6 Fashion Insiders Tell Us What Nigerian Fashion Post COVID 19 Looks Like

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There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on unsustainable business models across various industries, it has dramatically changed our day-to-day lives and would undoubtedly shape the future. The fashion industry has been tested, particularly with the impact on the fashion calendar and the downturn in events which are a significant driver of business. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue recently launched A Common Thread, a fund to help the most vulnerable designers and their teams during the sudden shutdown. With this background, it is only right we ask what a post-COVID 19 world looks like in this part of the world. 

 Prized fashion would be out

There is no doubt that there would be a shift from luxury to minimalist fashion. People are more likely to make fashion choices that make them comfortable and are less expensive. This underlines the need for fashion designers across the country to seek cost-effective ways for production. Supply chains for designers who source their raw materials across the continent will be disrupted indefinitely and the cost of exported material will double. Akuba Hajaar, digital creator and fashion influencer notes that “we must concentrate on making indigenous designs more acceptable. We can’t continue to live in the shadow of others. We should make our local designs trendier and acceptable. We shouldn’t stick to adapting what the world terms as “trendy”. Put our culture out there. Make it elaborate, let people see and feel our indigenous products.” 

Preach for sustainability

Another legacy of the pandemic will be the ensuing push for sustainability.  Fashion is in dire need of a revolution. Sara Maino, deputy Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia and directora de Vogue Talents, recently stated:

We didn’t respect the planet until now and in a way,  this [pandemic] is a message and unfortunately it’s a very, very heavy message. Change had to be done. Everyone thought that the change would happen gradually, but that’s not the case. Change has to be done now, and done quickly.” 

 There will be a rethink of the production cycle, sourcing for materials, and the creation of it. Onyii Bekeh thinks; 

Designers are not even joining the western fight, to begin with. I don’t think anyone in Nigeria is doing sustainable fashion here, if you take out the thrift stores, I stand to be corrected.— Fashion is gonna keep contributing to insane pollution around these parts for a while. From a consumer perspective, however, there is a shift in how customers have been shopping, more consciously and thinking about the ethical aspects of their shopping experience. Like “how is this brand giving back, in the form of masks, palliatives, donations”

Online domination

Before the lockdown, fashion retailers had seen a shift from physical stores to the online marketplace. Industry experts predict further online domination. Although we’ve seen less physical interaction, people have retained connections through digital means. Onyii Bekeh emphasizes the need for a strong online presence:

With shops closed around the world while the majority of people work from home, Now more than ever is the time to have a strong brand presence online.

We spoke to some fashion insiders to get a better sense of what they see happening next;

Onyii Bekeh, Fashion stylist and digital creator

“As a stylist, the lockdown has made me create content centred around people finding their personal style, mainly because I was getting asked a lot. So I’m hoping post-pandemic we would see more personal style and less of everybody looking alike on the gram. I predict that fast fashion may die a really slow death, it won’t go away but people would begin to look at clothes as assets rather than disposables until the next trend comes into town. As regards luxury fashion, I think this industry has been hit the hardest. However Nigerians love to flexxx, so it will be alright. People are still buying Chanel.”

Ikechukwu Nwosu, creative director of androgynous fashion brand, Nwosu: 

“The future of Nigeria is set to hit a significant change, although things would normalize with time. I spoke with some other fashion designers, and it seems everyone can ascertain that sales have dropped and are not expecting them to come back anytime soon. There will be an increase in the cost of production. We have to consciously look for cost-effective ways to create our products and offer services. Also, I fear that luxury fashion would be out for a while.”

