Produced by Natalie Whittle. Edited by Oli McGuirk.
Nigeria has always had a thriving fashion scene. I admired early on the seamless structures of [INAUDIBLE], the unusual flair of Zizi Cardow. Now, there was a new generation of designers. Most were in Lagos, the most stylish city in the world, where fashion is the one true democracy, from the Western liberal-loving elite class to the working poor in their beautifully put-together outfits bought second-hand.
Looking at Nigerian designs online became my favourite time waster-- an ethos of clothing as pleasure rather than status. I decided to call it my project Wear Nigerian and planned to have photos put up on my Facebook page. My 20-year-old twin nieces, Chisom and Amaka laughed. Auntie, you should have an Instagram page. We'll handle it for you.
They were unhappy with the first photos. Not bright or clear enough, they said. And it doesn't help that I loathe being photographed. A camera before me results automatically in my being knotted with awkwardness.
Now, six months later, my nieces have made peace with the photos not being Instagram perfect. At least they're real, they said. So far, my favourite brands are Fia Factory and Grey, the former beautifully offbeat, the latter timeless, with deft touches of originality. To a Dior fashion show in Paris, I wore a dress by Ladunni Lambo, a young designer who might well become a star because of her rare mix of consciousness and introspection.
My best-loved purchase is a white dress from the improbably named label She's Deluxe, owned by a young woman in Abuja, which I wore to the American Academy of Arts and Letters induction in New York. I have practical hopes for my project, that it shows Nigerian fashion as it is, not a museum of traditional African clothes but a vibrant and diverse industry.
At a time of political uncertainty, when I find myself questioning the future of the two countries I call home-- Nigeria and the United States-- this project is an act of benign nationalism, a peon to peaceful self-sufficiency, a gesture towards what is still possible. It is my uncomplicated act for complicated times.