'Trad is swag' in Africa's fashion capital, Lagos

Leggy dancers in tight shorts, bottles of Moet champagne and flashy cars feature in Nigerian pop icon Wizkid's bling-bling music videos. But the singer himself has now swapped the Versace T-shirts and low-slung jeans that show his underwear for traditional African dress -- a new youth trend in fashion hub Lagos.

Last year, Vogue voted Wizkid "Nigeria's best-dressed pop singer", a particularly coveted and prestigious title in a country where appearance is all important and competition is fierce.

Clothing that used to be considered only for the old or for people out in the provinces is setting the trend in fashion, from the Yoruba agbada, a large, triple-layered robe worn in the southwest, to the Igbo "Niger Delta" embroidered collarless shirt from the south, and the northern Hausa babariga, a long tunic worn with an embroidered asymmetrical hat.

In recent years, this traditional clothing -- or "trad" as it's dubbed -- can be seen in offices as well as nightclubs, and at weddings and business meetings. "It's the in-thing now," Wizkid told Vogue magazine. "When I'm back home, all I wear is African fabrics. I get material from different parts of Nigeria -- north, west, south -- and I mix it up," said the 26-year-old superstar.

Lack of space in Lagos, a sprawling megacity of 20 million inhabitants, has meant there are few shopping centres and ready-to-wear clothing stores are hard to find. Economic recession and the free fall of the naira currency has put paid to wealthy Nigerians' shopping sprees in Dubai, Paris and Milan. Instead, they've had to make do with what's on offer locally, sending the popularity of roadside tailors soaring.

'Trad is swag'

In 2012, Omobolaji Ademosu, known as B.J., left his job in a bank to set up his own line of men's clothing, Pro7ven. In two tiny workshops in Ojodu, on the outskirts of Lagos, his dozen employees cut, sew and iron a series of orders to the sound of a diesel generator.

B.J. calls his style "African contemporary". His work includes magnificent made-to-measure agbadas with embroidered collars, which can sell for up to 150,000 naira ($475, 420 euros) each. "Trad is swag," smiled B.J.

"Any day, I can switch from Yoruba to Igbo to Fulani, I'm rocking it! It's the Lagos spirit, there is no barrier, we are one." When attending professional meetings in business and politics, dressing in the ethnic outfit of your host is a sign of respect that can really pay off -- or at least win big contracts.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's election campaign in 2015, for example, featured him in a variety of traditional outfits from across the country. With more than 500 ethnic groups, Nigeria is able to draw from a huge catalogue of fabrics, styles and jewellery. The beauty of each ethnic look is a source of pride, which has begun to extend beyond Nigeria's borders.

In early May, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a spokesman for South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters party, posted a picture of himself on Instagram, dressed in a dark "Niger Delta" outfit, complete with wide-brimmed hat and gemstone necklace. His numerous and enthusiastic female fans were quick to comment with emoji hearts, affectionately calling him "Igwe" -- an Igbo prince.

Retained 'African pride'

"Even in Paris, young people from the diaspora want to present themselves as African princes now," said Nelly Wandji, owner of MoonLook, an African fashion boutique in the upmarket Rue du Faubourg St-Honore.

"Nigeria is clearly the leader in fashion in terms of style, creativity and number of recognised designers," she said on a recent visit to Lagos. "Lagos Fashion Week has dethroned Johannesburg. Nigerians have remained much more authentic, they have retained 'African pride', whereas South Africa is very Europeanised."

Wandji, who is French of Cameroonian heritage, said the fashion trend was due to the African diaspora, of which Nigerians were the main ambassadors by sheer weight of numbers.

"Young people from the diaspora are the drivers of African fashion, they have reappropriated their culture and made it trendy because it's seen in Europe or the United States," she said.

Gloria Odiaka, a petite woman in her 50s, is the successful owner of a luxury traditional fabric shop in Lekki, a well-heeled Lagos neighbourhood. "The young generation are into native wear and they look gorgeous," she said.

