so much that it used to compete with imported textiles.
The Yoruba like bright colours from overseas. So, the demand for the local cloth, though persistent among them, is slim.
Some big towns in the north like large spaces for dye-pits. A dyer has several of these pits, each about eight feet deep, some for actual dyeing, and one or two for rinsing.
The noticeable aroma of indigo, now used together with airline indigo from Europe lies over the place, as the dye is often allowed to accumulate and become stale.
Nigerians have not entirely switched over to airline dye because being fast, it does not come off the skin, which is seen as an undesirable side effect.
The clothes are left lying in the mixture for a day or two, then rinsed and dried by being laid out on the surface. Now, the pits are generally walled with cement, as in Kano.
In the North, it is easy to notice chiefs and notable people in deep blue shiny turbans locally wound round their heads, which give a rich appearance to their attire.
This is a property of the cloth imparted to it, not gloss. This is done when the cloth is first dyed indigo by dipping several times until saturation point. The indigo contents is then increased further by a technique similar to the much more ancient- some say pre-textile method- making basic cloth. The cloth is laid over a tree trunk and beaten vigorously with heavy mallets or beaters. Liberal amounts of dry indigo in powdered form are then sprinkled on and so it and so it becomes the main vehicle of the gloss.
The Yoruba are adept at pattern dyeing which they call adire. There are different techniques though they are all based on the same principle of reservation of certain areas of the cloth from the dye, so that the pattern is seen in white or in lighter blue of the blue background. The reservation may be effected by tying small stones or seeds into it or by the resist method, in which cassava starch is pointed on the cloth either by free hand or through stencils. Before, it used to be of leather, then of zinc and now of tin.
[Adire]`
Among the Yoruba, the traditional colour for wrapped skirts, loose blouses and headties is blue, the colour of indigo. In most Yoruba markets are rolls of cloth with beautiful patterns. Mostly the women who dye them sell them. Men and the youth also engage in this business. They concentrate in-groups around canals boiling, beating, tying and beating the cloths.
Small circular designs are made in some tie-dyed cloth, by pinching up lots of the materials and tying them with raffia or thread before dying.
To produce the larger designs, tucks are made in the cloth and tightly sewn. When the dyers dip the white cloth into their big drums, the indigo (now varieties of colours are used) cannot soak into the tied and sown parts. The result shows white after the cloth is dried up and the stitching and raffia taken out. Then another dipping will stain the white designs in a soft pale blue or in a different colour entirely.
The patterns have a name each. There is ” The meeting place of roads,” a cross-shaped pattern in the centre of a cloth. A spiral shape of beads is called “welcome to the masquerade.”
There are resist-dyed clothes in which patterns are painted on free hand or using a metal stencil. A feather or a rib of palm-leaf can serve as a brush and the print can be a mixture of alum and starchy cassava that protects the cloth from dye. The patterns come out white when the paint is scrapped off and the cloth has been dipped in the indigo. There are geometric patterns, figures of men and animals, or leathers of the alphabet. Combinations of designs give rise to each name one can be called “All the birds are here” and another “We enjoy Ibadan.”
Ibadan and Abeokuta are some of the big cities in Nigeria that are centres of dyeing adire cloths. Many countries in West African sub-region also have them in the their markets, far away from the Yoruba area. The dyers of adire work with machine-made cotton materials but hand woven clothes can also be found in the market.
[Akwete]`
These are clothes produced in Akwete of Abia State, Eastern Nigeria. They are produced in a wide range of patterns from plain striped ones to profusely, rather picturesque types based on geometrical motifs of domestic animals. Others are patterned along symbolic objects floated on plain ground weaves by extra wafting.
Some weavers derive sources of their pattern motifs from inspiration and imagination while some copy or make their original drawings and then copy again them when weaving.
But not all the patterns found on akwete are indigenous. The indigenous akwete patterns include the Ebe, Kaki and Dada Nwakafa.
[Aso-oke]`
Cotton warps and wefts, imported or domestic, commercially spurn or hand spin yarns are usually the materials for aso oke weaving.
Among the Yoruba, anaphe, the wild silk is treasured and woven into strip of cloth called Sanyan, a clothing for important events.
The wild silk, in some places, is used for warp and weft yarns. In places like Ilorin, cotton fibre is used for warp and the indigenous silk for weft. Alari is silk fibre dyed deep red and woven into narrow band strips to be sewn into wrappers and agbada for weddings as well as other important events.
Narrow band cloth is the common nature for aso-oke in Yoruba. Often, weavers are commissioned to weave a special pattern of aso-ake for a family, friends or age groups for special events or occasions such as naming ceremonies, weddings, and funeral or important birthday ceremonies. Such cloth is called aso-ebi, meaning “family cloth” or “association of cloth”.
Etu is a special narrow band finely woven fabric from indigo-dyed cotton, which is deep, blue-black in hue and dyed over a period of three years. Etu is used for funerals and other sombre events.
The weaving of aso- ebi is a testimony of social solidarity and group identification. No doubt in the past, most aso-ebi were made from narrow band cloth, now, a variety of cloths, which is expensive and elegant such as velvet, brocade, lace and embodied eyelets may be selected in addition to commercially printed fabrics or hand-woven ones.
Locations for narrow band weaving are mostly found in the Western part of the country like Akoko, Owo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osogbo, Ibadan, Iseyin and Oyo.
Iseyin, Oyo and Ondo specialise in weaving sanyan cloth. Vertical woven looms, with designs made by the same kind of inlay technique is also made in the north such as Bida, Yola and Okene. Fashion designers today use aso-oke for exotic clothing, hats, shoes handbags and other types of accessories as well as soft furnishings.