Temitope Okunuga, Digital creator and fashion influencer:

“I believe the future of fashion in Nigeria is at a point where fashion is generally accepted, although it still seems like a Lagos thing, a few people are getting into fashion, but a major problem is that the government isn’t involved, the industry isn’t funded. It is more of if you are interested in it, then work in it, which makes the cost of production in any industry expensive. I see the industry getting to a point where the government would see it as an avenue for income to the country. Nigerian designers are hitting the world mark gradually, the likes of Kenneth Ize, Bayo of Orange Culture, Lisa Folawiyo, and many more. We can only continue to hope for the best. The pandemic is set to build new trends,  there would be matching face masks with outfits, more comfortable dressing. As I said, we can only hope for the best.”

Akuba Hajaar, Digital creator and Fashion Influencer:

“Fashion has come a long way all over the world and for Nigeria, this isn’t different at all. I remember when we used to wear really horrible makeup, make mistakes as to what creativity stands for; create really exaggerated styles, and have overbearing pieces sewn horribly together and tag it “creative or stylish”. I love that right now we are seeing coordinated pieces both on our runways and on fashion enthusiasts. Nigerians are fashionable people no doubt. In as much as we still have a long way to go fashion-wise, I’m impressed by how far we’ve come. We have fantastic designers who are more concerned about putting us out there in a good light. Now, we are making things happen. We have our own fashion shows, our red carpets are on fire, we have lots of emerging stylists (really good at what they do). We are now converting our own “local” market into something the world isn’t ready for. I don’t see us stopping soon. Our fashion market will continue to grow as a result. There’s high demand now, people are now more concerned about how they look. People now pay attention to things as little as stripes and codes. Designers are becoming more creative, our runways, steadily improving. We have influencers/enthusiasts who are out there constantly putting us on the map, I love it. I live for trends personally. I may not accept or be open to all of the trends I see daily but somehow, these trends make a lasting impression on me.”

Solomon Ogbonnaya, Fashion influencer and digital creator

“Fashion is always evolving, whatever is happening now we have seen it before, it is a setback for us, but we will get back. Like never before, Nigeria now has models, fashion designers, journalists, fashion photographers, cosmetologists, It is leaving its Lagos base and getting exposed to even other parts of the country, especially the east and north. This is a wake-up call for us as consumers and the industry as a whole. I think we should work more on collaborations, that is a way forward for us.”

 

Tosin Ogundadegbe, Style expert and creative head of Style Infidel studios

“The Future of Fashion in Nigeria has started to identify with the idealism and Realism of resetting and Reshaping its existing business structure to be Value and Technology oriented. Our retail system and the consumers’ psychology differs here, it will be a case of Buy Less but Buy Better. As much as technology and better innovation will come in the mix for Fashion events, things will slowly gravitate back to normal as it is attendees that all most of these events are buzzworthy. The pandemic has not only changed our lives but also flipped the script on the course of things and how businesses will and should start to operate post-COVID 19. Every forward-looking, forward-thinking creative should be open to collaborating and digitizing their businesses and brands since clearly this would be the new narrative for the industry. For creatives who offer services than products, it would be to save and invest for the rainy days as this is some sort of retirement rehearsal, the kind we were not prepared for There are no gratuities and pensions involved in these sectors of businesses, so it’s what you are able to make out of your earnings that will prep you for that phase and create some sort of sustainability. For those that offer products, it would be to offer value and it has clearly been revealed that nobody is really indispensable and it is those who offer value to the scheme of things that would thrive post COVID. More importantly that fashion and technology are closely knitted  and it is in the best interest of brands to get themselves acquainted with this new direction

In Nigeria, the pandemic has forced Fashion weeks to reschedule from April to October and Lagos Fashion Week Autumn/Winter shows to move to an entirely digital format. The fashion industry might be taking a huge hit right now but, It’s really important to give people something to dream about, fashion does that for a lot of us. We have a very visceral reaction to clothes, and for that reason alone, fashion still & will always matter. Fashion remains just like love, it is universal and cannot be stopped. The future of fashion, especially in Nigeria, may look shaky and we can only hope that the best is yet to come.”


Enioluwa Adeoluwa is a writer, who specializes in covering fashion and contemporary pop culture. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @enioluwaofficial

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