"My sons study in Canada and when I go visit them they say, 'Please, Mommy, buy us some trads, I'm done with Canadian T-shirts'," she said with a laugh. (AFP)

Photo Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP

The Zac Posen documentary, House of Z, which made its world premiere in April at Tribeca, has been acquired by Conde Nast Entertainment and will be distributed to rent on Vogue.com.

Directed by Sandy Chronopoulos, the fashion feature-length film chronicles the fashion career of Zac Posen, starting from his meteoric rise at the age of 21 to the glamour behind one of New York’s most distinguished brands.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Conde Nast Entertainment will distribute House of Z exclusively for rent on Vogue.com in September to coincide with New York Fashion Week.

“We see [Vogue.com] as the perfect fit for our audience while also giving us a chance to attract new viewers,” Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment told the Hollywood Reporter. “House of Z is a wonderful film and being able to exclusively provide it to our audience is a great opportunity for Condé Nast and we are very pleased to be working with Zac, Sandy and the iDeal team.”

The documentary showcases the ups and downs of his fashion label through archival material and interviews with Posen’s past and present team, as well as critics, journalists, fashion insiders and celebrities, such as André Leon Talley, Paz de la Huerta, Naomi Campbell, Claire Danes, and Sean “Diddy” Combs.

Christie’s to auction Audrey Hepburn's clothes

Christie’s in London will auction off pieces from Audrey Hepburn’s “extensive personal wardrobe” including fashion that exemplifies her signature look include a Burberry trench coat, ballet flats, and a dress designed by Hubert de Givenchy.

The collection currently under ownership of the Hepburn family will go on auction at Christie’s in London on September 27, alongside an online sale which will be open for bidding from September 19 until October 3.

“We are thrilled to have been entrusted with the sale of items from Audrey Hepburn’s personal collection,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, director, private collections at Christie’s. “Her name is one that instantly resonates; her appeal and relevance remain as strong today as they ever were.”

Hume-Sayer added: “The sales will offer fans and collectors alike the opportunity to acquire unique personal objects which have never before been seen on the market and which will undoubtedly offer new insights into the remarkable life of a remarkable woman.”

The highlighted fashion piece to be featured in the auction is a blue satin Givenchy cocktail dress worn by the actress and fashion icon, which was featured in a photo shoot photographed by William Klein for a fashion editorial promoting Two for the Road in 1966. The dress has a starting estimate of between 10,000-15,000 pounds.

Audrey Hepburn fashion including a Givenchy dress to be auctioned

In December 2006 a black satin evening gown, designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, was sold at Christie’s South Kensington for 456,200 pounds. The dress, which had a pre-sale estimate of 50,000-70,000 pounds, set a new world record for an item associated with the star.

Other pieces in the auction includes photography from the actress’ personal archive including portraits by Bud Fraker, who was a stills photographer for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and wardrobe photographs for My Fair Lady together with personal portraits by Cecil Beaton, and dedicated prints of Hepburn for Vanity Fair by fashion photographer Steven Meisel.

The auction also features film memorabilia including Hepburn’s working scripts from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade.

Estimates for the auction starts at 100 pounds and range up to 80,000 pounds. The collection will also be on view to the public in an exhibition at Christie’s King Street, London from September 23.

Image: courtesy of Christie’s - Bud Fraker (1916-2002), Audrey Hepburn, circa 1957

In Pictures: Los Angeles Design Festival taps local fashion brands

Los Angeles - Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Design Festival launched in downtown Los Angeles to bring together both creatives and designers in one space. The festival celebrates and honors talent through offering a schedule of events for four days including on-site tours, creative jams, showroom previews and more.

In Pictures: Los Angeles Design Festival taps local fashion brands

From June 8-11, the festival included events such as A+R's new showroom preview, de LaB Making LA Together, New California Craft, Clever LA's pop-up, Atmosphere's pop-up, Unique LA's Watercolor Workshop and more. The events allowed for locals to sign up for all of these events either through tickets or free entry to experience a behind-the-scenes action of design elements of L.A.'s brands.

