by Lekan Olanrewaju
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away -well in reality, not too far away but that’s really of no consequence right now- there lived a man; a man who was known for what some would call his stellar skills in garment making. This man was popular, and this man was outspoken. This man was something of a Robin Hood, you see. A freedom fighter, if you will. His name was Emmy Collins. He had watched a certain big bad wolf named ARISE Magazine come into his country, with the support of the evil ThisDay, and rip off the poor defenseless designers who were either too entranced by the glistening fur of said wolf, or were too scared of the thought of the wolf’s big and sharp tearing into their tender flesh to speak out–In which case they ran to the huntsman Emmy Collins. This huntsman wasn’t scared of the wolf, oh no. He wasn’t impressed by its seemingly lustrous fur either. He had partied with bigger, and badder wolves, had worn fur far richer and he had teeth, or at least a tongue of his own, that was far sharper than anything the hound could muster.
A few weeks ago popular Nigerian designer Emmy Collins abruptly launched a twitter tirade against ARISE Magazine Fashion Week. Well, technically, that was only his first, as he’s since then continued to take subtle (and not so subtle jabs) at the event and its organisers. He, among other things, labeled the event as “the bane of fashion in Nigeria” and went on to say that many designers had confided in him their feelings of being ripped off by the organisers, because they were too scared to speak out themselves.
While Emmy Collins could easily have been perceived as coming off as spiteful, he didn’t exactly go on a meaningless “DOWN WITH ARISE!!’ rant. He was able to raise valid–albeit venom-laced–points regarding the event, in particular, the issue of buyers and that of organisation, the latter of which, was to an extent, unfortunately confirmed.
It was the 7th of March and all roads led to the Federal palace Hotel, or a twitter search of the hashtag “#amfw” to monitor the proceedings, if you couldn’t make it physically.
The show was scheduled to start by 4 pm but tents were still being erected by then. Word then got around that the official start had been moved to 6 pm. The delay was no cause for alarm; it was Nigeria, after all, regardless of the “international” nature of the event. But time continued to pass, and people began to worry. Then word broke out that the delay was due to a power outage at the venue. This was anticipated, but unfortunately the generator gotten in case of such an eventuality seemed not to be working. There were whispers of a postponement, but nobody was sure. And then the big one hit. Models were “fighting/protesting/rioting”. The talk spread quickly. Apparently the models wanted money and had halted the show. “It wasn’t really the generator at all.” “Oh but wait, it was the generator.” “The show had already been delayed before the trouble with the models broke out.” Rumours ran wild, nothing was certain; apart of course, from the fact the day was, in unequivocal terms, a fiasco.
In the midst of all this, it would have been difficult not to think of Emmy Collins, due to all the attention he’d managed to draw to himself in his previous rants. Judging by the frantic manner in which some people rushed to tag him in tweets relating to the debacle, we’d say they couldn’t help but wonder what his reaction would be. Now don’t get us wrong, we were definitely interested in his take, but we had seriously been hoping he wouldn’t get the chance to say, ‘I told you so’. Not particularly because of any spite against him, but for the sake of all who had put in what was undoubtedly hard work into the whole program. He seemed to share the same sentiments, as he first of all “sympathized” with the Nigerian designers who once more were nothing more than victims to the horrible and exploitative duo of ARISE Magazine and ThisDay. It however didn’t take him long to indulge in the internet equivalent throwing his head back and pointing and cackling wildly, and there was even what seemed like an attempt from him to start an “occupyamfw” trending topic.
Now, we could easily paint Emmy Collins as some bitter person with a personal grudge against the organizers of the event, and we’d probably get a pat on the back from those who think he’s an –insert preferred term for unpleasant person here-
We could just as well ‘take his side” and label the ARISE magazine fashion week the most scathing words we could think of; this would probably get us some twitter love from the Dutch/Nigerian designer.
So, what’s eating Emmy Collins – apart from the fact that he said Ozwald Boateng wouldn’t attend and lo and behold, Boateng did?! Judging by his Twitter account, which has been his main outlet to air his thoughts on this issue, 3 points stand out: poor organization, lack of buyers, and the eye-raising accusations of the whole event simply being an elaborate money laundering scheme, which we’re just going to leave untouched.
Now, on the issue of organisation, we’re hard pressed to say he was completely off the mark. A whole day being “postponed” is something of a big deal, particularly considering it’s an event held in such esteem. Granted, the “Nigerian Factor” could be blamed to an extent. It’s hard to determine who to place blame on whenever “nepa strikes”. Luckily, or seemingly so, the organizers had prepared for this by paying for a generator. Unfortunately, it was, according to reports, a faulty one. We’ll ignore the nagging feeling to whisper “419” in reference to whoever supplied it, and focus on the fact that this really is on the heads of nobody but the organizers or whoever they had delegated to make sure the generator was working properly before showtime.
Reason 2. That nagging word, “buyers”. In simple terms, a buyer is a person, usually a representative of an organization which deals with fashion retailing, who selects what items his store will “carry” based on his own predictions of what will be popular with the purchasing public. In a perfect world, Nigeria would be filled with these, and designers who show at fashion shows would have entire collections whisked off by enthusiastic buyers to their department stores where the fashion hungry public can get their itchy hands on them. Unfortunately, Nigeria is still a long way to go from reaching fashion utopia. Most boutiques here belong to designers themselves, and department stores are far from the rage here. The closest we have are Temple Muse and L’Espace. Some have suggested that Arise owes it to the Nigerian designers to use its international connections to bring foreign buyers into the country. And while that may be something of an appealing idea, we can’t help wonder if it is really something to attack anybody over. It’s hardly a case of the organizers of the event dragging designers by their sketchpads to showcase their collections “by force” and then throwing them out afterwards. It stands to reason that if a designer is well aware of the conditions under which he is going to be showing, then it’s far from a “scam”.
Arise Magazine Fashion Week is over now, and judging by the many who keep recounting tales of their wonderful experiences there, we’d say they managed to get past their initial setbacks and move forward successfully. This, however, hasn’t stopped Emmy Collins from demanding to know how many buyers were at the event, or from bragging about how unimpressed he is by ARISE due to the fact he’s been part of “much bigger” fashion showcases. But over to you now. What do you think? Is he really interested in “fighting the good fight” for Nigerian fashion? Or is he masquerading behind that cause to act out some personal grudge? Or, is he being made out to be the bad guy when in fact he’s simply being selfless in speaking out for what he believes in?