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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

With traditional fabrics, Nigerian designers fashion a new aesthetic

"We are sort of preserving the culture, you know, that we've watched all our lives in front of us ... and teaching the younger generation that it is something to be proud of something to want to wear," he told Reuters.

By: Reuters | Lagos |
March 20, 2021 2:05:06 pm
Fashion designer Tsemaye Binitie stands by his custom Aso-Oke fabrics during a workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo: Reuters)

Weaving contemporary design into a traditional West African fabric, Nigerian Tsemaye Biniti is creating fashion he hopes can also bridge the gap between luxury and the everyday.

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

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

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

“It’s sort of informed fabric, informed colour, informed styling.”Priced at between $300 and $4,000, his TB12 custom collection features Aso-oke – which means “top cloth” in Yorub – in seven different shades.

“We are sort of preserving the culture, you know, that we’ve watched all our lives in front of us … and teaching the younger generation that it is something to be proud of something to want to wear,” he told Reuters.

Fellow Lagos designer Lisa Folawiyo specialises in different traditional cloth, the West African wax prints know as Ankara, and her hybrid collection, called Batkara incorporates Batik designs embellished with needle-work beading and sequin trimmings.

“We have merged what is indigenous to us with what I was familiar with within the West and we’ve made it ours,” she said.

That same synthesis informs the aesthetic of Alara, a Lago store dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion fo the Nigerian and the diaspora markets.

Its Head of Partnerships, Arinola Fagbemi, says more and more people are thinking about African luxury “in terms of ho we live on a day-to-day basis … not just for celebrator moments.

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