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"And that’s a wrap on the 7th Annual #ladesignfestival 2017.✨ This has been our favorite year yet (lucky number 7) all thanks to YOU, our creative, design-loving community! Thanks for joining us for a weekend full of design events, pop-ups, shows, talks, tours, workshops, and so much more. We [love] you, Los Angeles!" the event's official Facebook page stated. As an annual event, the LA Design Festival can be expected to return once again next summer.

Photos: LA Design Festival / Instagram

New documentary exposes the harsh reality of factory workers

A new documentary has exposed the harsh reality and often cruel suffering of factory workers who make the garments of some of the world's best-known high street brands.

The film, called Machines, highlights the life of Jain, a factory worker in India. In the first 13 minutes of the film, there is no dialogue, with the camera captures the contrast between the giant machines, which guzzle up fabrics like robots, and then the workers who are no less mechanical in their working as they mix dyes, stoke furnaces and handle the fabrics.

Days are filled with dehumanising physical labour and hardship

Director Rahul Jain takes the viewers into the reality of the factory worker's world, capturing the exhaustive monotony of their tasks. The film examines the dehumanizing physical labor and hardship in the factory, exposes the pre-industrial working conditions and the huge divide between first world and developing countries. Though “Machines” only portrays one of these factories, it also represents the thousands of laborers as well.

New documentary exposes the harsh reality of factory workers

When there is dialogue, we hear from the workers themselves – and at one point from their fat-cat boss, who matter-of-factly tells the camera that he shouldn’t pay them so well as they’re much more dedicated to the business when their bellies are empty. By “so well” he means three US dollars per 12-hour shift and most of the workers take just one hour’s break between shifts, such are the financial pressures of providing for their families, states Dazed & Confused. The men discuss the need for unionisation and strike action, as well as the dead-end any attempt at this inevitably leads to – “the bosses just ask who the leader is, and then kills them,” the viewer is told.

Delhi-born, U.S.-educated director Rahul Jain captured the footage in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state. According to Variety, the results are surprising; while the visuals are hypnotic and frequently beautiful, the stories jar with our concepts of poverty in the modern age, as it is revealed that many of these workers are already in debt, having taken out travel loans to work 12-hour shifts and earn wages of just 7,000 rupees (approximately 100 Us dollars) per month.

Photo credit: Film still from Machines

Dallas Museum of Art highlights innovative Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen

Dallas Museum of Art recently opened a new exhibition celebrating iconic, daring fashion. Honoring the iconic Dutch fashion designer, the museum opened Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion.

The exhibition will be open for most of the summer closing officially on August 21. The gallery includes showcases Van Herpen’s bold vision including 45 outfits. These pieces of work are curated from 15 collections in Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion. The designer, born of Dutch descent, brings together the infusion of fashion, technology, and science with her designs. Known as a “pioneering new voice in fashion,” according to the Dallas Museum of Art website, Van Herpen’s artwork shows of experimental, edgy designs.

Dallas Museum of Art highlights innovative Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen

Dallas Museum of Art showcases works of Iris Van Herpen

The gallery will include documents that show the evolution of Van Herpson’s designs from the timeframe of 2008 up until 2015. Illustrating 3D printing technologies as well as unique fabrics, her work shows off an innovative take on fashion. Over the years, her fashion has garnered the attention of celebrities including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Scarlett Johansson, and more. Using magnits, umbrella tins, and a range of other unorthodox materials, her work has made a mark on unique fashion.

The exhibition serves as Van Herpen’s seventy-first in ten years. The installation also counts as the designer’s seventh standalone exhibition in the last five years. Co-organized by the Groninger Museum and the High Museum of Art, the collection will be available as a transformative presentation of Van Herpen’s work. The tickets, which cost 16 dollars a piece, will be available through purchase at the museum. The exhibition, which opened last month, will stay open until the end of August.

