Fashion shows have been around for almost as long as fashion has been around. Over the years the fashion shows sector has evolved and gotten better. Its role and influence on the fashion industry are becoming more glaring and the world is taking note of it. As the rest of the global fashion industry grows its fashion shows sector, what is the Nigerian fashion industry doing?
Modern fashion shows go back to the 1860s when Charles Frederick Worth used live models instead of mannequins to show people his designs
This week, we spoke with Olasoji Awofesobi on the present state of the fashion shows subsector of Nigeria’s fashion industry. We explored how fashion shows have evolved and how fashion brands are stepping up to the occasion. Formerly a model, Olasoji is the founder of Ibadan Urban Fashion Week (IUFW), a hairstylist, events planner, and a lover of fashion in all ways.
Ibadan Urban Fashion Week is a platform that seeks to develop the growth of fashion in Africa by planning amazingly creative shows. The brand started in 2017 and is on the verge of hosting its 3rd fashion show in Nigeria’s brown roof city: Ibadan.
More fashion shows in and out of Lagos is a big milestone for the industry
According to Olasoji, in recent times, the fashion show sector has revolutionised itself. The sector has taken a big leap forward from where it was a few years ago. 8 years ago, when he started his modelling career, it was hard to find any auditions to go for and fashion shows were poorly attended. Fashion designers, sponsors and the general public showed little interest in fashion shows.
“The orientation then was that models are a bad influence on society. That had a major effect on the impression people had of fashion shows and they were not open to it. It wasn’t until around 2016 that fashion shows became more acceptable in cities like Ibadan”, he said.
Various parts of Nigeria warmed up to the concept of fashion shows at different times. While Ibadan and other cities were still trying to understand it, Lagos had caught on much earlier. This explains the gap between the fashion shows we see in Lagos and the ones we see in other parts of the country.
Nowadays, more funds are put into fashion shows, “top private organisations partner with fashion brands to create unforgettable moments at these events. For example, when Tecno partnered with Lagos Fashion Week, it was a magical experience. The collaboration turned out to be a win-win for both brands”. With these kinds of partnerships, the shows pass a message across to both fashion lovers and the target audience of the partner brands.
Fashion’s growth in Nigeria is happening faster due to fashion shows
Major fashion weeks like the GT Fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week can stand and compete with other major fashion weeks outside the country like the Milan Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week, in Olasoji’s opinion. The same designers that showcase their collections at fashion shows outside Nigeria showcase within it as well.
“It is just a matter of time before fashion shows will become a form of tourism and a source of income for us in Nigeria. People will begin to come in from other countries just to watch our fashion shows. More sponsors are already showing up for fashion shows and fashion show brands don’t have to always use their money for everything anymore. The shows are becoming lucrative and rewarding as a business now.”
Fashion shows have revolutionised the society now in the sense that it has influenced the way people see fashion. Nowadays, even in Ibadan, when fashion shows happen, people show up in droves all dressed up for the event. This shows that Nigerians have now become more open to them. The shows, in turn, help our fashion sense, growth, and social lives and also put Nigeria on the global fashion map.
Brands like GTBank, which sponsor the GT Fashion Week, are big and prominent brands. When a designer gets the opportunity to showcase at their event and they leverage the platform properly, they end up shooting themselves to the sky. This is because the media coverage of these events and the the calibre of people that attend them are huge.
“One of the things that has greatly helped Mai Atafo succeed in the fashion industry, asides from the fact that he has invested in himself, is that he invested in fashion shows. The right fashion shows at that. He went through the right channels for PR and he got this from events like the GT Fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week. Now, he has clients all over the world.”
These bigger fashion shows are platforms that push fashion brands to the world. It is, however, one thing be on these platforms and another to know how to use them. Many brands have greatly benefited from them.
These bigger fashion brands are doing a great job with showcasing African fashion to the world. Their consistency is phenomenal and their content is great. Every year, they grow and evolve to always create great content. They go the extra mile to do things differently from other brands.
In terms of tech for fashion shows, we are still lagging behind very much
As a whole, Nigeria is still a bit backwards and is more comfortable doing things the old-school way. Unlike other fashion industries outside Nigeria that have embraced virtual fashion shows, Nigeria’s fashion industry tends more towards physical events.
Unfortunately, because of our orientation, it will take a while before we can catch up with these other industries when it comes to going digital. Another thing that hinders the Nigerian fashion industry from embracing digital events fully is a lack of funds. Brands need a lot of funds to do digital fashion shows so we cannot get to that standard without a proper funding structure in place.
“Pending the time that we can have people like investors, stakeholders, and people who believe in the dream of the fashion industry come in, we will still have to keep doing things the traditional way.”
Social media helps quite a bit but it is not as effective as it should be. A lot still needs to be put in place. With enough funding and lots of awareness, digital fashion shows can happen in Nigeria.
Newer fashion show brands have a model to follow in older fashion brands
With how well the big fashion brands are doing in the industry, newer fashion show brands can look up to them for guidance. Such fashion show brands can follow their model, attend their events and figure out what they can improve on at their events.
“I understudy Lagos Fashion Week and observe the way they handle their events. I am always trying to learn from what they do and merge my ideas with theirs to organise my events. These brands cannot come to teach us newer brands what to do because we are their competition, but we can learn from them.”
Learning from these bigger fashion brands, however, takes time. It does not happen in a year or two but extends over a longer period of time with consistency. Since they are big brands, they mostly showcase collections of big fashion brands because big brands pull a crowd.
With this, up-and-coming fashion show brands and fashion designers have to work together to help each other grow. Just like the big fashion show brands and big fashion designers grew together, newer fashion show brands can also grow along with newer fashion designers. Instead of showcasing collections at the fashion shows of newer fashion show brands just once or twice, newer fashion designers can consistently showcase their collections at the same fashion shows so they can help each other grow.
When fashion designers consistently work with the same fashion shows, it helps them grow and builds trust between them. It is a partnership that should flourish over time.
“Fashion shows in Nigeria can greatly benefit from support from fashion brands and sponsors of all sorts”, Awofesobi said. The fashion shows sector in Nigeria is growing rapidly and it can only get better from here on.