The fashion industry in Nigeria is fast becoming one of the most viable sectors of the country’s economy. Talented designers continue to spring up, catering to the ever-evolving needs, tastes and style of both indigenous and foreign patrons. With impressive debuts and exhibitions at prominent fashion shows – from the Lagos Fashion and Design Week, the Africa Fashion Awards, and the GTBank Fashion Weekend to Arise Magazine Fashion Week and acclaimed international fashion shows – here is the next generation of promising Nigerian fashion designers to take the fashion world by storm.
Olajumoke Ademilua – O’milua
Olajumoke Ademilua’s O’milua takes prints to the next level! Her designs depict a rich African cultural heritage, beginning with her own roots. Olajumoke’s collections feature extraordinary creations, with traditional Yoruba tie-dye designs, as well as other locally made fabrics. In addition to captivating audiences with its cultural elegance, the O’milua brand is also renowned for its ethical fashion.
Ayo Elizabeth Olaogun – Ayo Van Elmar
Being a professional nutritionist has not slowed Ayo Elizabeth Olaogun, of Afrocentric brand Ayo Van Elmar, from her rapid climb to Nigeria’s, and Africa’s, fashion forefront. In 2016, the designer launched her ‘fashion café’ right after announcing famous Nigerian actress, Funke Akindele, as the face of her brand. Ayo Van Elmar’s designs highlight the designer’s fascinating cross-cultural background, which equally sees the brand fast becoming a global household name.
Abimbola Oye-Akinnifesi – Reni Smith
This designer – popularly known as Bimbo Oye – came into the Nigerian public consciousness following her debut at the GTBank Lagos Fashion and Design Week in 2013. After this event, Bimbo’s brand made it to various lists for young and outstanding Nigerian fashion designers. She then progressed to feature at renowned fashion shows in the country, as well as style prominent Nigerians. Bimbo’s aspiration to become a fashion designer were fueled by her grandmother who was a seamstress, and her designs are inspired by nature, art, architecture, and people.
Adebayo Oke-Lawal – Orange Culture
Adebayo Oke-Lawal started his journey into the world of fashion at the young age of ten. Numerous acclaimed designs later, his steadily growing ‘movement’, Orange Culture, now showcases at top-billed fashion shows, such as the recently held London Fashion Week. The confidence in Orange Culture as a game-changer in Nigeria’s fashion industry saw Nigerian mobile payment company, Funds and Electronic Transfer Solutions (FETS), grant it financial backing to London Fashion Week via the 2017 edition of Fashion Scout, which promotes pioneering and emerging fashion talent across the globe. With his bold and classic-yet-contemporary line of menswear, Adebayo is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s finest up-and-coming fashion exports.
Oluwatobi Akintoye – T16 World of Fashion
T16 World of Fashion is a name that firmly resounds with a majority of the most stylish and fashionable female folk in Lagos from across all walks of life. These days, for those women who desire to make whatever bridal train they’re on at any given time look amazing, the fashion house is their go-to place. Tobi’s style defies seasons and trends, and appeals to all manners of clientele. This aspect of her creativity is arguably what took her from a final year ‘student tailor’ to top spots at fashion-oriented platforms, such as the Multichoice Fashion Protege and GTBank Lagos Fashion and Design Week. Presently, Tobi is on the path to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the extremely competitive Nigerian fashion industry.
Paolo Sisiano – Sisiano
The artistically inspired factor behind Paolo Sisiano’s designs surely lends them their theatrically alluring value. In addition to his ability to create exciting fashion, Paolo is also an accomplished stage performer and textile designer. He quickly became a regular crowd favourite after the launch of his line in 2013, as well as becoming a finalist at the GTBank Lagos Fashion and Design Week in the same year. Sisiano has not looked back since. Last year, Vogue Italia named him as one of Nigeria’s fashion designers to watch out for.
Sandra Tubobereni – Tubo
Sandra Tubobereni’s fashion endeavours earned her the title of Fast Rising Female Designer of the Year at the 2016 Lagos Fashion Awards. As a child who spent a lot of time in her mother’s tailoring shop in Port Harcourt, Sandra soon began making her school uniforms all by herself. Today, her fashion profile continues to expand based on her unique creative approach to traditional African bridal attires and haute couture, and prêt-à-porter fashion.
