by Tolu Ogunlesi
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Some of them are not designers in any sense of the word, but all have a deep passion for following and cataloguing fashion designs, events and trends. A few years ago, before the blogging revolution big-banged, these people would have remained silent, for want of medium to express their – often highly opinionated, and unapologetic – views and opinions about fashion styles, shows and designers.
That was the time when the fashion editors of newspapers held a monopoly on the flow and slant of fashion gospel; when you had to wait for the Vanguard or Guardian’s fashion pages to publish pictures of a fashion show you didn’t attend. Today, the turnaround time for runway photos to appear in the public domain is minutes, seconds even, with the advent of high resolution camera-phones with high-speed GPRS connections.
Some of the most popular Nigerian “fashion-bloggers” (in truth, as one of them, Linda Ikeji, points out – “there are no exclusive fashion blogs; most blogs deal on different issues.”) are names like Bella Naija (anonymous), Linda Ikeji, Ronke Adeyemi (Ondo Lady), Toni Payne, Michele Obi, Uduak Oduok (Ladybrille) and Naija Gal (anonymous). A female clan, it seems.
These bloggers, scattered across the world, often working at full-time jobs, are taking Nigerian fashion to a new pedestal, using the amazing powers of technology. And in return their lives and experiences are being shaped by the presence of their “voices” on the internet. They are gradually building up reputations as not-to-be-ignored connoisseurs; and play a key role in drawing attention to exciting new African/Nigerian design talent and trends.
Ronke Adeyemi (blogging as “Ondo Lady”) is based in Kent, England. She has been blogging for well over a year, and uses her blog as “a reflection of my writing style; [as well as to] make contacts with other fashionistas and journalists.” She is not a designer, “just a lover of fashion who is fascinated by the psychology of fashion.”
I ask if blogging about her fashion interests has changed her life in any way – fame, money, authority, writing commissions, controversy? “Well it has given [me] access to events such as London Fashion Week and the chance to interview personalities in the fashion industry such as Jajay Sherman and Rachel Jacoby from The Fashionista Diaries.”
Ronke lists her top Nigerian fashion blogger as Michele Obi, who owns myfashionlife.com. Her Top Nigerian fashion designers are “Wale Adeyemi [and] Emmy Collins.”
Linda Ikeji, blogging as herself, lives and works in Lagos. A twenty-something ex-model, and now a modeling agent (CEO, Black Dove Agency) cum magazine publisher, her top Nigerian bloggers (fashion content) are “Bella Naija, Naija Gal and [the popular TV show hostess] Funmi Iyanda.”
Linda has been blogging “seriously” since March 2007. “My blog isn’t a fashion blog, I deal on different issues, not just fashion” she clarifies. “What I aim to achieve with my blog is entertain, inform, educate and change people’s perspectives on a lot of issues…”
Like Ronke Adeyemi, Linda is simply a lover of fashion; she doesn’t design or make clothes. And she says that blogging has given her
“a few controversies, a little fame because more people know me now, but no money or writing commissions.”
She lists her top 5 shows as the Nigeria Fashion Show, the New York Fashion Week, the St. Moritz Style Selection, the Thisday fashion show, and the South Africa Fashion Week, and her favorite Nigerian fashion magazines as True Love, Genevieve, Sleek, Ovation and City People Fashion and Style.
Toni Payne, CEO of Toni Payne Cosmetics and Apparel, is a Nigerian-American living in Los Angeles. Unlike all the other profiled bloggers she is more than just a “lover” of fashion, she is a “maker” as well, and both her blog and her designing feed off each other. “My blog is more of a free-spirit blog where I keep people up to date on my clothing line,” she explains.
Has blogging changed her life in any significant way – fame, money, controversy? “No, it has given me a channel to relax and talk about what I love to do.” She lists her top 5 Nigerian fashion bloggers as herself, Ladybrille, Linda Ikeji, Bella Naija and Naija Gal; and her top 5 Nigerian designers as herself, Deola Sagoe, Yemi Kosibah, Duro Olowu and Chris Aire.
Ayoola Somolu, a Lagos-based blogger (whose blog is now sadly defunct) says of herself: “I’m an avid fashion observer but I am not a fashion blogger – I [have only written] one blog post on the subject actually.” Bella Naija’s blog is her favourite Nigerian fashion blog, and it is the only Nigerian fashion blog that she can think of. “I like visiting http://www.style.com and the New York Times website style page…” she tells me, and then quickly cautions that “neither is Africa-centric…”
Her favourite designers are home-based – and female.
“Deola Sagoe’s work seems pretty interesting and original as does Mya – by Maria Odunsi. Tiffany Amber too, I suppose; at least her work is mostly very well made. Dunni Igbinedion has produced some really nice things as well…”
Perhaps it is because of the colonization of cyberfashion by non-Afrocentric fashion blogs that Africans at home and in the Diaspora are eagerly staking out plots of webspace to give vent to their voices and sensibilities. In a feverishly globalising age – where the multitude of voices clamouring for attention in every facet of artistic endeavour and in every conceivable language have access to tools that level the playing field – no culture has an excuse anymore to remain unheard in the global marketplace.
(written October 2007, published December 2008 in Glide, the inflight magazine of the now defunct Virgin Nigeria airline)
Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2014