[Weaving]`

Weaving in Nigeria is traced to Eastern Nigeria. Archaeological evidence of early textiles supposedly woven from brass and leaf fibres has been discovered and they date over a thousand years. But whether strips were woven simultaneously or individually is difficult to say, as no further evidence was available to corroborate this.
Kano cloths is the 1590s, was said to be used as currency. Researchers such as Barth (1851) observed that dyed and woven cotton were the main products of Kano. He described over 20 different kinds of cloth made in Kano and all its environs.
During the later part of 1800s, locally woven fabrics were exported to other parts of Nigeria and other countries. This was sadly reduced by the large imports of printed cloth from England, which could be purchased more cheaply than hand-woven fabrics. Still, the hand woven cloth remains treasured for important ceremonies and events. This was bolstered by the nationalism generated by the independence in 1960.
[Looming]`
There are two primary types of weaving done on two different types of looms, in Nigeria, especially in the Western region. While men and youth use a narrow, horizontal loom with meddles and treadles to weave strips of cloth infinite yardage, the women are primarily responsible for growing and processing the fibre for weaving. In towns like Oyo and Ilorin, the people plant, cultivate and harvest cotton fibres. They also spin and dye.
[Embroidery]`
Embroidery is like a stamp of African aesthetic on an outfit. Modern designs are given exotic embroidery patterns in order to marry western and African imprints.
The history of embroidery in Nigeria dates back to centuries. Though not indigenous to the country, embroidery has become integral part of Nigerian dressing.
Among the Nupe and Hausa research has proved that embroidery has been a long tradition and it is used on many types of garments, from Hausa farmers cloths to riding robes and ceremonial apparels.
The embroidery done on Mens clothes is traditionally made with dark stitches with asymmetrical and non-representational designs.
Gorgeously, voluminous robes, intricately embroidered are a symbol of prestige and rank for men in Nupe and Hausa communities.
Designs of the Nupe embroiders are well known and prized by Nupe and Hausa people. Three types of stitches are primarily used. They are the chain stitch, the buttonhole stitch and couching. The stitching is done with either imported or indigenous silk thread on either imported or hand-woven cloth. Often, indigenous silk thread in its own creamy colour called Tsmia in Hausa is used for the most prestigious and elegant Rigona robes on hand-woven narrow band cloth which is most times, creamy in colour.
There are still other types of embroidery designs in the country. These embroidered cloths are used as bedspread, tablecloth or wall hangings. Some artists say the colourful and cheerful cloths are the examples of “folk art”. But the Hausa call it “Hausa bridal sheets”. What is note worthy in these cloths is that the embroidery designs and traditional house decorations have similar motifs.
Embroidery was not also indigenous to the Igbo but surface designs for body paintings were easily converted to embroidery designs for table linens in the Igbo town of Arochukwu.
Yoruba men have also used some embroidery on clothing, round the neck of their traditional agbada.
[Leather Works]`
The leather industry in Nigeria is not as rich as it should be as the raw material itself, animal skin, is used for food, called ponmo or kanda.
Also, most of the leather from Nigeria are locally processed and is intended for the local market or rare export. However, fashion in Nigeria has reached a stage where diversity is the same. And leather has become hot item in the fashion world.
The place with the most leather products as well as its production in the country is the north. Most of the slippers and soft finishing are done with it.
There are also items such as leather waistcoats that have existed for ages but are still well used in the fashion world.
Daggers have sheaths made for them. Bags, purses, bracelets, shoes, hats other products are also made from leather. Their economic significance has pushed these leather products into expensive products.
[Headgears]`
There was time in Nigeria when headgear popularly called gele was almost compulsory for Nigerian women. In the 1950s and 1960s, gele was for the fashion diva of that time, the ultimate headgear. The women proudly wore gele to the admiration of other women from other climes.
The glory of gele was however, highest in 1960, the year of Independence. Lagos was agog that year and to reflect the festive mood, Nigerian women wasted no time in upgrading the fashion to catch the euphoria of the moment.
Different headgears also came in with the euphoria one of which was Onilegororo. This was one of the sky-scrapping head gears and it marked a new level of sophistication and the status symbol for society women Onilegororo, after the independence, was quickly replaced by Flora Azikiwe, the style, in honour of late First Lady and wife of the president of the new republic.
From then, it became the vogue to name headgears after public edifices and personalities, from Azikiwe to Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gown, Eko Bridge and National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
NEPA, patterned after the statute of Sango, god of thunder and lightening, which is the logo for NEPA, came into being in the 70s as a mark of recognition of the once mighty corporation. In appreciation of the beauty and architectural excellence of the National Theatre, a replica was fashioned by the lists which became known is National Theatre headgear.
But after the euphoria of independence warned, the love for headgear waned too. By the 1980s, following the ban on importation, the inflow of headgears reduced dramatically and with it, the imagination of the ingenious stylists whose fort it was to come up will names and styles.
The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) played a significant role in demise of the gele. The fall of the national currency, the naira, forced the prices of gele out of the reach of the average Nigerian woman.
The urge then was to satisfy the stomach. This out weighed the desire to spend some time for fashion, as it also required expensive accessory. Gele, to many people, became an occasional wear for Sundays, parties, weddings and other special occasions.
[Hats]`
The changing circumstances in the affairs of the gele gave way to a deeper westernisation of the average Nigerian teenager’s dressing that very rarely do young women wear gele or traditional attire show in their wardrobe.
So, while the gele is for grand occasions like the Christmas and special events, the vogue for her is the hat, the ultimate headpiece. It anger against this is not the appreciation of western dressing but the total rejection for what is African.
This danger has perhaps, made some fashion hat designers create a modern version of the gele aptly normal Fila oge.
Further researches and studies in the art of hat making have led to the introduction of relevant and constant invitations. The innovations have made hats come to stay as part of modern Nigerian fashion, leading to introduction of “group hats”, uniform hats.
Hats are made of different materials such as cynamay, a soft material dyed into a variety of colours and shades. Cynamay can be moved, twisted and cut into different shapes. It is light and suitable for the African weather.
There are also straw hats, the knotted style and the pail boxes. Some are designed with feathers and flowers such as roses and ornament, like sequins. About 80 per cent of the materials are imported. But the preferred hat colours, many people say, are silver, gold and platinum. But hat the colours in vogue are hot pink, lemon and orange.

