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This Nigerian Independence Day, discover the 8 designers exercising their autonomy through fashion and shop the best looks from our favorite local designers.


by Lindsay Samson

Oct 1, 2020

Every year on October 1, Nigeria celebrates Independence Day, in commemoration of the African nation’s proclamation of independence from British rule in 1960. Common fashions before then were largely dictated by colonialism, the wealthy and elite clamouring for the miniskirts and mod styles that had taken over Europe in the sixties. It was in the 1970s though that local Nigerian fashion, perhaps influenced by the sense of pride and autonomy that came along with independence, began seriously incorporating aspects of their own heritage and traditions into their designs, something that resulted in the enduring Oleku trend. Comprising a blouse known as a Buba, a knee-length wrapper (skirt) called an Iro, and a matching headwrap, this traditional outfit is a common traditional style for women, one that is still worn by many Nigerians today.

In the 1980s, the country suffered an enormous economic collapse: it was a challenging time, one during which many creatives in the country seemed to lose steam. Nigerian fashion seemed unable to resist the influence of current Western styles, with oversized suits, big jewelry, and of course, perms becoming immensely popular. But at the same time Ankara fabrics (the Nigerian term for “African” wax print) began to creep into the collections of Nigerian designers, a way for many creatives to assert their identity and autonomy. According to Pan-African Fashion and Lifestyle magazine BlanckDigital, the fabric was derived from Indonesian manufacturing techniques, employing African motifs and designs to become a nationwide symbol. “It was quickly adopted and used by all and sundry as a canvas and as a collective identity.” Today, Nigeria boasts an abundance of fashion design talent who remain devoted to the preservation and celebration of their heritage through design, and many of these industry stars are beginning to make impressive moves on the international circuit. So, in honor of the national holiday and all the immense creativity, beauty, and art that has emerged from Nigeria’s independence, we’re spotlighting 8 of our high-as-eagle flying Nigerian designers, and highlighting some of our favorite pieces from each of them. Shop the full collection, here.

ANDREA IYAMAH

Inspired by the exploration of the Nigerian-Canadian designer’s cultural heritage, Andrea Iyamah’s vibrant resort wear line is one saturated in joyful, summer shades and ultra-feminine silhouettes. Saturated with bikinis, one-piece suits, dresses, and robes, her collections boast a kind of relaxed elegance, something that’s proved immensely popular amongst celebrities like Gabrielle Union, Ciara, and Kate Hudson. And while most in the Northern Hemisphere have likely already packed away their swimsuits, Iyamah’s cover-ups and dresses are also ideal transeasonal items, ones that can be worn at nearly any time of the year with a little considered styling. Perfect when paired with just a chunky heel, the elegant, kimono-style Takwa Dress features a cinched waist and oversized sleeves and can be worn by itself or with a chic, tailored jacket for a little sophistication. Iyamah’s cover-ups—which come in two different colorways—could also be thrown over a simple tank and leggings, their dramatic patterns taking things from simple to striking. Meanwhile, the brand’s high-waisted, palazzo-style pants can also be taken to the street. Wear with a crop top, a casual sandal, and a chic cross-body bag for a luxe take on laidback street style.

Shop the label.

Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini
Kari Bikini

Andrea Iyamah

Kari Bikini

$195
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress
Takwa Dress

Andrea Iyamah

Takwa Dress

$255
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up
Zane Cover-up

Andrea Iyamah

Zane Cover-up

$190
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants
Zane Pants

Andrea Iyamah

Zane Pants

$150
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini
Arifa Bikini

Andrea Iyamah

Arifa Bikini

$155
Zuri Bikini
Zuri Bikini
Zuri Bikini
Zuri Bikini
Zuri Bikini
Zuri Bikini

Andrea Iyamah

Zuri Bikini

$165

EMMY KASBIT

One of Nigeria's most recognized and of the moment fashion labels, Emmy Kasbit—who recently showed off his new SS’ 21 collection at Milan Fashion Week—is a brand guided by its roots. A finalist for the 2014 LVMH Prize and winner of Vogue Italia’s Scouting for Africa initiative, designer Emmanuel Okoro’s label reinvents traditional shapes into modern and easily wearable everyday pieces, juxtaposing traditional West African weaving techniques with clean, architectural cuts. And though wild colours of all hues run through many of their pieces, our top pick is the Okawa Jacket. Cut from a vivid orange Akwete cloth, the blazer-style piece is made entirely by hand, sometimes taking up to 3 weeks to complete. Inspired by what Okoro calls the joyous spirit of the New Yam festival in Arochukwu City (an Igbo cultural tradition), it looks great tossed over a little black dress. Add a pair of sky-high heels for a look that is commanding but subtle; or pair the pieces with a plain white tee and vintage mom-jeans for the ultimate in easy-going sophistication. 

Shop the label.

