Photography Kevin Tachman
This time last year Lagos was poised for the first major fashion event of its kind in Nigeria to begin. The excitement was palpable in the weeks and days running up to ARISE Magazine Fashion Week 2011 as news and gossip spread about who would show, which international beauties would grace the catwalk, what popstars would perform and where all the VIP passes were being hidden.
Of course ARISE was no stranger to hosting fashion spectaculars. With events in Johannesburg, Paris, London and New York already under our belt, the bar had been set. But AMFW 2011 promised to be special. This was our very first full fashion week – waving the flag for ARISE and for African fashion from across the continent and diaspora – on home turf.
The ARISE editorial team arrived at the Federal Palace hotel in March, the day before AMFW 2011, to find the foyer absolutely heaving. Designers whizzed around with rails of clothes, models arrived for fittings and the production crew tried to look calm under pressure. All signs were good. The following day, Lagos’s best dressed and local and international press arrived in droves for the first shows by the likes of Maki Oh, Buki Akib and Ituen Basi. After the odd pit stop in the Belvedere/Temple Muse bar for drinks and a flick through ARISE magazine, guests were then welcomed into the main tent in the evening.
A black and glittering space with a full-length runway, this was where a full house watched back-to-back shows by Amine Bendriouich from Morocco and Korto Momolu from Liberia as well as local favourites the Okunuren Twins, Jewel by Lisa and Tiffany Amber. As a PA from Naeto C played us out at a sprightly midnight (insert Africa Time joke here) a jubilant atmosphere prevailed and the satiated audience disappeared into the night for the first of several after-parties. It was safe to say that after weeks of planning and anticipation, AMFW was off with a bang.
Two more days of shows were filled with fashion moments: Bunmi Koko's fearsome masquerade, Deola Sagoe's geisha girls, Wale Adeyemi's rude boys, Odio Mimonet’s embellished beauties, Pierre Antoine Vettorello’s fire-starting gowns and KLûK CGTD’s parasol-wielding brides among them. And there was music to match as Estelle danced on stage with a group of "aunties" in matching aso-ebi outfits, and Tinie Tempah performed at the finale gala awards show, during which it was announced which designers had been selected to form the ARISE Made In Africa collective at NYFW.
Over three days of shows, with a mammoth 5,000 guests, 51 designers, 81 models and five musical performances, AMFW blew the fashion world away. The Washington Post described "a dazzling show". ITV Tonight said it "put Nigeria on the fashion map". And The Telegraph called it "a vibrant catwalk spectacular". In other words, AMFW was an unqualified success.
And so here we are, back again. AMFW is about to turn two and my oh my, just look how much it’s grown! This year we run for six days and welcome almost 80 designers to Lagos from six continents, many of whom have never shown in Nigeria before. London Fashion Week favourites such as Ozwald Boateng, David David and PPQ; New York Fashion Week designers Mataano, William Okpo and LaQuan Smith; South African stalwart Gavin Rajah; and new talents including Kezia Frederick and Clan all join the schedule for what is certain to be the most extensive fashion week on African soil ever.
In short, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I hope you enjoy the shows.
Helen Jennings | ARISE Magazine, editor