[Nigerian Fashion Show]`
Unlike South Africa, Cote DIvoire, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and other African countries, Nigeria started late in exposing its designers internationally. Whereas the African Fashion Industry has come of age after several years of evolving from Western fashion to a leading inspiration in World fashion trends, Nigeria only started to display its designer’s works only in 2000. This was when the first international exhibition of the Nigerian Fashion Show featured eight Nigerian designers in Paris.
Before Nigerian Fashion Show, whose project director is Lex Mojo-Eyes, started five years ago, designers like Sophisticat, Rose of Sharon, Vivid Imagination, Dakova, and Latris not only blazed the trail but also kept the industry alive and functional.
The dynamic exhibition of the industry in Nigeria has brought in young, creative and innovative designers like Odua Originals, Mon Ami, Megitto, Wunmi “O Divine Creation, Kesse, Jabari all in Lagos, and Oak Exclusive Designs from Warri, Rimo & Royal Vintage from Kano, Mama Fashion from Jos etc.
However, there are problems facing the industry today, the biggest of them being funding for the designers.
Folorunsho would want the government and the private sector to come to the help of this industry. “Infrastructures and machinery used by the Nigerian designers are on the average not up to date. The government and private sector should invest in this industry because properly harnessed, it can be a major sector in the nations economy.”

