PHOTOS: Nigerian designers fashion a new aesthetic with traditional fabrics
Weaving contemporary designs into a traditional West African fabric, Nigerian Tsemaye Binitie is creating fashion he hopes can also bridge the gap between luxury and the everyday. His material of choice is Aso-oke, a hand-woven cloth indigenous to the Yoruba people and historically used on special occasions. Binitie, who cut his teeth as a design assistant with Stella McCartney in 2005, began using the fabric in 2017, and he infuses the yellow dresses that are his signature creations with cottons and silks to give them a post-modern feel. Fellow Lagos designer Lisa Folawiyo specialises in a different traditional cloth, the West African wax prints known as Ankara, and her hybrid collection, called Batkara, incorporates Batik designs embellished with needle-work beadings and sequin trimmings. "We have merged what is indigenous to us with what is familiar in the West and we've made it ours," she said. That same synthesis informs the aesthetic of Alara, a Lagos store dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion for the Nigerian and the diaspora markets. Its Head of Partnerships, Arinola Fagbemi, says more and more people are thinking about African luxury "in terms of how we live on a day-to-day basis ... not just for celebratory moments."