How Vogue Described Lagos; West Africa’s Capital Of Culture

By  |  0 Comments

Lagos Fashion“The energy, the people, the vibe are unbelievable. I just can’t imagine doing this anywhere else,” says Omoyemi Akerele, who launched Lagos Fashion Week in 2011 as a response to what she felt was a somewhat stalled local scene. “Fashion was just seen as entertainment,” she recalls. “Nobody cared about how designers could get their product in front of the right people. For the longest time, we had the same names recurring as designers in Nigeria.” Showcasing labels from across the continent, Lagos Fashion Week attracts an international audience, with Akerele the global advocate for African fashion design. She is keen to debunk certain stereotypes: “Sometimes there’s a question if there’s a designer whose aesthetic is not obviously African. You don’t see the print, you don’t see the pattern, you don’t see the embellishments. The question you get is, ‘Oh, is this an African brand?’ It’s about trying to tell them, ‘Listen, this designer might have a pared-down, almost minimalist influence, but that doesn’t make them less African.’

Lagos is not, as many assume, the capital of Nigeria; since 1991, that title has fallen to Abuja. But with an estimated 21 million people calling it home, it is the capital of just about everything else: business, naturally (Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, is based here), and of course film (Lagos is home to the world’s third-largest movie industry), but also fashion, music and art – all beneficiaries of the creative and entrepreneurial might of this mind-bogglingly vast metropolis. This month, with a spree of glamorous goings-on that includes Lagos Fashion Week and the ART X Lagos contemporary art fair, the city enters the most exciting phase of its cultural calendar.Omoyemi Akerele

The city’s booming art scene tells a similar story. “Most art fairs involve clean white walls and a very solemn experience. We’re different in that we respond to our location,” Art X Lagos founder Tokini Peterside tells Vogue.Set up in 2016, ART X Lagos is often described as the Frieze of West Africa (this year unveiling new work by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare) – but the comparison isn’t quite that clear-cut. “ART X Lagos is a proudly Lagosian entity, and we aim to capture the essence and spirit of our city,” explains Peterside, who, uniquely, has collaborated with the music industry to include curated ART X Live! events alongside the more conventional gallery shows. “Nigeria has the most thriving music scene on the continent, and we felt we couldn’t be in this city and not nod to that.”

“Being in Lagos, it’s like you’re sitting on the fence and you’re able to the see the world from both sides,” he says. “You’re from a third-world country but you have the same kind of information as someone in a first-world country. Someone who’s in a first-world country, they usually don’t have information about a third-world country, only what is projected to them.” It’s a thought that feels relevant to many of the creatives showing work in the city this season. “It’s a city of so many contradictions,” says Peterside. “There are so many things that aren’t being done right, yet people still have such positive spirits. No one in Lagos is passive.”