Across countries in Africa, fashion weeks are taking a pivotal stance and becoming much more recognized. From South Africa’s South African Fashion Week and Cape Town Fashion Week to Nigeria’s Heineken Lagos Fashion Week, Senegal’s Dakar Fashion Week, Ghana’s Accra Fashion Week, and a host of others, there’s no telling the level of impact fashion has, and will continue to have, on the continent. Just recently, UNESCO released a report in collaboration with Lagos Fashion Week, which estimated the annual export value of the industry at approximately $15 billion.
Heineken Lagos Fashion Week, a division of the parent company Style House Files, is one of the most anticipated fashion events in Africa. Founded in 2011 by lawyer turned entrepreneur, Omoyemi Akerele, Heineken Lagos Fashion has cemented itself as an important space in Africa’s fashion and beauty playbook. This year, lovers of African fashion and beauty convened at the popular Federal Palace Hotel, situated in the heart of Victoria Island, one of the most suburban places in the country. The runway of the Heineken Lagos Fashion Week 2023 officially ran from October 26 through the 29, sponsored by Lush Hair, Spotify, MTN, and a few others.
For South African Fashion Week (SAFW), the ambience was no different. The event, which kicked off on October 19 and ended on October 21, began with a cocktail event by luxury beverage company, Cruz Vodka. Founded by Lucilla Booyzen, this year’s event was one to remember, putting fashion in Africa on the roadmap. One of the ways they have done this is by pioneering emerging and established African designers, mentoring them, granting funding, and just generally presenting them with more global opportunities to reach a mass market; and this year was no different.
Balmoral Palace was the space in the Federal Palace Hotel set aside for this convention in Lagos, while for South Africa, the location was the gorgeous Mall of Africa. Attendees flocked in with their best ideas of fashion, each wanting to outdo the other, from garments to makeup. Besides the garments on the runway and the designers showcasing their exceptional talents, one major thing that stood out was the beauty looks on the runways. Each designer had the models strut the runway in looks that best told the stories they wanted to tell. BeautyMatter highlights a few of these remarkable looks.
For every fashion week, hairstyling is a huge deal, and runway shows from South Africa and Lagos Fashion Week did not disappoint. From ponytails to braids, weaveons, and Afros, guests were left with an enthralling experience. In Lagos, Lush Hair was the official sponsor, while Carlton Hair was the official hair sponsor for SAFW. “Carlton Hair prides itself on quality, professionalism, and sustainability,” the company stated, “and we love partnering with SAFW, as we feel it focuses on the same attributes. Our aim is to give clients and stylists the exposure and opportunity to be exposed to the latest fashion and hair trends.” As BeautyMatter recently learned, Lush Hair Nigeria has signed another two-year contract with Lagos Fashion Week to be its official sponsor.
On the runway, Nigerian brands like Pepper Row (by Omafume Niemogha), Cute-Saint (by Muftau Femi Ajose), and Elexiay (by Elyon Adede) had models walk the runway in sleek ponytails; while the Ivorian brand Kente Gentlemen, the Kenyan brand Katush, and the Malian brand Mariah Bocoum Couture all styled models with various styles of braids.
There were also some go-bald-or-go-home moments, with models from South Africa’s Oyama Gonintebe, or Nigeria’s GËTO (by Samantha Adebayo), having their leading moments. As with the braids, ponytails, and weaves, natural hair reigned supreme especially amongst the female models, and SAFW definitely had them in recurring numbers, especially by brands like Munkus (by Thando Ntuli), Thulattu South Africa, VNTU Official, and Elwen Designs.
Whether extremely visible or nude, makeup has the ability to easily communicate the designer’s vision for the collections. It is the essential finishing touches that elevate fashion to the realm of artistry during fashion week, lending credibility to the school of thought that they’re the bridge between fashion and art. During Lagos Fashion Week, this was the case for brands like Kadiju, Rendoll, and Jewel Jemila. These brands adorned their models with dewy highlighters and sharply applied 1980s style red blush contouring. There were also a lot of nude colors from brands like Nigeria’s Desirée Iyama and Studio Imo, and South Africa’s Helon Melon and Palesa Mokubung’s Mantsho brand. Although minimal, each stroke of color told a unique story and complemented the designer’s vision.
In contrast, other shows in South Africa and Lagos had really bold looks. We saw the dramatic allure of the smoky eyes from brands like Kadiju (by Oyindamola Aleshinloye), Rendoll (by Reni Abina), Oshobor, and Love From Julez, as well as experimental avant-garde lip transformative looks from brands like Oriré, Viviers Studio, and Abigail Ajobi, which were either extremely black colored or glittery—almost three-dimensional.
Accessories, such as earrings and headwraps, were the secret beauty ingredients that infused personality and flair into every show this year from Lagos and South Africa. Earrings—whether they were statement chandeliers, subtle studs, or daring hoops—added exclamation points to the outfits at KikoRomeo, Gëto, Desirée Iyama, Elexiay, Cynthia Abila, and Pepper Row have models showing up on the runway with extremely gorgeous earrings, including those shaped as petals, roses, animal patterns, large circles, or just studs.
Headwraps, on the other hand, introduced cultural and historical elements, turning each runway show into a narrative. Within the African context, they can signify strength and tradition, or simply serve as a stylish adornment. South Africa’s Sun Goddess Afro Lux, Black Coffee, and street wear brand, Leon Von Solms, really led the charge on this one. The headwraps were mainly prints, including black and white stripe patterns.
Lastly, sunglasses, the epitome of chic and practical fashion accessories, played a pivotal role in elevating the glamor of beauty looks during fashion. For years now, and with each runway collection, this has been ingrained in the DNA of the fashion brand, Cute-Saint, and they didn’t disappoint with this year’s presentation. These eye- wear pieces go beyond mere sun protection. Oversized frames, sleek aviators, and vintage cat-eyed shapes in white and black shades created an air of mystery and allure, complementing beauty looks on this year’s runway.
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