Lagos goes global

AFRICAN LOOK: Some dazzling designs by Deola Segoe.
AFRICAN LOOK: Some dazzling designs by Deola Segoe.

A MODEL struts the runway wearing a flowing newspaper print gown in the African megacity of Lagos in Nigeria where international high-end fashion buyers are looking beyond the country's bleak headlines to uncover the next new thing.

There have been efforts to turn Lagos, a city with a fearsome reputation, into a fashion destination. They reached new heights at the MTN Lagos Fashion & Design Week that ran from last Wednesday to Saturday and drew European fashion brands such as the UK's Selfridges & Co and Munich-based to Nigeria for the first time.

With local brands seeking wider platforms and international retailers hungry for novelty, designers and buyers see opportunities for collaboration.

"There's something about the fresh, the unknown, the possibility of seeing a new brand springing forth into the limelight . These are becoming interesting to people outside Nigeria," said Omoyemi Akerele, the fashion week's founder and creative director.

An encouraging response to African-inspired designs by top Western labels gives buyers confidence that designs straight from the continent will also sell.

"Over the past few seasons, there's been a strong trend for print," said Bruno Barba, the brand public relations manager at Selfridges.

Online retailer, which ships top designers' clothes including Miu Miu, Givenchy, Lanvin and Isabel Meron to clients in 120 different countries, is also looking for products in Nigeria that will sell well. The company hopes that will set it apart from the competition in a fast-paced industry.

"For me, Nigeria represents a fun individualism," its buying director Justin O'Shea said.

Previously, several Nigerian designers have helped put the West African nation on the global fashion map.

Deola Sagoe has gained recognition from US Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley and Oprah Winfrey.