Ojongo Suit Set
Ojongo Suit Set
Ojongo Suit Set
Ojongo Suit Set

Emmy Kasbit

Ojongo Suit Set

$270
The Okawa Jacket
The Okawa Jacket
The Okawa Jacket
The Okawa Jacket

Emmy Kasbit

The Okawa Jacket

$220

FRUCHÈ

A Nigerian ready to wear brand headed by Frank Aghuno, Fruché takes an experimental yet artisanal-focused approach to design, fusing contemporary silhouettes with unusual fabrics and using his creations to tell the stories of the women—particularly his mother—who’ve inspired him. Describing the Fruché (the name is a combination of Aghuno’s first name and one of his Igbo names, Uche) woman as “free spirited, adventurous, full of depth and committed to living her best life” to BellaNaijaStyle, Aghuno’s designs are visibly reflective of her; exuberant by nature, they subvert notions of what is traditionally considered feminine. And though they’re on the more minimal side, the label’s fringed pieces have a distinct presence, making them some of our favorite garments. Cut from Akwoacha cotton (which literally means ‘white cloth’), the Akwaocha Tunic and Top are both are crafted by local Nigerian artisans, their design inspired inspired by Aghuno’s Igbo heritage, and cowrie shell and Ostrich feather embellishments adding some unexpected detail. Try throwing the tunic over a simple slip dress or pairing the top with a pair of soft, cotton trousers. Add an ankle-tie sandal and delicate drop earring for an effortless off-duty look.

Shop the label.

Fruché

"Freedom Is My Birthright" Shirt

$360
Akwaocha Top
Akwaocha Top
Akwaocha Top
Akwaocha Top

Fruché

Akwaocha Top

$550
Akwaocha Tunic
Akwaocha Tunic
Akwaocha Tunic
Akwaocha Tunic

Fruché

Akwaocha Tunic

$700


Photo: Rafia Cotton Jacket, IAMISIGO

IAMISIGO 

IAMISIGO is a fashion brand committed to celebrating African philosophies, fabrics, and techniques through their considered and off-the-wall designs. Their collections overflow with a relaxed air, yet their craftsmanship indicates an exceptional attention to detail. And though his work is making waves on the international fashion scene, founder Bubu Osigi is not in the least bit interested in producing work for Western audiences. For her, her work is about exploring Nigeria’s colorful and complex history and telling these stories through seamless cuts, "In 100 years, what will our descendants reference about us?" Ogisi said to CNN. "Are they going to be referencing Western pieces that we tried to Africanize, or this new age of African design that was able to bring the continent together? That's my long-term goal." IAMISIGO’s Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket is one of the label’s more innovative pieces. Exquisitely crafted from barkcloth (a generations-old material sourced from the Mutuba tree in Uganda) the patchwork piece’s oversized nature and deep shades of brown add an edge to whatever your ensemble. Wear with a pair of wide-legged jeans or trousers to instantly upgrade your outfit or team with a minidress in corresponding shades.

Shop the label.

Patched Front T-shirt
Patched Front T-shirt
Patched Front T-shirt

IAMISIGO

Patched Front T-shirt

$137
Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket
Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket
Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket
Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket
Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket

IAMISIGO

Barkcloth Long-Sleeve Jacket

$588

NKWO

Established in London in 2007 and now headquartered in Nigeria, NKWO’s story is one of sustainability that draws on traditions and artisanal techniques. With their ethos largely centered around a fabric called Dakala cloth (which is made using a modern strip weaving technique), a deep consideration for the environment and the conservation of natural resources emerges as the label's core values. For NKWO, textile waste reduction is just as vital to their work as the creation of unique, contemporary, wearable pieces. Crafted from Aso-Oke, the label’s Coast Coat is a fine example of this dedication to sustainability and artisanship. Fully lined, the garment features three-quarter length sleeves and mirror embellishments, a full, cocoon silhouette adding movement and comfort, their dedication to conservation and environmentalism is visible in the jacket’s construction. Their Dakala cloth brings a refreshing blue hue to their collections, lending a royal air to their suite of cropped jumpsuits and overblown jackets with nipped-in waists. 

Shop the label.

Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress

NKWO

Knot-a-lot Dress

$348
Coast Coat
Coast Coat
Coast Coat
Coast Coat

NKWO

Coast Coat

$495
Coast Long-Line Jacket
Coast Long-Line Jacket
Coast Long-Line Jacket
Coast Long-Line Jacket
Coast Long-Line Jacket

NKWO

Coast Long-Line Jacket

$775
Sweet Knot Skirt
Sweet Knot Skirt
Sweet Knot Skirt
Sweet Knot Skirt
Sweet Knot Skirt

NKWO

Sweet Knot Skirt

$245
Indigo Knot Shirt
Indigo Knot Shirt
Indigo Knot Shirt
Indigo Knot Shirt
Indigo Knot Shirt

NKWO

Indigo Knot Shirt

$201

LISA FOLAWIYO

Beloved by the likes of Issa Rae, Lupita Nyong'o, Lucy Liu, and Thandie Newton, Lisa Folawiyo’s eponymous label entrances with its utilization of heavily patterned fabrics, combining clashing prints to enthralling effect and creating artisanal clothing that stands the test of time. Founded by the lawyer-turned-designer in 2005 as ‘Jewel by Lisa’, there’s an innate sophistication to Folawiyo’s garments which frequently feature modern tailoring techniques synthesized with traditional Nigerian artisanal practise that transforms the iconic West African Ankara cloth. Folawiyo’s collections are not for the understated dresser, however. Her garments unequivocally declare their presence: every one of her pieces makes a statement. Made from a luxurious silk organza, the brand’s pink and yellow Pleated Coat Dress is one of our absolute favorites from the brand. Hand-embellished with crystals upon its collar and featuring a unique, dancing woman print, the showstopping piece looks fabulous when worn with high-waisted jeans of your choice and a pair of block-heel sandals.