Photos: The Dallas Museum of Art / Iris Van Herpen

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

The Fashion and Textile Museum in London has opened a retrospective on Anna Sui, marking the first time a living American fashion designer has been the focus of a retrospective in the UK.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

‘The World of Anna Sui’ features more than 120 mannequins dressed in designs by New York-based designer Sui exploring the “glamorous and eclectic world’s of one of America’s most accomplished designers” said the museum.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

The exhibition is grouped into Sui’s archetypes ranging from the rock star and the schoolgirl, to punks, nomads, and surfers, all motifs that are featured in her work. Designs on display include styles such as the exuberant Carnaby Street, schoolgirl outfits worn by supermodels Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell in her first runway show in 1991, to the cowboys and cheerleaders modelled by Gigi and Bella Hadid during the recent spring/summer 2017 Americana-themed collection.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

Dennis Nothdruft, curator of ‘The World of Anna Sui’ said: “Anna Sui helped define the look of Generation X. As young creatives rediscover and reference the 1990s, it is time to explore the original designs in a critical context.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

“Through ‘The World of Anna Sui’, we hope to highlight a fresh cultural perspective on the so-called ‘slacker’ generation. The exhibition will showcase a fashion designer who, contrary to the stereotype, is not only highly creative and entrepreneurial but also playful and positive.”

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

The influence of music is seen throughout from the designer’s continuing love of Bohemian chic to her iconic 1994 grunge collections including the infamous organza baby-doll dresses. Anna Sui says of this time, “It was my moment. If grunge music was an alternative to stadium rock, the kind of clothes I designed were my alternative to power dressing.”

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

Fashion and Textile Museum opens Anna Sui retrospective

As well as showcasing the designer’s most iconic designs including an iconic babydoll dress with rose print, styled with a hat, ripped fishnets and multiple chokers, the exhibition also explores her design processes through moodboards, photographs, sketches, and runway shots. There is also a section documenting her long-term creative collaborations with models such as Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, as well as with make-up artist Pat McGrath, jeweller Erickson Beamon and knitwear designer and milliner James Coviello.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

Other rooms in the exhibition show a recreation of the designer’s New York shop to give a sense of Sui’s distinctive interiors and design style, as the shop features red stained floors, tiffany lamps, purple walls, ornate black mirrors, black lacquered furniture and Aubrey Beardsley prints that represents her punky thrift-store design aesthetic.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

There’s also a section dedicated to her inspirations while she was growing up in Detroit, which range from Ossie Clark to William Morris, as well as one dedicated to her life in the Big Apple, as Sui moved to New York to study fashion at the The New School’s Parsons School of Design and opened her first store there in 1991. While another focuses on her use of layering and mixing of patterns, texture and colours, including graphic textiles created with Ascher Studio, Zandra Rhodes, Jeffrey Fulvimari and Barbara Hulanicki.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

Celia Joicey, head of the Fashion and Textile Museum, added: “Anna Sui is one of the most important and influential American designers of the past twenty-five years. We are delighted to be the first museum in the UK to offer a US fashion designer a retrospective exhibition.

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

“Sui is an inspirational woman whose designs embrace the history of American pop culture and popular art movements, and thereby offer a fascinating way to explore national identity through fashion and textiles.”

Anna Sui retrospective opens in London

The World of Anna Sui is at London’s Fashion and Textile museum until October 1, 2017.

Images: courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum

The secret lives of Cannes' Instagram queens

They dress like celebrities and can increasingly be spotted on the world's catwalks and red carpets. Meet the "influencers", the most famous people you've never heard of.

For 70 years, the Cannes film festival has been a key event on any A-lister's calendar. But move over Nicole Kidman, there's a new breed of star in town: social media personalities invited purely on the grounds of their huge Instagram or YouTube followings.

