Lanre Da Silva Ajayi

the nigerian fashion industry is ready to take over

i-D spoke to the stars of Nigerian fashion (and one designer visiting from NYC) as they showcased their latest collections at GTBank Fashion Weekend in Lagos last month.

by i-D Staff; photos by Sean Sullivan
|
15 December 2017, 11:55am

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi

When and why did you start your label?
After completion of my studies in the UK, I moved back to Nigeria to kick-start my career. With a background in business administration from Coventry University, and an MSc in Finance from Leicester University, the ideal job I was looking for at the time was in investment banking or the Nigerian stock exchange. I applied to various banks and institutions and, during the waiting period, decided to let my passion thrive by designing clothes for myself, family and friends. I was so delighted with the positive feedback and demand for my designs that I decided to focus fully on been a fashion designer in 2005.

How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene?
Fashion in Nigeria is booming. We are a society that embraces fashion, as we love to look good and dress up for every occasion. In Nigeria today, there are many new designers now to attest to the growth of the fashion industry which makes it interesting and competitive.

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi

What are the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
One big challenge is training the tailors. There are many machinists around, however pattern makers are hard to come by. We need a good fashion institute to teach the skills required. Another pivotal challenge is lack of power and infrastructure. This makes working conditions unbearable sometimes, with overhead costs high. Fortunately, the fashion industry is growing rapidly, hence investments from government and corporate bodies, which will help the growth and development of the industry.

What was the soundtrack to your show?
I used a variety of Afrobeats music from the likes of Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Davido and many more.

If you could dress anyone in your clothes, who would it be?
It would be a delight to have Naomi Campbell in one of my pieces.

Weiz Dhurm Franklyn

Weiz Dhurm Franklyn

When and why did you start your label?
I began designing at a really early age but professionally launched the Weiz Dhurm Franklyn brand in 2012. For me, starting my label was a way of creating my idea of what a woman should look like; bringing something more of a dream to reality. It was and is more than just making pretty dresses. It's more pieces that evoke an unforgettable moment.

How would you describe it in three words?
Surreal, feminine, captivating.

How does (or doesn’t) your brand fit within the scene?
Being a self-taught designer, the need to really be great at what one does is, by necessity, a learning process, through making mistakes. With such an urge to really make people understand your vision, a niche is created. It really not about fitting in; its about standing out whilst projecting art with a wearable approach.

Weiz Dhurm Franklyn
Weiz Dhurm Franklyn

What are the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
As a young designer, the biggest challenge falls within the timeline of distribution. Getting dresses into retail stores that appeal to the brand's high end aesthetic is not easy. So many have policies that don’t favour young brands, resulting in limited sales. Being a designer in Nigeria comes with the challenge of inaccessibility of major machinery and materials to help ease the workload, resulting in a surge in pricing of the final garment.

What changes in the industry would you most like to see?
More opportunities created for younger brands, especially those with a unique design standpoint.

What was the soundtrack to your show?
The soundtrack was a mix of oriental songs I had researched online. I was hoping to evoke a certain mood of calmness and utmost attentiveness, as music is such a powerful tool.

If you could dress anyone in your clothes, who would it be?
Beyonce Knowles. She's absolutely a dream.

Ejiro Tafiri

Ejiro Tafiri

When and why did you start your label?
I started in 2010. The eventual goal for choosing to study fashion was to setup and run my own business. I graduated fashion school in 2007 and had worked for 3 years as a creative assistant, and creative director for two fashion brands in Nigeria. It was really great experience, I loved every moment of it. But I was on a quest for a tougher challenge and decided to leave behind the luxuries my job afforded and venture out to actualise my dreams.

How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene?
It has grown leap and bounds in recent years. It is now cool to be a designer, it’s now a respectable career path. It wasn't like that about 10 years ago. It was deemed something that only students who weren't academically sound ventured into. It’s opened up so much now. It’s growing and seeking its place amongst the global fashion scene.

