The Nigerian fashion industry has indeed burgeoned beyond limits with so many indigenous fashion brands emerging with such impeccable creativity which leaves an indelible mark in the fashion terrain. To talk about the evolution of Nigerian fashion, the beauty in its diverse cultures is worthy of mention. With the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, amongst other ethnic groups, having their own peculiar outfits, what best describes the Nigerian fashion zone other than colourful.
Prior to the 90s, Nigerian fashion had always been influenced by the British as a result of the colonial strings but at the close of the last millennium, the Nigerian fashion industry took a great leap and has since then been making global impacts.
The 60s saw a lot of elites dressed in tight-fitting or loose long dresses, hats and miniskirts inspired by Mary Quaint. For men, boot-legged trousers and fitted open-neck shirts with loud prints were the order of the day. This was as a result of the fact that most of the trends were inspired by the British since they had a high influence on our culture. While the elites emulated the British dress styles, the uneducated clung to their traditional attires and local hairstyles. The ‘Afro’ hairstyle became a fad for both sexes during this period.
During the 70s, Nigerian women mostly wore a very loose-fitting sleeved Buba worn over an Iro which barely went below the knee while for men, Dashiki and Agbada were the trending attires. This trend, known as Oleku, was said to have gotten its name from a movie with the same name. During this time, Nigerians became confident to rock their traditional styles and this perhaps, can be attributed to the sense of identity that comes with self-governace. 1970 hairstyles were mostly Jerry curls and perming for both men and women. Another peculiar thing about fashion in the 70s is the idea of ‘to-match’. Many a person wore accessories that matched with the colour of their dresses.
The 80s came with maxis. Women rocked maxi skirts with big jewelries while men and loose-fitting suits became pals. Dresses were mainly big and the hairstyle Afro became rather untamed with a very loud rave of perming and Jerry curls. There were even instances of garish dresses with ridiculous combinations. This fad permeated even into the 90s as a result of the rapid growth of westernization across the globe.
Nigerian fashion in the 90s became a mirror of the western world. There was an influx of foreign clothes in the country such that the Nigerian economy dwindled. Fitted tank tops, makeup, jeans, Capri pants, etc flowed into the country such that those who could not afford them made do with ‘bend-down select’ – cheap second-hand clothes which also came in from foreign countries.
It was during this period that the Ankara fabric surfaced. The African prints made from African designs and Indonesian production received national acceptance and thrives till this very moment.
Till this day, westernization still has a big influence on Nigerian fashion but we can boldly assert that even at that our Nigerianity and Africanness, we have accepted and embraced in all its entirety. With top Nigerian fashion designers like Folake Folarin-Coker, Yomi Casual, Duro Olowu, Deola Sagoe, Mai Atafo amongst others making their mark and including our rich cultural heritage in every of their great works, we can only hold on to the optimism that the Nigerian fashion industry shall continue to bloom with recognition and prominence.