#AriseFashionWeek2020 puts its weight behind new talent

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic provided a real world simulation to test the many anxieties that have plagued the global fashion industry over the last decade.

A sudden, rapidly spreading illness all but eliminated physical gatherings of all kinds, questioning the superiority of physical events for fashion showcases, retail and manufacturing. In its place, the Nigerian design industry was forced to accelerate the acceptance of virtual spaces as alternatives for connecting with audiences, monetizing artistic projects and sustaining creative communities.

The Nigerian fashion industry has always struggled, its efforts to build a homogenised fashion calendar and reach customers home and abroad crippled by a lack of government backed organizational structure or support for the designers and artisans within its ranks. As such, what little structure that exists was significantly affected by the pandemic as fashion weeks scrambled to make sense of virtual concerts and augmented reality.

Arise Fashion Week, organized by ThisDay Newspapers and the Arise Network has spent the last 15 years contributing its quota to the growth of the Nigerian fashion, organizing the country’s first fashion weeks and consistently supporting the industry through its Sunday pullout ThisDay Style.

In 2018, after a hiatus, the Arise Fashion Week returned, restructuring its showcase to better serve emerging and established Nigerian designers. One of its biggest coups in its new run was pulling much needed international attention to Nigerian design through a highly publicized collaboration with global supermodel Naomi Campbell and her very influential friends. Through Ms. Campbell, Arise Fashion Week was able to invite legendary fashion editor, Andre Leon Talley, Vogue UK Editor Edward Enninful and the legendary stylist, Jenke Ahmed to mentor designers at the showcase.

The 2020 showcase, originally slated for April 2020 was disrupted by the pandemic, which prevented travel and physical gatherings. Now that 8 months have passed and there is a better understanding of the risk posed by the pandemic, Arise Network is moving forward with the 2020 Arise Fashion Week and restructuring again to meet the needs of the industry in these unprecedented times.

First off, the partnership with Naomi Campbell continues this year, with the supermodel already in the country and actively contributing to this year’s showcase. Together with the Arise Networks and ThisDay Newspapers teams, the showcase is ditching its traditional showcase for a virtual-only competition called the Arise Fashion Week ‘30 Under 30’ to discover the next generation of fashion talent.

Amassing judges from across the world across diverse disciplines, the showcase made a call for entries from African designers across the continent and received several thousand entries. Its judging panel which included respected players in the fashion industry like Reni Folawiyo, successful designers of Nigerian descent like Niki Okuboyejo of Post Imperial, Odio Mimonet, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Loza Maleombho as well as new school professionals like photographer, Stephen Tayo and stylist KK Obi.

The team of seasoned judges have thinned down the entries to a shortlist of 30 designers including Bibi, Bloke, Boydoe, Clan, Colrs, DNA by Iconic INvanity, Elfreda Dali, Fruche, Geto, Ilham.G, Jawara Alleyne, Kenneth Ize, Kiko Romeo, Ladunni Lambo, Lagos Space Programme, Mazelle Studio, Moon by Me, Mmuso Maswell, Muyishime, Onalaja, Pepper Row, Re Lagos, T.I Nathan, TjWho, Tzar Studios, Vicnate, Weizdhurm Franklyn, Wuman and Ziva Lagos.

These designers, many of whom have been in the industry for at least half a decade will have their work appraised virtually by Vogue US Editor Anna Wintour, Vogue UK Editor Edward Enninful and a handful of other prominent global fashion names, all vying for varying cash prizes that start from $5,000 (about 1 million naira).

 The designers have been given free reign to design their collections, choose their own models and stylists, ensuring that as much as possible the creative vision they send down the runway is entirely their own.

This and the fact that all shortlisted designers will receive a portion of the cash prize is the kind of financial boost the industry has long needed and will help many of these young designers who are struggling despite great odds to keep their labels afloat and profitable coast into the new year. And that is definitely worth setting a few hours aside to stream the shows as we celebrate the return of fashion to the country’s capital this weekend.

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