One of the first impressions on arrival at the Fascinating Nigeria exhibition was that there seemed to be a lot of beautiful people in spectacular clothes. In time, it became clear that some of the gorgeous, well-dressed people milling around were actually living mannequins – models, decked in designer gear – some on pedestals, some rotating amidst admiring guests.
The creations on show ranged from hand-crafted wirework jewellery to adire (tie and dye textiles) and towering headgear, all made in Nigeria.
Nmachi Okafor, who represented Nike Art Gallery, said, “The adire material reminds us of our motherland, Nigeria. The managing director (Chief (Mrs.) Nike Davies-Okundayo) started making this product from her hometown, Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State. She sees it as a tool to promote our culture. The adire fabrics can be used to make ‘English wear’, which people are beginning to appreciate.”
Nwaego Muoma’s fashion house, Wego, is also committed to merging Western and traditional aesthetics. On display was a range of clothing featuring designs made from African print and florals reminiscent of an English garden. The clothes were highly detailed, some bearing intricate bead and embroidery work.
More intricate beadwork featured on the clothes by House of Maufechi, a label that has operated in Lagos since 1984. Ene Salihu, the personal assistant to the proprietress and designer, Maureen Onigbanjo, explained that all the pieces are beaded by hand. “We have people who specialise in the beads… We only use machines to join the fabrics,” Salihu said, as one of the G.I. models strutted past in a N75,000 Maufechi creation.
And for clients who require clothes for more pedestrian purposes? “We cater to the everyday woman,” said Idoma Kelechi Nwosu, the representative for Wego. “It has to be acceptable for it to be fashionable,” Nwosu said of the designs. However, she still pointed out some of the fashion house’s haute couture line, bearing the trademark detailing but also a much more “upmarket” price tag.