Profile of some Fashion Houses

[Graces Hats]`
This out fit debuted in 1980. Just before the owner Mrs. Mark Chitta finished her secondary school education, she had been told that she had a talent in making hats and so she decided to go into it. Her first attempt fetched her N30 for three hats.
She began to assemble materials and accessories as she explored new ways of fulfilling her dream. The result today is Graces Hat. Entering the trade with no formal training, she had to learn by continuous self-assessment, not making excuses for her mistakes but dealing with them head on. She responded to criticism by evaluating them in order to improve her natural talents. Nigerians are very fashion conscious so Graces Hats has kept on re-inventing itself to meet the challenges of different occasions and clients’ demands. It is evident that her designs are among those anyone would consider as top of the range.
She makes different hats of which “Crotchet” is one variety. There are also “straw hats” which are cheaper than the crotchet hats. Mrs. Chitta’s travel abroad has broadened her understanding of the trade and has spurred her to be more innovative in her designs as she keeps pace with unfolding trends. She is inspired by what she sees people wear just as much as she could get some ideas in her dreams.
[Colours]`
Uduak Umondak, the vivacious designer behind the Colours label is as colourful as her designs. She designs unusual and electrifying outfits, specifically for the rich. She makes no preferences that she appeals only to this genre “I spend time to make an outfit and my creativity does not come cheap.” Indeed, Udy as she is popularly called, says, “I could be described as one of Nigeria’s leading Haute Couture designers.”
She uses expensive materials for her designs, not for her the relatively modestly-priced Aso- Oke. Hers are usually made of raw silk. At a time when many are still using cotton, she has discovered the exotic silk thread specially woven into Aso-Oke.
She uses shantung silk for her boubou and very expensive laces for her blouses and fitted skirts. Although she makes European clothes, she finds the African fabrics and styles more exciting.
The Colours showroom was a spacious, one-floor office complete with a catwalk ramp. Here she held several yearly show to usher in her usually exciting clothes.
A few years ago, she decided to experiment with the local Ankara fabrics. To this end, she organised a fashion show in 1997. By securing fabrics from Afprint and gifts from the corporate world, including First Class Tickets for two lucky winners, the N5,000-per head show took place at the Golden Gate Restaurant. It was an overwhelming success.
Unfortunately, a few days after the show, a mysterious fire razed her beautiful show room down. She was forced to close shop and relocate to her living room. But Udy in her usual spirit remained undaunted by the incident. She never stopped making clothes and she has put grand plans in place to bounce back even bigger and better than before.
[Jimmy King]`
Olujimi King was one of the very early designers who started using African fabrics for contemporary styles.
At a time, when many were still using the ankara and aso-oke for traditional iro and buba, he was already making jackets, waits coats, modified buba – and sokoto to suit international markets.
In no time, Jimi King had made his mark in America as an African designer, who appealed to the soul of the African American’s yearnings for a touch of Africa.