Sharing the red carpet with Kidman and Will Smith this week have been beauty bloggers like 17-year-old Amanda Steele (2.8 million YouTube subscribers) and Swiss Instagrammer Kristina Bazan (2.4 million followers).

Maja Malnar, who makes a living from her blog and 264,000-strong Instagram following, admits she's struggled to explain her job as a "social media influencer" to her mother back in Slovenia.

Years ago she started posting snaps of her daily outfits on the photo app and blogging about her travels. These days she's part of a growing industry known as "influencer marketing", whereby brands seek to harness the power of powerful web-users by slipping their products into their posts. "It's a good business, I can't complain," Malnar told AFP.

The petite blonde, who is in her twenties but declined to give her age, is set to walk the red carpet Friday in a tie-up with MasterCard and the designer who provided her dress. She'll then have to post about it.

"We're entrepreneurs. We saw a gap in the market and we capitalised on it," says her friend Lorna Andrews, a British ex-air hostess who modestly calls herself a "mid-tier influencer" with 464,000 Instagram followers.

Cannes is no stranger to those famous for being famous -- socialites like Paris Hilton have been turning up for years -- and brands have long recognised the festival's power as a marketing opportunity.

Top-end labels and jewellers have for decades dressed the stars for free at Cannes, knowing they will be snapped there by the waiting paparazzi.

But the arrival of the "influencer" at the world's biggest film festival -- and at international fashion weeks -- is a new phenomenon.

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Ordinary Janes and Joes

About 18 months ago Edouard Hausseguy, a 27-year-old Frenchman, realised the money-making potential of people whose photos, restaurant tips and beauty tutorials are followed by millions online, even though most would not recognise them on the street.

He set up his agency Hemblem to represent anyone with a following of 30,000 and up -- negotiating deals with brands, and then taking a cut.

"Those people are people like us, but they speak to millions of people with one picture," he told AFP in an interview on a yacht moored at Cannes, where he's hoping his influencers will benefit from the presence of top brands and the media.

For the festival, Hemblem has filled a villa with influencers who are splitting their time between glamorous events and furiously posting online, whether it's about designer labels or a charity for Syrian children.

Co-founder Thomas Elliott said brands were catching on to the power of a recommendation from Instagrammers to shift products from the shelves. "Jane next door or Joe next door is probably better for product placement, as people can identify with these people," he said.

It's possible to get paid for a single post -- "the fee depends on the size of the following", said Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a rival agency based in Toronto.

"It could be $100,000 if you have over five million followers."

Compare and despair

With 13 million followers apiece, supermodels Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski rank as the true Instagram queens of Cannes.

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Their accounts offer red carpet glamour and a peek behind the scenes, like Hadid sipping champagne while preparing for a premiere. Partner brands are carefully name-checked: make-up by Dior, jewellery by Bulgari.

Further down the food-chain, posts by smaller fish in the "influencer" pond still tell of a life of cocktails and beautiful clothes -- but the reality may be a little less glamorous.

There are constant worries of where the next event or brand tie-up might come from, and some re-sell the clothes they are gifted to make ends meet. And behind the glitz there is a constant pressure to post that Andrews and Malnar say can be stressful.

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Neither expects to do this job forever. Women aged 18-30 make up the bulk of their followings, and unless these shift there'll come a day when they won't match their young demographic.

Youngsters' heavy use of Instagram is a worry for mental health experts, who warn these glimpses into the glamorous lives of others encourage depression and anxiety by prompting a "compare and despair" attitude.

There's a constant stream of appreciative comments under posts by Hadid and Ratajkowski, but also wistful ones.

Under a video of Hadid wearing custom Roberto Cavalli, one user sighed: "Can I just be her for one day?" (APF).

Homepage photo: Swiss blogger Kristina Bazan poses as she arrives on May 22, 2017 for the screening of the film 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. - Credit: Valery HACHE / AFP

Davi Moreira looks like any other young Rio de Janeiro beach lover as he heads down to the Ipanema surf each week -- at least until he dons his blue mermaid's tail.

