The hunt for fashion in the Lagos area has traditionally led shoppers to markets, a few owner-operated shops, malls further afield, or online. But tucked away off the beaten track – if you know where to look – there are fervent fashionistas creating, selling and promoting stylish, homegrown clothing.
One of these is Jessica Antonio currently producing a collection inspired by Alentejo landscapes. “Sustainable and zero-waste oriented, I’m a fan of textile creations and use many traditional techniques such as smock, crochet and embroidery to generate new designs,” she says.
Graduating in fashion design in the Netherlands in 2017, Antonio moved back home to Lagos two years ago. “I really missed the ocean and the homey feeling Lagos gave me,” she explains.
Designing predominantly for women, she hopes to diverge into unisex pieces in future. Although most of her raw materials come from Belgium and Holland, she also works with traditional Portuguese cloth and second-hand fabrics. Selling made-to-order mode online, Antonio plans to stock physical stores and showrooms soon. “People are quite traditional and not very daring,” she says about the local fashion scene. “But slowly we see a change with new shops coming along and second-hand being less of a taboo.”
Other local labels include Aura Breeze, brainchild of Andrea Morgan, an industrial designer who specializes in lightweight, versatile and comfortable custom clothing for women. Originally from Bogota, Morgan chose Lagos to relocate for the opportunities to develop art and cultural projects. “I base my designs in the wind and the breeze of the Algarve,” she says. “Comfortable cuts with fresh and light fabrics to empower women.” Having worked with fabrics and fashion since 2010, Morgan always seeks local materials: “The Portuguese fabric shops are great for off cuts full of colour and texture.” She has noticed recent growth in the Algarve fashion scene. “More people are interested in developing their own clothes, creating a thriving, sustainable market where each garment has a high value with quality fabrics and fair trade labour,” she explains. With the two trigger points of beach and bustling city life in Lagos, she creates cross-over collections which are sold via the Jah Shaka Surf Shop as well as designing by appointment.
Stranger Than Blonde is an Etsy-based fashion brand owned and operated by former art and design lecturer, Claire Yvette Lloyd-Bown. As a mixed media artist, her colourful and quirky designs have a hand-drawn painterly quality.
Originally from the UK, Lloyd-Bown happened upon Lagos in May 2019 after travelling around Portugal during an extended honeymoon. “It pulled at my heartstrings,” she says. With a star-studded background as Director of Education at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London, Lloyd-Bown is now focusing on creative t-shirts, silk scarves, women’s clothing, swimwear, yoga gear, and interior items. “I also sell on other Print on Demand (POD) platforms, e.g. Redbubble, Society6, and Teepublic,” she says. “The POD approach has been an amazing start for me as just to see my designs on objects feels like magic.” Having met several other local designers, she is looking forward to future collaborations.
Could this be a Lagos fashion show in the making?
Claire Lloyd Bown