He loves using African fabrics and telling the story behind each symbol and graffiti. Jimi King usually makes his own fabrics, this he says is to forestall any problems. So whatever you buy from him, you are sure it is original. He concept was more Afro-American than traditional. He believed so much in the marriage of the two worlds. He cannot understand why we are stuck with the old ways instead of moving ahead and reaching out to the rest of the world. “I have a vision as a wearable art designer to translate my rich African heritage into worldly accepted fashion by fusing African styles with western fabrics and vice versa.”
Jimi is an artist at heart and his appearance portrays this inclination. Usually dressed in African fabrics, he has worn dreadlocks for choose to twenty years and believes very much in adorning his visage with African jewelleries. He describes his garments “as one of a kind wearable art.” This, he says, is because his fabrics are carefully hand dyed and printed with love using ancient traditional Yoruba techniques.
Born to a Nigerian father with a Sierra Leonean mother, his grandfather was a renowned tailor in Freetown, and his grandmother a textile arts in Itoku, Abeokuta. He attended St. Finbarrs College in Lagos, City College in San Francisco and Chelsea School of Art in London.
Jimi operates both in the United States where he has a massive show room in Atlanta, Georgia and a shop in Ogunlana Drive in Surulere, Lagos. He shuttles between the two countries, carrying with him a mix of cultures, a combination he has blended so well.
[Labanella]`
Labanella is a prominent Fashion House owned by the delectable Princess Abba Folawiyo. She began designing at the age of twenty, and at nearly sixty years of age, she has a wealth of experience in the industry, which she brings to bear on her cloths.
She started independently after receiving the necessary training from her mother who was a dressmaker. It was her interest that made her to excel. In making her clothes, she looks at people who give her inspiration on what to do and what kind of fabric to use. She does not stick to one design, but does all kinds of designs to suit every individual.
She designs what she loves to wear, and if people admire it on her, then she designs it for them. She does not like fitted clothes because most people do not have the shape for it. She also does not deal with the younger ones since she caters for the interests of the elderly and middle-aged women. Women in this class do not wear something that is too tight, they wear fitted clothes.
Princess Abbah uses brocade, print, cotton, or even silk and tries to combine them. She began combining African fabrics with brocade and when people like it, everybody followed suit. She mixes African prints with expensive fabrics for appliques.
She recalls he visit to a departments store in England where she saw an African fabric made into a little short jacket. At most two yards would have been used to make that jacket and they were selling it for five hundred pounds.
Princess Abba didn’t stop admiring it, but it was nothing compared to the designs available in Nigeria. `

[Contacts of Fashion Centres in Nigeria]`

There are so many fashion houses in Nigeria. The following are only representative of such houses across the
Some fashion schools in Nigeria

Path Finder School of Fashion, 202/ 204 Palmgrove, Phone 823208
Peacock Creations Ltd. 11 Ibiyinka Olorunnibe Close V/I 7740769, 2625595
Perfect Tailor, 14 Odunnuga St. Off Osho Street, Ikeja,
Rabboni Stitches, 5, Adedo Close Off Wilmer, Ilupeju St 963211, 774413
Ralex Fashion Avenue, 5 Toyin street, Ikeja
Rare Collections Ltd, Suite 5 F Block Falomo Shopping Centre, Awolowo Road , Ikeja 2692093
Reflections, 2A Osborne Road, Pees Galleria Ikoyi 2690443
Risikat Fasion Centre, 11 Igunnu St Off Freeman street. Lagos
The Rose of Sharon (House of Fashion), 13 Adeniran Ogunsanya St Surulere 5834141, 7744139
Today’s Men, 50 Obafemi Awolowo Way Ikeja
Trendies, 94 Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Surulere, Lagos