Shop the label.

Wide Leg Pants
Wide Leg Pants
Wide Leg Pants

Lisa Folawiyo

Wide Leg Pants

$420
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket
Cropped Jacket

Lisa Folawiyo

Cropped Jacket

$390
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress

Lisa Folawiyo

Pleated Coat Dress

$1,080
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top
Antique Baroque High-Neck Top

Lisa Folawiyo

Antique Baroque High-Neck Top

$418
Antique Baroque Leggings
Antique Baroque Leggings
Antique Baroque Leggings

Lisa Folawiyo

Antique Baroque Leggings

$398
Batkara Layered Coat
Batkara Layered Coat
Batkara Layered Coat
Batkara Layered Coat
Batkara Layered Coat

Lisa Folawiyo

Batkara Layered Coat

$1,073

ORANGE CULTURE

Called the designer at the forefront of the Nigerian Fashion Evolution by Another Magazine, Orange Culture is a tangible, visual ode to founder and designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s personal culture. “Nigerians are built to dress up, everything we wear is to stand out,'' he told Another. Bright colours characterize his collections, with styles that mix androgyny and minimalism, taking inspiration from Oke-Lawal’s family and Nigerian heritage, particularly his father and the looks he wore in the 70s. His collections challenge traditional ideas of masculinity, defying tired ideas of what a man should wear through pushing the boundaries of shape and cut. The brand’s Zoputan Boyfriend Shirt, which is cut from a robin’s-egg-blue, satin fabric, is a prime example of Oke-Lawal’s penchant for strong, architectural silhouettes. Developed in collaboration with Nigerian visual artist Eloghosa Osunde, the androynous garment is a celebration of the country’s artistic talent heritage, the shirt’s strong lines lending it an air of power and authority. Style it with a pair of chunky sneakers or sandals for an ultra modern ensemble that’s both youthful and polished.

Shop the label.

Sohan Printed Shirt
Sohan Printed Shirt
Sohan Printed Shirt
Sohan Printed Shirt

Orange Culture

Sohan Printed Shirt

$273
Rume Printed Pants
Rume Printed Pants

Orange Culture

Rume Printed Pants

$272
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt

Orange Culture

Ifunanya Draped White Shirt

$200
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt
Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt

Orange Culture

Half Ojiji Hybrid Shirt

$188
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket
Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket

Orange Culture

Richie Diamond Hooded Jacket

$307
Zoputan Boyfriend Shirt
Zoputan Boyfriend Shirt
Zoputan Boyfriend Shirt

Orange Culture

Zoputan Boyfriend Shirt

$200


Photo: Falana OTK Boot, Shekudo

SHEKUDO

Nigerian footwear brand Shekudo has been quietly making waves in the industry over the past two years. Founded in 2018 by designer Akudo Iheakanwa, Shekudo’s pieces are entirely locally produced using traditional weaving methods, and crafted from traditional Nigerian materials including Aso-Oke and Akwete cloths. Her shoes are inspired by the concept of homecoming (the Nigerian-born Iheakanwa spent much of her life in Australia). “It was an interesting journey to say the least,” Iheakanwa tells Vogue Czechoslovakia. “Going from Sydney where things were often too orderly for me to Lagos and its organised disorder (if I can call it that) was hard, but also created great opportunities for ‘character building’ as my dad would say.” And as far as our favorites go, we love the brand’s fringed mules. Rendered in one of their signature silhouettes, the shoe is the ideal everyday heel. Merging contemporary style with a clear reverence for Nigerian tradition and artistry, the mules are made to order and fashioned by hand from goatskin leather lining, wood, and rubber. Easily paired with a pair of classic blue jeans or a slinky summer dress, the no-fuss slip is an easy way to add a touch of color and history to any ensemble.

Shop the label.

Leather Kakawa Toe Mule
Leather Kakawa Toe Mule
Leather Kakawa Toe Mule
Leather Kakawa Toe Mule
Leather Kakawa Toe Mule
Leather Kakawa Toe Mule

Shekudo

Leather Kakawa Toe Mule

$210
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule

Shekudo

Agbo Mule

$210
Tinubu Slide
Tinubu Slide
Tinubu Slide
Tinubu Slide
Tinubu Slide

Shekudo

Tinubu Slide

$205
Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule
Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule
Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule
Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule

Shekudo

Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule

$229
Light Blue Ilamoye Mule
Light Blue Ilamoye Mule
Light Blue Ilamoye Mule
Light Blue Ilamoye Mule
Light Blue Ilamoye Mule

Shekudo

Light Blue Ilamoye Mule

$229
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule

Shekudo

Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule

$210