Arise O’ Fash­ion­istas

THISDAY Style - - NEWS -

That the Arise Fash­ion Week stage was called “the most beau­ti­ful runway in Africa”was a bold, pos­si­bly con­tentious state­ment.

What makes it more ‘beau­ti­ful’ than that the fash­ion show­cases, pre­sen­ta­tions that hap­pen across the con­ti­nent through­out the year(s)? And was this state­ment not even lim­it­ing, crit­ics may have won­dered, play­ing into the Western nar­ra­tive of Africa as a coun­try? What makes a runway beau­ti­ful to be­gin with, any­way?

If beauty in this con­text is to be ap­prox­i­mated to di­ver­sity, to hon­esty, to putting on a show, then Arise earned its own au­da­cious tag.

The fash­ion ex­trav­a­ganza – as any other word would be in­suf­fi­cient to de­scribe it – did all the things it said it would.

It brought to the fore a col­lec­tion of de­sign­ers who are the now, the next and the fu­ture, show­ing de­signs that were at once con­ven­tional with new twists or rad­i­cal with old and fa­mil­iar ad­di­tions.

On the Arise stage we saw Ozwald Boateng, the award-win­ning, go-to de­signer for a clas­sic man’s look with edgy, sharp tai­lor­ing. There is no doubt that Boateng can cut a suit and ev­ery man, who wants to look like a lead­ing man, will go to him.

On the same stage, not long af­ter Boateng, we saw Max­i­vive, a younger de­signer, per­haps for the more ad­ven­tur­ous man. Max­i­vive who of­ten de­fies de­scrip­tion and con­ven­tion, showed clothes that are likely not for now, not clas­sic, but for the fu­ture. A fu­ture where the lines be­tween menswear and wom­enswear are blurred, where an­drog­yny is the norm rather than the ex­cep­tion. We ap­plauded them both. We also saw Lanre Da Silva Ajayi (LDA) pop­u­larly known for her Vic­to­rian era in­spired, stately dresses that ap­peal to an older, con­ser­va­tive woman. LDA sur­prised us all, shift­ing from that aes­thetic, em­brac­ing a more risqué one but still in tones, colours and fab­ric that sug­gest ma­tu­rity: gold. We saw sheer, thighs, a hint of butt but yet we saw roy­alty.

Where the older LDA was re­fresh­ingly push­ing the en­ve­lope, the younger male, Weiz Dhurm Franklyn sealed it with a tightly cu­rated show cov­ered in ruf­fles, vel­vet, ex­ag­ger­ated ap­pliques. We may have ex­pected a col­lec­tion ex­e­cuted through the male gaze and gra­tu­itous nu­dity. We were pleas­antly – again - sur­prised.

On the Arise stage too, we also saw ex­cep­tional, world class tal­ent and di­ver­sity. If you re­main doubt­ful, look to the col­lec­tions of Nige­rian Brid­get Awosika, Funke Ade­poju, Odio Mi­monet, South African Kluk CGDT, Rich Mnisi, Orapele Mo­dutle or Ivorien Loza Ma­le­ombho, Tan­za­nian, Mustafa Has­sanali, to men­tion a few. Their col­lec­tions were rich in story and ex­e­cu­tion. They would be at home on any­body or store­front any­where in the world – in­clud­ing all the sup­posed fash­ion cap­i­tals. One of the more in­ter­est­ing col­lec­tions of these was per­haps that of Chu­laap, from South Africa. Worn by celebri­ties such as Casper Ny­ovest, Mr Eazi, it is a uni­sex brand, run by Chu Suwan­napha, a male, Capetown-based de­signer of Thai de­scent. An ex­plo­sive melange of prints, his col­lec­tion was a clear homage to South African cul­ture. He did not use white or Asian mod­els. In one In­sta­gram post he said, “Your her­itage (South Africa’s pre­sum­ably) is my in­spi­ra­tion.” How’s that for di­ver­sity? And then there were the stars. The Arise runway was not done yet. Clearly, if you are go­ing to put on an un­for­get­table show, you need show­stop­pers.