Ejiro Tafiri
Ejiro Tafiri

How does (or doesn’t) your brand fit within the scene?
We started Ejiro Amos Tafiri a few years ago with a vision to make our "Made in Nigeria" luxury collections readily available for women to access instantly. Opening up to a wider audience who also deserved and were ready to enjoy the fashion of their heritage, with their stories woven into the pieces. This led to a kind of revolution, with a lot of younger brands springing up and the confirmation that they could be artistically and commercially successful. We are at the front of this growth and revolution and will continue to work to inspire our generation and the next.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
I really don't view the world through the eye of challenges that stand in the way of obtaining my goals. But if I had to say anything, the biggest challenge would be finding good trained fashion professionals to work with. Valuable time is spent training and retraining. The other issues are government policies, laws that don't support the growth of enterprise and the fashion industry.

What changes in the industry would you most like to see?
Locally, for designers to be more confident in their uniqueness, individuality and heritage. To be bold in sharing their voice with the rest of the world. To strive for professionalism by gaining the required knowledge and skills to build brands and run successful fashion businesses. That we ascend to become a positive contributor to the global fashion industry, an undeniable voice.

Laquan Smith

Laquan Smith

When and why did you start your label?
I started my company in 2010 at the age of 21. I felt that I had a perspective of how a woman should dress that wasn't being represented.

How would you describe your brand?
The Laquan Smith woman is unapologetic, glamorous, and authentically NYC.

How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene?
I would describe the Nigerian fashion scene as an unexpectedly large and a true community.

How does (or doesn’t) your brand fit within this?
My brand fits into this because that same communal energy is found running through the
streets of NYC. Young creatives lifting each other up to create spectacular, original work. I ended up showing in Lagos after my team was reached out to by GT Bank. They liked
the celebrities that we've dressed and the other international shows we have put on and
wanted a taste of NYC in Nigeria, which I was happy to give.

Laquan Smith
Laquan Smith

What are the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
Going from a small to a medium sized business. I am so blessed that the word has gotten out about the brand and what we are trying to do, but it definitely is a struggle to constantly grow and update yourself. I like to call them happy growing pains.

What changes in the industry would you most like to see?
Increased visibility of African and African-American designers. Our representation throughout the industry is never enough, but since our ideas are profitable they are usually stolen.

What was the soundtrack to your show?
The soundtrack to my show was made by Maachew Bentley. Hip-hop music inspires the lifestyle and spirit of my woman and I always represent that from the music to how I want my girls to walk.

Mimi Plange

Mimi Plange

When and why did you start your label?
We started our label because we felt that we had a unique and new point of view in fashion,
and we needed to express it. After working for over a decade in the fashion industry, we felt it was time! We officially launched In 2010.

How would you describe it in three words?
Sophisticated, edgy, disruptive.

How would you describe the Nigerian fashion scene?
Vibrant, playful and emerging!

How does (or doesn’t) your brand fit within this?
We don’t fit in anywhere. And we aren’t trying to. We don't feel like we belong anywhere. This is disruptive. We work differently, we are on our own schedule, and we are mixing culture in a new way.

Mimi Plange
Mimi Plange

What are the biggest challenges you face as a designer?
Trying to get your work in front of as many consumers as possible while growing a business and building a strong foundation for your brand. You have to be a supreme multi-tasker and be able to juggle a lot of things. You have to be aware of world trends and you have to compete on a global scale.

What changes in the industry would you most like to see?
We’d like to see an end to “fashion seasons”. The world is changing. The world has changed. We don’t need to design so many collections a year. We do need to adjust to the fast-paced way consumers now engage with fashion,

If you could dress anyone in your clothes, who would it be?
We were beyond thrilled and honoured to have dressed both Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Rihanna. We are hoping -- fingers-crossed -- to someday dress Tilda Swinton, because we absolutely love her personal style.

You can find out more about GTBank Fashion Weekend in Lagos here.

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