Following Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania to London Fashion Week for the International Fashion Showcase, we at SPICE were pleased to see the presentation up close and talk to the prize-winning Nigerian team – a gathering of some of the brightest talents from the country, brought together by Yegwa Ukpo who won the British Fashion Council’s award for best curator.
Held in a three storey car park on Brewer Street, the static showcase by Ukpo’s collective of designers – Orange Culture, IAMISIGO, Grey, Kenneth Ize and T.I Nathan – hit you more or less as soon as you came in; the country’s cordoned off corner clad in hazard tape and test tubes, recalling some sort of scientific experiment in style.
Apparently, it was a formula for success for Mr Ukpo, who’d beat 29 other countries’ curators to take the winner’s title, as decided by The British Fashion Council. His theme – thoroughly executed and consisting of Kenneth Ize’s striped trad-inspired look; a voluptuous gown from IAMISIGO; a laser-cut piece from Grey’s Spring/Summer’15 collection; and striking menswear by both Orange Culture and T.I Nathan – was discussed on a board displayed on the wall, explaining “an experiment in time that admires both the naturally – subtle and wildly – obvious progressions in the trajectory of a designer’s fashion artistry.”
But the “5 Metamorphosis” collection, which saw more of the five designer’s work bagged up in plastic vacuum packs alongside the mannequins whose mouths were gagged by warning tape, was about more than what the board would have had you believe. Certainly not out for the prize for the ‘prettiest’ presentation – the skin-deep stuff fashion does oh so well – there was something else at work, with thought paid to something slightly more uncomfortable, as IAMISIGO’s designer, Bubu Ogisi explained;
“This is about Ebola, about people’s fear of Nigeria and their misconceptions of the country and of our industry. People are afraid to travel to Nigeria because they believe it’s dangerous but we’re are more than that. We are more than just what people hear in the news.”
Suddenly the looped video playing in the corner made sense. It saw Nigeria’s growing muse, Uju Nwobodoh being screened for the disease which since its outbreak in March 2014 has killed over 8,000 people in West Africa, gripping any headlines that contain the word ‘Nigeria’ everywhere else in the world. Unless of course, the news is talking about Boko Haram.
“The first thing people are thinking now when they hear ‘Nigeria’ is Ebola and Boko Haram, so it’s good to just put it in their faces and say ‘there’s more to us than that.’
It’s good to put that out on the table, to say ‘this is what you think about us, but there’s more to us.’ You don’t want to hide it – there are reasons people don’t want to come to Nigeria.
– Adds Grey’s creative director, Rukky Ladoja, who’d just flew in from a trade fair her brand participated in, in Las Vegas.
Further explaining how her work came to be selected for the display at The International Fashion Showcase, Ms Ladoja told us at SPICE;
“Yegwa chose three pieces from our ‘Identity’ collection, that explored more fabric techniques; we went into laser cutting and we designed our own jacket weave pattern, and it was also about the growth of Grey, so it kinda worked with the whole metamorphosis theme here, because we’re talking about how we’ve gone through different passageways, different transitions to get to where we are and this is where we are now; stronger, better and with our own identity.
It looks amazing. I really like the concept.”
While Nigeria’s concept won the country the prize for best curation – the pieces pulled together by the overriding idea that the fast-expanding fashion industry and its designers are evolving alongside the World’s preconceptions of their birth place – it was Colombia that won the International Fashion Showcase ‘Country Award’ for its exhibition, titled “Framework,” which played with proportion, silhouette, technical process and textiles to explain the contrast of the country’s historic foundations and notions of modernity.
The International Fashion Showcase Designer Award was also presented within Colombia’s team, with Julia Manisto receiving the prize (though South African talent Maxhosa by Laduma also received a special mention) and all winners receiving a trophy designed by former IFS participant, emerging Brazilian jeweller, Fernando Jorge.
Other stand outs from the exhibit included Poland’s “Warsaw Calling” – a print-clashed, textured range of ensembles and shoes, dedicated to the positive response of mainstream fashion journalists to the country’s growing fashion scene – and Georgia’s “Art Fashion – Reconstruction 2 – Academy’s Labrynth” installation, which was about the reconstruction of the historic Tbilisi State Academy of Arts building – an eclectic mix of European, Classicist, Baroque and Iranian Qajar styles.
Also showing at the International Fashion Showcase was Tanzania, who experimented with traditional fabrics and techniques, with pieces including work by jewellery designer Jacqueline Kibacha, and South Africa’ s “Futraspective” bringing together ‘new wave’ and much-raved about designers Adriaan Kuiters & Jody Paulsen, Akedo, MaXhosa by Laduma, for a showcase on SA’s bright fashion future.
Back by Nigeria’s “5 Metamorphosis” exhibit, Bubu, who also mentioned her brand’s new collection would be revealed in just a matter of weeks, said of her experience at the event;
“It’s been amazing. We won best curator so people recognised the fact that we actually put a lot of thought into this exhibit. We’ve met amazing people, amazing buyers, press… It’s just been a really great opportunity to move forward as a brand.”
For Rukky, the experience provided the opportunity to network and learn from the other showcasing designers;
“I’m just trying to meet everyone, see all the other countries and what they’ve done and see how we can improve as well.”
We at SPICE were thoroughly impressed by all that we took in at this year’s International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week, and send our congratulations to Yegwa Ukpo and the entire “5 Metamorphosis” collective. Let us know how you feel about Nigeria’s theme and some of the other collections that showcased in the comments box, below.
Image source: SPICE TV