First, the world’s pre­em­i­nent su­per­model Naomi Camp­bell cat walked. Be­fore this she had held the city spell­bound, spurn­ing hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs, videos wher­ever she ap­peared. One mo­ment, she was seen in Ikoyi with bil­lion­aire oil mogul, Femi Otedola, next she was hug­ging the tal­ented dance crew of kids Dream Catch­ers in Iko­rodu. On stage, she was just as mes­meris­ing.

Join­ing her on the runway were Nige­ria’s very own Oluchi Or­landi, Ojy Okpe both age­less, equally fierce. Only Oluchi af­ter all, could walk in a Quin­tera Ge­orge dress that was end­less sto­ries of struc­tural ruf­fles that might have over­whelmed a less ex­pe­ri­enced model.

Not left out was global fash­ion in­dus­try’s lat­est dar­ling, the fresh faced Imaan Ham­mam. Ham­mam who is of African-Ara­bic de­scent, is only 21 years old but has been on the cover of Amer­i­can Vogue three times. She was also namechecked by the leg­endary edi­tor of the pub­li­ca­tion, Anna Win­tour in one of her edi­tor’s let­ters.

There was also Vic­tor Ndigwe, a male Nige­rian model who is show­ing up in im­por­tant fash­ion cam­paigns and run­ways glob­ally from Bel­staff to Bal­main. One must also men­tion Uju, per­haps the most prom­i­nent and faith­ful face on Nige­rian run­ways and who has had the best walk in the game for years. The stars didn’t only shine on the runway, though. On the event car­pet, back­stage, and in front row, we saw Mobo­laji Da­wodu, Style Edi­tor, GQ; Nige­ri­anBri­tish mu­si­cian and de­signer, Tinie Tem­pah; Richard Mofe-Damijo, eter­nal Nol­ly­wood lead­ing man (who also walked the runway); Mo Abudu, tele­vi­sion mogul; Toyin Saraki, wife of the Se­nate Pres­i­dent of Nige­ria, healthcare phi­lan­thropist and one of the most pow­er­ful

What was also note­wor­thy about the Arise runway was a clear, coura­geous call to re­turn to the roots. Yes, mesh the Western with the indige­nous. But go even fur­ther, dare to deal with the indige­nous ex­clu­sively.

women in Nige­ria.

There was also Ruth Osime, Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor, THISDAY Style mag­a­zine and Co-Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of Arise Fash­ion Week. Be­fore the call for lights, cam­era and ac­tion, and af­ter the lights had dimmed and the shows had come to a close, she was an ever present force. She was like the Bud­dhist de­ity, Prati­s­ara with four faces and eight hands, over­see­ing ev­ery­thing, ev­ery­where at the same time. She made sure ev­ery crease was made to dis­ap­pear, that ev­ery de­signer was Arise ready and wor­thy, that the show went on, hic­cup be damned. Many peo­ple are quick to call her Nige­ria’s Anna Win­tour. No, she is Nige­ria’s Ruth Osime who needs no com­par­i­son or re­quires any val­i­da­tion.

What was also note­wor­thy about the Arise runway was a clear, coura­geous call to re­turn to the roots. Yes, mesh the Western with the indige­nous. But go even fur­ther, dare to deal with the indige­nous ex­clu­sively. Two de­sign­ers echoed this call the best.

In the Sunny Rose and Re col­lec­tion, we saw the in­cred­i­ble pos­si­bil­i­ties of the aso-oke fab­ric. In deca­dent shawls, skirts, colours, fringe de­tail­ing, wide-legged pants both de­sign­ers showed us a woman and a look that tran­scends time and place. She is some­thing bor­rowed, some­thing old, and some­thing new all at once.

The cre­ations and the mod­els were like the runway they walked, beau­ti­ful.

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