The Glow Up congratulates Nigerian fashion designer Emmanuel Okoro of Emmy Kasbit on his award-winning collection presented at 2018 Lagos Fashion Week, which concluded Sunday night.
Lagos Fashion Week is an annual showcase in Nigeria for African designers, underwritten by Heineken. Twelve designers showed at the three-day event, providing a global showcase and the chance to win the Fashion Fund Prize, a cash grant of 5 million Naira ($13,900)—which the Emmy Kasbit collection ultimately won.
Okoro, Emmy Kasbit’s self-taught designer, founded the label in 2014 and told The Glow Up via email: “I feel like I’m one step closer to achieving my vision! The prize will go a long way in boosting my career towards commercial success.”
In addition to the prize money, underwritten by mobile banking service Fets Wallet Nigeria, Okoro will receive business mentoring from Ijeoma Ogbechie, an expert in finance, sales, consulting and technology who is currently a vice president at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and founder of Avivere, a fashion e-commerce startup.
Lagos Fashion Week was created in 2011 by entrepreneur Omoyemi Akerele, CEO of Style House Files, a fashion business-development agency that also headed the panel of judges for the Fashion Fund Prize. Among the runners-up were emerging talents Imad Eduso, Mo Agusto and Morafa—three young up-and-coming African designers to watch.
Emmy Kasbit menswear and womenswear collections are based on ethically produced, traditional Akwete fabrics from Okoro’s Igbo tribe. Cleanly tailored, modern and relaxed, Kasbit clothes are the perfect expression of Africanism for the sophisticated urbanite. Okoro says on his website that his clothes are made for “the unconventional man or woman who knows that their outfit is deliberate and not accidental.”
As for the future of his business, Okoro tells us that he hopes to “[have] international stockists thereby increasing brand awareness, being part of major international shows and also being a profitable brand.”
Nigeria entered the luxury-consumer consciousness in 2011 when the newly oil-rich nation experienced an economic boom in retail, which analysts projected would make Nigerians the second-largest consumers of Champagne after France. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out; Nigeria, which is currently in a recession, is 22nd in the world in terms of Champagne drinking.
Nonetheless, talent is bubbling up everywhere, and there is much to celebrate. Naomi Campbell was also in Lagos this past week headlining a separate event, Arise Fashion Week, for designers like London-based Nigerian designer Ozwald Boateng, who made a star turn presenting his collection last night, too. Campbell told Reuters that Vogue should launch an African edition: “Africa has never had the opportunity to be out there, and their fabrics and their materials and their designs be accepted on the global platform. … It shouldn’t be that way.”
It’s a sentiment that Okoro echoes when I ask how he imagines the future of African fashion: “I believe it’s a big one! It just needs more investment into providing an unprecedented fashion experience from start to finish and that involves fabric production.”
Nigeria’s newly whetted appetite for luxury goods remains strong, with the ranks of millionaires—while increasing at a slower pace—still growing. Hopefully, if fed by the development of local industry, their success will help lift the rest of the nation to a better standard of living. We can all help by supporting the work of African designers and the local weavers, sewers and craftsman who collaborate to make designers’ fashion dreams reality.