With traditional fabrics, Nigerian designers are shaping a new aesthetic


Weaving a contemporary design in a traditional West African fabric, Nigerian Tsemaye Biniti creates a fashion that he hopes can also bridge the gap between luxury and everyday life.

His material of choice is Aso-oke, a hand-woven clot native to the Yoruba people and historically used on special occasions. Binitie, who cut his teeth as a design assistant at Stell McCartney in 2005, started using the fabric in 2017. He infuses the yellow dresses that are his iconic designs with cotton and silks to give them a post-modern feel.

“We started using contemporary African art and culture in the threads of the collection so that you see very… obviously (signs) clues of it,” said Binitie, who divides his time between Lagos and London.


Fashion designer Tsemaye Binitie holds his personalized Aso-Oke fabric during a workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo: Reuters)

“It’s a kind of lighted fabric, lighted color, lighted style.” Priced between $ 300 and $ 4,000, her personalized TB12 collection features Aso-oke – which means “top cloth” in Yorub – in seven different hues.

“We kind of preserve the culture, you know, that we’ve looked our whole life in front of us… and teach the younger generation that it’s something to be proud of something to wear,” he said. told Reuters.

Lagos designer Lisa Folawiyo specializes in different traditional fabrics, West African wax prints known as Ankara, and her hybrid collection, called Batkara, incorporates Batik designs adorned with needle beads and trimmings. of glitter.

“We merged what is indigenous to us with what I knew in the West and we made it our own,” she said.


This same synthesis informs the aesthetic of Alara, a Lago store dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion for Nigerian and Diaspora markets.

Its head of partnerships, Arinola Fagbemi, says more and more people are thinking of African luxury “in terms of how we live every day… not just for celebratory moments.

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