The date is set October 23rd, it’s the launch for Lagos Fashion & Design Week and I have decided to debut my Men’s Collection to the Nigerian and International fashionista’s gathered in Lagos for this annual event that has been growing momentum since it’s inception 3 years prior. This years’ event is sponsored by GT Bank.
I had been hearing a lot about the growing fashion industry and the fledgling designers making their mark on the fashion scene locally and internationally.
The brainchild of Omoyemi Akerele, a trained Lawyer and creator of the Style House Files, an agency she created to selflessly promote Nigerian Fashion and bring it to International attention.
This year’s event was given added gravitas as it was rumoured that Mrs. Burstein was due to attend and a team from British Vogue. She did indeed grace the event with her presence with her son Simon, who attended all the shows…
Ejos Ubi, Mrs Burstein & Samson
I had decided to do the event at the end of August and pledged my interest early after making up my mind to go. I then didn’t hear anything for several weeks, which prompted me to contact Omoyemi to find out what was happening. An email duly followed which had supposedly been sent some weeks earlier. The email stated that a registration payment needed to be made and returned with some images of the collection. This was done at the soonest and I waited confirmation of receipt. This came some days soon after. Ok, so now it was official, I was now one of the designer’s on the Lagos Fashion & Style Week roster. Time to get the rest of the collection together…
The SOBOYE collection had grown from an offering of SOBOYE shirts that I had created last Summer as part of our Africa@SOBOYE event to celebrate the African nation’s participation in the London 2012 Olympics.
The SOBOYE shirt collection was being produced by Jerymn Street shirt maker’s and were made entirely from Ankara/Dutch Wax commonly know as ‘African fabric’ or sometimes Batik. I had extended the shirt collection to double the size from the precious year as they had proved so popular appealing to a wide array of people.
A swatch of one of the fabrics featured in the collection
The collection would now consist of a suit; two styles of trousers; shorts; a waistcoat; a ‘cardi shirt’ and a sweatshirt. Once fabrics were selected the task begun to get the patterns then samples made. Once I got involved in this I had neglected the other organizational tasks that were necessary to make the trip happen.
I booked my ticket and was due to arrive two days before the show. I then had to organize a Visa. I had never got round to apply for a Nigerian passport as I hadn’t visited enough to warrant getting one but chills were sent down my spine when I remembered the nightmare of going to the Nigerian Embassy to get this done.
A friend I had bumped into at the Kehinde Wiley opening had informed me that the process was no longer being dealt with at the Embassy but an outside agency (OIC) on Fleet Street and said it can take some time to organize.
Being Mr. Last Minute.com this task was not prioritised and became a very stressful event indeed, costing the best part of £300 and was really touch and go whether it would be granted in time. As it was I had to change the flight for a day later at a cost of £140. I also had to start my course of Malaria tablets which were the best part of £100.
I collected the Visa the afternoon the day before travelling and it involved calling in some favours from friends to ensure it will be issued on the day form was submitted as it can take up to 3 days to be issued. It was a tight call but I then had rush around London to pick-up and pack-up, a whole bunch of things before I’d be able to set off. I didn’t have any luggage to carry the collection in or my own personal items so a trip to the West End was needed. I also had to collect the show music from my DJ friend who was recording a special soundtrack, as well as collect the trousers that were being made by the factory. I also needed to get home collect my toiletries, travel clothes and passport, as well as meet a friend back at the shop to say farewell… I must have been running on Adrenalin as I didn’t even once consider how that was all going to be done in the time frame I had. Once I had gathered my stuff from home I came back to the shop to then pack the collection and tie up loose ends re: shop.
I left the shop just before 8am to catch a 11.40 flight. I thought I’d take the Overground to Highbury then connect to Piccadilly line from Kings Cross, only someone had thrown themselves on the track and completely screwed up the travel plans. No trains were running beyond Dalston and buses were all packed and no taxis were to be had. It was 9am by the time I reached Kings Cross. I had been advised by my cousin(who had helped book my flight)to get the Heathrow Express from Paddington. This I did and boarded the 9.50 to Heathrow still confident I’d get there on time, since it was a15 minute ride to Heathrow. I got off the train as soon as it arrived and headed to Terminal 5. After wandering around for about 10 minutes, I realize that I have got off to early, not even acknowledging that there were different terminals. The next train was another 10 minutes away and would take 15 minutes to get to Terminal 5… Well I guess you have worked out how the rest of this goes by now. Yes, I missed the flight - I was by now in a right state. The BA team said I could fly the following day at the same time but that would arriving in Lagos at 6pm the following evening. My show was due to open Lagos Style and Fashion Week. I informed the team in Nigeria in the vain hope that they might be able to reschedule – this of course was not possible.