[Fashion Cosmetology 7 Catering School]`

Cathey Ltd Festac Gate Near Mazamaza 883918

[Fashion Designers]`

Sofisticat, 3 Ribadu Road, Ikoyi
Soft Touch 58 Alhaji Ammo St, Ojota
Tina Afrique Fashion Designers, 1, Ogundele St. Isolo, Lagos
Vogue Headdressing, Salon Olatunji House, Ikorodu0A%5BFashion+Designers%5D%60%0D%0A%0D%0ASofisticat%2C++3+Ribadu++Road%2C++Ikoyi%0D%0ASoft+Touch+58+Alhaji+Ammo+St%2C+Ojota%0D%0ATina+Afrique+Fashion+Designers%2C+1%2C+Ogundele+St.+Isolo%2C+Lagos%0D%0AVogue+Headdressing%2C++Salon+Olatunji+House%2C++Ikorodu0A%255BFashion%2BDesigners%255D%2560%250D%250A%250D%250ASofisticat%252C%2B%2B3%2BRibadu%2B%2BRoad%252C%2B%2BIkoyi%250D%250ASoft%2BTouch%2B58%2BAlhaji%2BAmmo%2BSt%252C%2BOjota%250D%250ATina%2BAfrique%2BFashion%2BDesigners%252C%2B1%252C%2BOgundele%2BSt.%2BIsolo%252C%2BLagos%250D%250AVogue%2BHeaddressing%252C%2B%2BSalon%2BOlatunji%2BHouse%252C%2B%2BIkorodu0A%25255BFashion%252BDesigners%25255D%252560%25250D%25250A%25250D%25250ASofisticat%25252C%252B%252B3%252BRibadu%252B%252BRoad%25252C%252B%252BIkoyi%25250D%25250ASoft%252BTouch%252B58%252BAlhaji%252BAmmo%252BSt%25252C%252BOjota%25250D%25250ATina%252BAfrique%252BFashion%252BDesigners%25252C%252B1%25252C%252BOgundele%252BSt.%252BIsolo%25252C%252BLagos%25250D%25250AVogue%252BHeaddressing%25252C%252B%252BSalon%252BOlatunji%252BHouse%25252C%252B%252BIkorodu0A%2525255BFashion%25252BDesigners%2525255D%25252560%2525250D%2525250A%2525250D%2525250ASofisticat%2525252C%25252B%25252B3%25252BRibadu%25252B%25252BRoad%2525252C%25252B%25252BIkoyi%2525250D%2525250ASoft%25252BTouch%25252B58%25252BAlhaji%25252BAmmo%25252BSt%2525252C%25252BOjota%2525250D%2525250ATina%25252BAfrique%25252BFashion%25252BDesigners%2525252C%25252B1%2525252C%25252BOgundele%25252BSt.%25252BIsolo%2525252C%25252BLagos%2525250D%2525250AVogue%25252BHeaddressing%2525252C%25252B%25252BSalon%25252BOlatunji%25252BHouse%2525252C%25252B%25252BIkorodu0A%252525255BFashion%2525252BDesigners%252525255D%2525252560%252525250D%252525250A%252525250D%252525250ASofisticat%252525252C%2525252B%2525252B3%2525252BRibadu%2525252B%g Sonny 5

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    Where are you? what you have started in this write up should be pursued to a conclusive end. There are no two ways about it; as far as we get stuck to western dress code rather than a dress code that allows for the luxirant use of African Fabrics, we remain colonised. QED

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