Africa: new haute (Deola Sagoe)

Having grown up in Lagos, Nigeria — laughably, with only an American passport as my legal form of ID (then) — I'm terribly biased about a few things Nigerian. I admire and cherish our ethnic mosaic; there are at least six hundred!! specific dialects and a myriad of cultural traditions. Yet we continue to thrive as a unified people; upholding our commonwealth while celebrating our rich diversity. I'm always amazed at new details I'm constantly discovering that distinguish our various ethnic groups. I love love 'skinny' fried (ripe) plantain — no, not exactly plantain chips — just fried plantain, which I can eat with tomato stew or corned beef stew — no, not corned beef hash!! oh so very, very different — for breakfast, lunch and dinner!! Yum!! I love our traditional styles, our ornately patterned fabrics, their inherent histories and their continuous evolutions. Every now and again, even as I continue to work on my 'international woman of mystery' persona (thanks Liza Minelli!! ["Role Play"] haha!!), I develop a feeling of nostalgia for my home. :)

Along with the bittersweetness of my longing, I've been dying to share with you a bit of the especially innovative essence of the Nigerian fashion scene. When I thought about it, I was sure my first feature of a Nigerian designer would be haute couture designer, Ms. Deola Sagoe. With a style inherently her own, she constructs garments that ennoble the rich diversity of the Nigerian — indeed the African heritage; revolutionizing the view of African fashion in a very modern way, and yet evoking a deep need to grasp the intimacies of a people constantly ignored or misrepresented. She regularly puts forth collections for her couture and prêt-à-porter line, and has a new denim line. Even as I procrastinated (naturally), researched her work — seeking Nigerian fashion savvy friends; debriefing, of sorts, the obliging Matthew Mensah, part creative director and PR Director of the design house — I was sure you would fall in love with her pieces, just as I had. Besides, I longed to write a piece that would portray her quintessentially; as the creative innovator she embodies. I looked through her designs, then I realized I could get away with saying absolutely nothing.
It's all there.
You see it.
You feel it.

Deola Sagoe has managed to design pieces that resonate with practically every aspect of a woman's personality. It highlights and nurtures our complexities, our intricacies, flaunting them in the most graceful manner for the world to behold. Our earthiness is displayed with a sense of pride. I mean Ms. Deola Sagoe's work is simply f.a.b!!!

Perhaps, her crowning moment came when she was nominated by the formidable god of fashion Andre Leon Talley for the MNET/AngloGold African Designs Awards (2000), which she won. Or even more recently, her triumph as the recipient of the Platinum Quality Award at the 10th International Star Awards in Paris (2006). It could easily have been a moment of deep appreciation from a fashion show attendee who fell in love with the first piece that came down the runway at one of her shows; an appreciation that resonates as mutual understanding between the designer and her new fan. It is an understanding of the fortunate coexistence of the ornate heritages of our generation; complex and continuously adapting, and yet coherent as a whole. Whenever it was, the world is set as Ms. Sagoe's runway!!

Indubitably, Deola Sagoe's career as a fashion designer in the past decade has transformed much of Africa's fashion industry. And yet, that's only a part of the story. Ms. Sagoe's philanthropic efforts are inspiring. Her struggles led to her appointment as the official Designer for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) & Health PR’s new Global campaign, "CatWALK THE WORLD-Fashion For Food" put forth by Matthew Mensah in Lagos (2006). The aim of the campaign is to create awareness and raise money to fight child hunger (thus, moving the WFP goal of ending child hunger by 2015), while highlighting the unique contributions of African designers in their home countries and around the world. This year the campaign will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In addition, her designs were highly sought after during the international fashion show, held as part of the POSITIVE campaign in Sun City, South Africa; a campaign created to foster the success of AIDS programmes in local South African districts.

Meanwhile, I'm so putting in a request for these pieces!! Yay!!
Yes, I will be sporting that pink chiffon caftan top (bottom right) as a dress (seeing that the model's at least 5'8 and I'm 5'1)... You know me so well daaahlings!! :)

Here are more pieces from her previous collections. I'll have to ask about her collection for '08
I need this outift!!! (4th row right)
Okay I couldn't pick four or five pieces. I just couldn't. I hope you enjoy them.

Lastly, you have to listen to my fave Nigerian songs. I just discovered them while I was home this past Christmas, even though I go back every year. I'm not exactly sure how old they are — not more than two years, I hope. *yikes* My knowledge of all forms of contemporary and pop music continues to dwindle!! If parts of the songs sound familiar, that's probably because they are. You've probably heard them in their original versions!! Nigerians are oh so good at remixing, very much without the consent of the original singers/songwriters. HA!! Enjoy!! And no, I don't understand half of what they are saying esp in the first song :) I just love it!!

Love you for reading!!
Fragrant kisses


Mia said...

Beautiful feature!!!! Great Job!

Anonymous said...

Very insightful article, it's refreshing to see something african portrayed in such a positive light :)

Anonymous said...

corned beef hash LMAO!!!!! Can you tell where my mind is. I read this beautiful post and that's what I get out of it. I'm really just hungry and I should take a two hour lunch break, but I am sitting at my desk reading Chic Simplicity. My job is so depressing and boring. I love the clothes too. So gorgeous.
Name withheld for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post on African Fashion.

Brigitte said...

Great post!

vogued out!!! said...

veey exciting post, I cant stop ogling the dresses.