I was now panic stricken about missing the show – the whole purpose of all the stress. I was advised that Virgin flew at 11pm that night and would possibly have seats but I would need to go to Terminal 3 to sort out. The flight was £749! I had to run about like someone about to catch a plane that was about to leave. My two-week budget was now having to be spent on getting myself to the venue.
As I traipsed to Terminal 3 I hear a clacking sound coming from my right foot. I look at my feet to then notice that the sole of my shoes are hanging off!! I cannot believe it – I had only one other pair packed and they were not properly worn in yet. It was not my day!
I eventually boarded the plane and arrived in Lagos at 5am the following day and was met by Cousin who asked as soon as he meets me “ How did you manage to miss the plane?” “Don’t ask ,“ I reply not knowing myself how I even ended up in Nigeria….
We went from the airport to the Venue do a fitting and remained there until the show begun.
I had a great selection of models and really liked what Arieta Mujay and her team did with the styling. Model Kimmie Adams opened the show and looked fab in the Ankara sweatshirt and shorts combo. For allowing him to open the show I was rewarded with looked after at the after show events and shown and introduced to the key players in the Nigerian Fashion Scene. I took my bow at the end of it and was so relived that I had made it. From leaving London to walking the catwalk at the end of my show is much of a blur to me and I was so astonished that I made it but I Thanked God.
I spent the rest of the week trying to make appointments with shops in Lagos and also trying to meet other designers to bring to SOBOYE. This is certainly not as easy as it sounds. Transport is a big issue in Lagos and traffic on the main highway can take up to three hours to cross, that coupled with the crazy driving and poor state of roads meant driving became a hazardous task so didn’t manage to get about as much as I would have liked.
I did, however, manage to secure a Lagos stockist, a cool concept store called STRANGER. I also visited Temple Muse and the atelier of Alter Ego who we are now stocking at SOBOYE.
I spent the following week in Isara chilling with my Mother and her family in the family house, which had not changed since I had visited the first time as a teenager. I always feel at home here and found the pace of life agreeable for a week or so. Obviously there were plenty of relatives to visit and plenty visiting, English is not as widely spoken here as it is in Lagos so communicating was not as liberal but I managed to get by…
I went back to Lagos for three days and managed to hook-up with photographer and Publisher of Mania Magazine Kelechi Amadi-Obi. Luckily I had been staying nearby their office and was impressed to find a fullscale situation actively in operation. After a productive meeting Kelechi took my portrait. I intend to contribute some fashion stories for the mag and have also become their London stockist, which is great.
My time in Nigeria had been productive and the country is abuzz with frenetic energy and yes there is a thriving economy and a developing fashion and arts scene. There is a wealth of talented designers that against all odds manage to produce quality collections despite the various challenges.
The final incident to happen was back on the plane home. The flight was delayed due to an obese passenger not being able to board the plane due to excess luggage. She had to pass up the isle sideways and was carrying the largest piece of hand luggage I seen carried on a plane. Unfortunately she was sat behind me and became a constant source of irritation as she was constantly getting up to go to the toilet or get something form the overhead storage, pulling my seat back from behind every time she got up.
The final blow came when disembarking she tried to get her overweight luggage down from the storage and couldn’t manage which resulted in it landing on my head giving me mild concussion.
This was reported to cabin crew who sat me and took a report then called for medical and a wheelchair to take me to the terminal. What drama… I said I’d be fine and they asked just to remain seated whilst they checked me out. Once they satisfied I was okay they released me to go and I headed to the Terminal to make my exit and resume my London life…
The trip had lived up to expectations and was certainly worth the effort. I certainly will be participating next year but will be more organised and get out more although I do suspect I will be lastminute.com again and not be on it as much as I need to be. Note to self ~ 1. Get a Nigerian Passport 2. Asked to be moved if I see someone coming my way with excess luggage.
Samson on the ‘Green Carpet’ wearing SOBOYE(naturally…) Photo Courtesy of Bella Naija
It was certainly a worthwhile experience that will help build the brand and create awareness in a growing market. We have have just had these images posted which is the icing on the cake of what was an eventful week.
STRANGER’s promo photo for their photography exhibition featuring Model of the season Uju.
SOBOYE’s 1st Nigerian Cover. We love you WINGS(Arik Air) ) for your continued big ups and support.