Other bathers look on in astonishment as Moreira, 22, performs his weekly ritual. However, as part of a trend in Brazil and as far away as Holland and Canada, he is far from alone.

"It's a lifestyle, a way of expressing my love and respect for the sea and this encounter between two worlds. When I'm in the water I feel like another person," he said while resting on rocks with his tail glittering in the sun.

Like many who feel the need to dress up as mermaids and swim with the up and down motion of the broad tail, Moreira was inspired from childhood by Disney's popular animated movie "The Little Mermaid." His obsession to be a second Ariel, the main character in the movie, extends to dry land.

His bedroom is full of references to the movie: Ariel-themed bedcover, "Little Mermaid" cups, Ariel shirts, Ariel dolls, every Ariel movie or series, Ariel pictures... Moreira, who also has a "Little Mermaid" tattoo, has adopted the persona of "Davi Sereio," or "Davi Mermaid" in Portuguese, and has recorded a gay spoof version of the Disney film on YouTube.

But he says not everyone accepts his passion. Some insult him, while others suggest he get psychological help. Two youngsters from a nearby favela who'd come down to well-heeled Ipanema shook their heads at Moreira's antics on the beach. "That's not right, it's mad," one said.

Moreira says his mermaid obsession is an answer to a "cruel" world. "People laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh back because they are all the same," he said. "I'm not trying to escape reality. I know perfectly well how to deal with adult life. But this makes me happy and I'm not causing anyone any harm."

Telenovela mermaid

Brazil already has its traditional sea goddess called Iemanja. However, the popular telenovela "A Forca de Querer" is swimming in another direction with a character played by Brazilian actress Isis Valverde who seduces two men -- and the audience -- with her free spirit and love of taking a dip in a big orange mermaid tail.

Behind Valverde's on-screen swimming skills is Mirella Ferraz, who describes herself as Brazil's "first professional mermaid." She trained the actress for four months so that she could convincingly use the mermaid costume.

Ferraz, 34, says she had to overcome years of mockery and bullying but now she says she's "happy that it's fashionable, although I think many people do it for the looks, without knowing the myth of the sirens or our environmental activism."

Ferraz estimates there are about 1,000 mermaid aficionados in Brazil and that the numbers are rising. Online sales of her mermaid tails reach some 90 a month now, up from just 10 or so when she started in 2012.

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Back then, it was mostly for girls wanting to be Ariels. Today, many buyers are men. "For many it might be a fad, but not for me," Moreira says, admitting that his only weakness as a Brazilian mermaid is an inability to sing. (AFP)

French fashion house Chanel has triggered an uproar by selling a luxury monogrammed boomerang with a price tag of nearly 1,500 USD, with critics saying the accessory is an insult to Australian Aborigines.

Chanel is accused of turning the hunting weapon, an important part of Aboriginal heritage, into a status symbol by offering a black wood and resin boomerang for sale in its spring-summer collection.

"When I think about Aboriginal culture, I think @chanel," Aboriginal activist Nayuka Gorrie tweeted sarcastically. "Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via @CHANEL."

He told the Guardian Australia that the item was "so wrong it is almost absurd"."Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful," he said, pointing out that indigenous people were the most disadvantaged in Australia and had to fight to preserve their traditions.

The furore kicked off when American make-up artist Jeffree Star posted photos online of the boomerang on Tuesday, sparking ridicule.

"@JeffreeStar, rather than paying $2000AUD for a Chanel Boomerang you should look into investing in one made by an Aboriginal Australian," tweeted user LSP.

Another said on Twitter: "@CHANEL your 'boomerang' is tacky and a gross appropriation of indigenous culture for your own profit." Chanel released a statement saying it was "extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended".

Boomerangs have played an important role in Aboriginal culture for thousands of years as objects of work and leisure. They have also become popular mass-produced souvenirs. (AFP)