Anire Ikomi

Aaye

Challenging Nigerians perceptions of Nigerian fashion

Aaye means space in Yoruba, one of Nigeria's official languages. aayė is a multimedia
museum that seeks to generate a shared space for Nigerian fashion designers and consumers to connect and re-construct the narrative of Nigerian fashion. The inaugural  exhibition curated from aaye is called agbegbe which means community in Yoruba. I realized that now more than ever Nigerian fashion designers need support and recognition as COVID-19 has forced consumers to evaluate their current supply chains. Who is part of the community behind fashion brands and how are they affected? & How are ideas formulated from concept to execution? This installation seeks to challenge the narrative and perception of what Nigerian fashion is by showcasing the connection within and between the chains of supply and demand and increasing the longevity of the faces behind these brands.

Challenge

I have always asked myself how I might increase awareness of the Nigerian fashion
industry? In 2017 my family and I started a womenswear brand based in Lagos, Nigeria called House of Irawo that focuses on contemporary ready-to-wear and custom couture pieces, I act as the brand strategist for House of Irawo. Initially, my assumptions were that if there was a Vogue publication in West - Africa, this could increase awareness for my family’s brand and for other Nigerian fashion brands like ours. I interviewed fashion editors, and Vogue readers to gain their perspectives and it was always 50/50, some agreed that there should be a Vogue creation but others thought that West - Africans did not need the international assistance or validation. I went into second semester, so sure that my outcome would be a magazine but through various ethnographic research, I started questioning how much of an impact Vogue would give to these designers and began to realize that to increase sales for Nigerian designers, I needed to understand what the perception of Nigerian fashion was to Nigerian consumers. After multiple interviews and shadowing activities of my stakeholders, I began to realize these three insights were affecting consumption habits. Many Nigerians believe Nigerian fashion lacks originality, some Nigerians only purchase Nigerian fashion for special occasions, and Many Nigerians perceive imported brands as industry leaders.

Outcome

These insights from my stakeholders guided me to my current outcome. My intentions are to highlight Nigerian fashion designers' process, ideation, and heritage through virtual and physical installations curated by aayė. I will be leveraging popular destinations and fashion designers as a means to increase awareness and sales of these designers. The agbegbe (community) installation series will span out over a month and focus on 3 different Nigerian designers and their brands, and our first focus will be on House of Irawo. These 3 different designers and their teams will also teach workshops during the month span of the series, covering topics such as illustration/mood board ideating, the basics on how to use a sewing machine, fabric sourcing, marketing/branding workshop, and a digital media workshop. The installation will document each designer's collection concept including moodboard and sketches, fabric sourcing, challenges these designers faced due to COVID, and a live viewing of 3 garments being produced from day 1 to day 30.

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