Women Who Shaped the Nigerian Fashion Industry

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Nigeria’s fashion evolution over the years has been nothing short of remarkable. The past decade alone has witnessed Lagos surge into one of Africa’s major fashion cities, featuring some of the continent’s top designers and hosting riveting high-fashion events like Lagos Fashion Week. While celebrating the achievements at national level, it’s crucial to pay homage to the trailblazers at the forefront of this change. These visionaries didn’t just redefine Nigeria’s global fashion identity; they also shattered glass ceilings, pushing boundaries with unmatched creativity, boundless passion and unwavering determination.

They moulded the industry and propelled Nigerian fashion onto the transcendental stages. Till this day, their enduring legacies continue to inspire generations of designers and fashion enthusiasts, ensuring that the rich tapestry of Nigerian fashion continues to flourish.


These are the innovators who shaped the Nigerian fashion industry:

Folashade Thomas-Fahm: The Pioneer Designer

Folashade Thomas-Fahm holds a distinct position in the history of Nigerian fashion as she is often dubbed Nigeria’s first formally trained fashion designer. She was pivotal in laying the foundation for what would become a thriving industry. Thomas-Fahm’s career began when she returned to Nigeria in the early 1960s after studying fashion design in London. In 1987, she opened her fashion boutique, Shade Fahm, which quickly gained recognition for its exquisite designs and craftsmanship. Her commitment to promoting Nigerian culture through fashion was evident in her use of traditional textiles and motifs.

Folashade Thomas-Fahm’s influence extends beyond her designs. She became a mentor and source of inspiration for many aspiring fashion designers, including Deola Sagoe, who would later rise to fame as a prominent designer in her own right.

Deola Sagoe: The Queen of Nigerian Fashion

Deola Sagoe is a name synonymous with Nigerian fashion royalty. Born into a family with a rich fashion heritage, she inherited a passion for design. Sagoe’s journey in the fashion world began with creating her brand, “House of Deola,” in 1989. Her groundbreaking designs, which blended traditional African aesthetics with contemporary styles, quickly garnered international acclaim.

Sagoe’s influence transcends her brand’s success. She is recognized for popularising Ankara in the international scene and revolutionizing the Nigerian fashion industry. Likewise, her Komole collection that’s become the standard for Nigerian brides. Arguably her most iconic work, the collection redefines elegance with its laser-cut lace motifs and metallic sheen breathing new life into traditional bridal clothing. Her dedication to craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail have set the standard for excellence in Nigerian fashion. Deola Sagoe is not just a designer but a cultural icon who has elevated African fashion on the global stage.

Omoyemi Akerele: Shaping Lagos Fashion Week

Omoyemi Akerele is a force to be reckoned with in Nigerian fashion. She is the founder of Lagos Fashion Week (formerly known as Lagos Fashion and Design Week), an annual event that showcases the work of both emerging and established African designers. Akerele’s vision was to create a platform that would promote African talent on a global scale.

Under her leadership, Lagos Fashion Week has become a focal point for fashion enthusiasts, designers, and industry professionals. It has provided a launchpad for emerging designers, offering them exposure and opportunities for growth. Omoyemi Akerele’s commitment to nurturing African talent and fostering collaboration within the fashion ecosystem has been instrumental in the industry’s development.

Ronke Ademiluyi: Championing African Fashion Week

Ronke Ademiluyi is a prominent figure in the African fashion scene. She founded African Fashion Week London, an event celebrating African fashion and culture. Ademiluyi’s vision was to create a platform that would showcase African designers and promote cultural exchange.

African Fashion Week London has become a big event in the global fashion calendar. Each year, it brings together designers, models, and fashion enthusiasts from across the continent and beyond. Ronke Ademiluyi’s dedication to celebrating African heritage through fashion has contributed to the growing recognition of African designers on the international stage.

Folake Folarin-Coker: Pioneering Ready-to-Wear Fashion

Folake Folarin-Coker, the creative mind behind Tiffany Amber, made history by launching Nigeria’s first ready-to-wear fashion brand in 1998. Her innovative approach to fashion was characterized by contemporary designs that drew inspiration from African heritage. Folarin-Coker’s brand quickly gained popularity for its sophisticated yet culturally rich collections.

Tiffany Amber has not only achieved success in Nigeria but has also made a mark on the global fashion scene. In 2008, Folake Folarin-Coker became the first African-based fashion designer to stage a show twice at the New York Fashion Week. Her accolades include the “Designer of the Year” award at the African Fashion Week in Johannesburg in 2009 and the “Fashion Brand of the Year” at the ARISE Magazine Fashion Week in 2011.