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Lagos Fashion Week: Highlights from Woven Threads

by | May 21, 2020

The fourth annual edition of Woven Threads, held last month, was a fully digital event. Because of the global pandemic, studio visits, talks and workshops highlighting the work of ten designers with a focus on responsible practices were held online. Digitising the event in no way diluted the programme’s efficacy which offered insight into the thinking and action shaping African fashion. Major themes included the connection between craft and community, intentional pace of practice and the often naturally sustainable principles of African design.

Woven Threads, organised by Lagos Fashion Week, provides a lens of positivity and potential through which African design and traditional craft can be viewed. Sustainability is often discussed and viewed through a lens of limits and reduction, but these narrative frames offer not only a way to do less, but also as a way to celebrate wealth –  the cultural kind – through craft preservation. Three highlights stood out in this year’s exhibition:

Staying Local

This Is Us showcases a transparent, slow, low-waste, local sourcing and fair trade approach to design. It is an exciting model for what future fashion businesses could be. Funtua cotton and Kano indigo dyeing, both native to Nigeria, were the starting point for their product line (the main image showcases an example). Their brand experience goes beyond the shopping transaction to include patching and redyeing services (customers can sign up for reminders) to extend a garment’s life cycle, as well as recycling or upcycling at the end of it.

Research and development

Nkwo’s brand is home to a zero-waste space, a kind of creative lab for design innovation focused on cutting techniques, fabric manipulation and recycling for solutions that leave nothing behind. One of those solutions is the brand’s proprietary Dakala cloth, made with a modern strip weaving technique developed during one of their studio experiments. The unique, beautiful final product appears handloom-woven but is actually made up of offcuts.

Crafting Simplicity

In fashion’s never-ending quest for newness it’s sometimes easier to complicate things unnecessarily when we could push ourselves to use what we already know and have in new ways. This young brand has figured that out using knitting and crocheting. Debuting in 2018 as part of the Lagos Fashion Week Green Access program, Elexiay’s production process seems almost Utopian: contemporary, recyclable fashion using local yarn with local dyes, is handmade by local craftswomen who are trained and paid fairly, without machinery or waste.

Image: Supplied by This Is Us

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