On Tuesday, December 3, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and French Network in collaboration with the Italian Consulate General hosted the Creative Director of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri, at the Alliance Francaise Lagos, Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos. The event featured a masterclass, an exhibition, and a Q&A session where Adichie and Chiuri both spoke. The reception continued at a different location the following day (December 4), with a Wear Nigerian Fashion Show, where Maria and Chiuri shared more about their fashion journeys.
In 2016, Maria Grazia Chiuri launched a Dior SS17 collection featuring a t-shirt with the words WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS written in bold typeface across a plain white background. It was Maria’s debut as the first female Creative Director of Christian Dior, and the whole world was watching. Maria picked the words from Chimamanda’s 2013 TedxEuston talk (also titled We Should All Be Feminists). And a model walked the runway in the boldly emblazoned t-shirt while Chimamanda’s talk played over the speakers. That t-shirt sparked a 2017 trend.
Maria and Chimamanda’s collaboration was exciting because it suggested greater opportunities for African creatives, but things became even more interesting the following year when Adichie launched a Wear Nigerian project. Since 2017, the influential writer has been actively committed to buying Nigerian brands and wearing them to high-profile events. Her thoughtful representation through this project has given valuable exposure to several brands.
Now meet Ronke Ladipo, the mind behind a Nigerian fashion outfit called Rouch. After discovering that Ronke attended the Live in Lagos events, I reached out to ask about her experience. Ronke says she went prepared. For her activism and many other reasons, Chimamanda is someone Ronke Ladipo really admires. On the first night, she caught Chimamanda’s eye and made her way over to her. Under her fashion label Rouch, Ronke crafts uncommon accessories. Her methods are innovative, and the result is often a head-turner. Chimamanda was struck by the one Rouch item Ronke was carrying that night – the Rouch Padlock bag. In fact, Ronke’s design caught the attention of both Chimamanda and Maria. By the end of the second night, Maria Grazia Chiuri was carrying a Rouch Padlock bag in gold that Ronke had gifted to her. The bag complimented Maria’s all-black ensemble beautifully.
“Chimamanda ordered three bags on the spot.”Ronke
She also says the two nights were an ‘amazing experience’ for her. The Masterclass, fashion show, and conversations were all important reasons to attend, but the appeal for Ronke was this one in million chance she would have to network and expand the reach of her brand. She seized it with confidence. Ronke Ladipo is a multitalented creative. What you see is not all you get. Over the course of her career in the fashion industry, she has worked in several capacities (model, fashion editor, TV and radio personality). Ronke says Nigerian creatives should be more willing to push the narrative beyond the problems our industry is plagued with.
“Fashion here is very political… [So] how can we reach out to top designers to do partnerships? Because we all know it’s not just about design, it’s about having a bigger presence. How can we turn designs into real business? What do we need to do? I wanted a talk. I didn’t want just a piece [of knowledge/advice], I wanted the whole chunk… Always use one opportunity to get another opportunity.”
A cultural activist like Chimamanda is not waiting to be invited to a table, she is setting up tables where more voices can be heard. But the idea is not to lean on giants like her or Maria Chiuri for support. The important thing is to stand on their shoulders, see further, and eventually build skyscrapers of our own. African creativity is dynamic worthy of global recognition. But we must ultimately set our sights on developing ability and industry. We can only do this by making the best of what we have, seizing every chance we get to do more, and connecting with more people (leaders and consumers alike) across the globe.
Featured Image Source: OnoBello
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