The Young Nigerian Fashion Designers Shaping The Future Of African Fashion
Art and commerce remain at the helm of what pushes the fashion industry. Artistry is evoked in the designs and imageries rolled out by designers every season. This artistic media is influenced by the flow of society. Art could rebel or agree. But for art to flourish, finance has to enable it. Great designers understand this and subject themselves to the torture of finding the impossibly thin line between art and commerce.
A good design leaves the consumers with an emotion. The negativity or positivity it leaves is unnecessary. Rather for one to love, hate or feel indifferent about something, it must ensure an emotion.
Bloke and Pepper Row are designers that have made a considerable impact in their young careers. Although aesthetically different they have one thing in common, their designs are anything but bland. It evokes, convinces, stands for or against something and comes from a heightened knowledge of individuality. Everything a good design is supposed to do. Remember their names, there’s a surety that this won’t be the last time you’ll hear of them.
Bloke and Pepper Row have embraced and honed their brands to function progressively. For them, sustainability and taking a stand with their collections is a must not a maybe.
Here are two young designers championing a stellar narration.
In 2019, Faith Oluwajimi, the Founder and Creative Director of Bloke entered the two most prestigious competitions – Fashion Focus Fund and Emerge Alara – for fashion designers in Nigeria. He won “Emerge Alara” and became a runner-up in Fashion Focus Fund. Interestingly, the first time, a prize money was created for the runner-up so that he could benefit from it, a testament to his unfiltered artistry and the brand’s creative direction.
At only 23 years old, Oluwajimi has turned Bloke into one of the most exciting young brands in Africa. But that did not happen by chance. As a boy, his upbringing had forced him to mature way beyond his years. This is where the name Bloke emerged from– seeing himself as a man when he was still a boy.
The self-taught designer explores spirituality – something that stems from his strict Christian upbringing, androgyny, and individuality in his works.
Bloke is also reimagining the knitwear, which is heavily incorporated in the collections. The collections threads on the contemporary allure of deconstruction; fray hems and intentional cuts. The brand enjoys a certain type of freedom; the type that comes from a sheer hunger to create more than anything else.
When asked about the one thing he would change in the Nigerian fashion industry, he said, “I believe that systems should be put in place to sustain young designers.”
After positively getting the attention of the fashion industry, this is only the beginning of the fashion label.
Omafume Niemogha, the Creative Director of Pepper Row has a clear mission; to build a label that produced extraordinary, sustainable pieces.
Hailing from Delta State, Niemogha’s stint in design began in 2016 with the launch of a bridal label. She stated Pepper Row in 2018 and, in one year, has gradually gotten the attention of fashion insiders. A collaboration with the textile powerhouse, Vlisco, proves that.
The brand strongly believes in sustainability. Indigenous artisans are contracted to produce the collections. In line with its zero-waste policy, upcycling was introduced into the brand; the art of taking unused pieces and making them into another design. Scraps of wood are sourced to make the brand’s signature wooden bags. Also, earlier this year, scraps from the collection were artistically designed into clothes for the collection. The fashion label also plants trees in rural areas, all in a bid to support and preserve the environment.
This sustainability goal led to the brand being selected by Fayrouz to showcase at Lagos Fashion Week as part of its Green Access. A showcase aimed to encourage young designers who explore sustainable means.
Niemogha’s taste was sharpened as a child. She was exposed to the complexities of fine arts and the excitement of parties by her father.
Pepper Row’s designs primarily explore the idea of forms and colors. Which comes through in the collections; playing with mix and match Ankara prints and deconstructing Aşǫ Oke. Niemogha strives to find the balance of making wearable art. “Something not to arts and crafts; something elevated,” she said.