Tokyo James – Tokyo James
The Tokyo James brand is yet another proud achievement for the Nigerian fashion industry. His alternative designs are influenced by African and Western fashion, and revolve around highlighting the character of the modern African man – whether or not he was born and raised on the continent. Tokyo James’ easily sophisticated designs get more famous by the day. This November, he will be representing Nigeria at the World Fashion Expo taking place at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Kanyinsola Onalaja – Onalaja
At the 2016 Lagos Fashion and Design Week, Kanyinsola Onalaja’s feminism-themed exhibition had the audience spellbound. However, her work has been gaining significant attention since her days in fashion school. The results of Kanyinsola’s fashion fusion – Nigerian artistic heritage with European designs and traditional dress sense – make her one of the most appealing designers when it comes to womenswear in fashion scenes within and outside of Nigeria.
Temitayo Nathan Ilesanmi – T.I Nathan
Temitayo Nathan Ilesanmi bounced back from what what critically termed a bad first fashion impression, to create one of the most aesthetically acclaimed labels for men in the country today. Since the debut of his Solace collection in 2014, Temitayo’s classic designs have seen him dress popular Nigerian celebrities and win several awards, represent Nigeria at fashion shows abroad. The T.I Nathan brand is noteworthy in the sense that it tries to meld street fashion and high fashion to appeal to this generation’s men.
Kenneth Ize – Kenneth Ize
Modern, urban, inclusive, conscious! That’s what the Kenneth Ize brand represents. The unisex clothing line is expertly working Nigeria’s fashion scene by appealing to the tastes of those whose individuality would not be confined – the free-spirited. The 2013 Lagos Fashion and Design Week finalist has come a long way since he first tantalised the fashion industry with his designs, including running his fashion house from Vienna. It’s only a matter of time before this designer becomes an international fashion household name.
Bubu Ogisi – I.AM.ISIGO
Bubu Ogisi’s philosophy of ‘unlimiting fashion’ is one motivating factor behind the steady spread of her brand to different parts of the world. Her creativity transcends the fashion space and expressively captures the heart of people’s personal tastes and lifestyle choices. No material is too insignificant, too useless, or too old for Ogisi to infuse into her creative processes, and this is visible in both her collections and working space. Her blend of African culture and minimalistic aesthetic designs, along with her constant evolution, make her final outcomes a refreshing experience.
Vovwe Omoko – Ovems Fashion
In 2014, Vovwe Omoko was named the most creative fashion designer at the Winasbet Nigerian Student Fashion and Design Week by the founder of Africa Fashion Week. She did not disappoint at the aforementioned prestigious fashion show the year after, or any time after that. One of her most notable collections centred around empowering women. Her creative talent and promising future earned her the position of in-house stylist for top Nigerian television house Wazobia TV and Cool TV upon their launches.
Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo – Kamokini
The swimwear fashion brand Kamokini was inspired by founder Kambili Ofili-Okonkwo’s desire to cater to the needs of body-conscious yet stylish African women such as herself who have difficulty finding the appropriate swimsuit in terms of design, size, and affordability. Kambili’s ability to fill a big void in the Nigerian fashion industry with her swimwear creations, while sharing indigenous designs with the world, makes her one designer to watch.
Omowunmi Owonifari – Mofari Couture
The launch of her ready-to-wear women’s clothing collection Fledge in 2015 saw Omowunmi Owonifari boldly stamp Mofari Couture’s arrival into the Nigerian fashion scene. Just the previous year, she had participated in the Lagos Fashion and Design Week’s ‘Fashion Focus’ competition. Since then, she has launched a shoe line and continues to wow with her fearless and sexy designs.
Ogochukwu Akabogu – Lines by Chaab
Akabogu has continued to impress fashionistas since winning Nigeria’s Next Top Designer and Music Meets Runway’s ‘Rising Icon’ competitions in 2014. Her most recent collection showcases inspiration from Nigeria’s pre-colonial era, with Nsibidi symbols.