In the 1940s, the world was at war. In Western countries like the USA and England, the direct impact of the World war was obvious on their fashion industries. For example, there was fabric rationing, women were working in factories during the war, and from decades of decadence, the fashion industry and its consumers had to settle for simplicity. What was interesting was Western designers found a way to be creative and create fashion styles that the world including Nigeria now references. A poignant example was French designer Christian Dior whose “new look” in 1946 rejuvenated women and became both a powerful and political statement.
For Nigeria’s industry, there is a tendency to look overwhelmingly to the West for fashion inspiration. Ask a designer for his/her fashion inspiration and its rare you will hear something like, “The Benin Dynasty,” “the Yoruba Kingdom,” “Lagos,” “Calabar,” “Hausa,” “Ibo,” Nike Oshinowo and so forth. Instead, you hear Coco Chanel, New York, Paris etc. Folake Folarin-Coker bucked this trend in the recent New York Fashion Week as she drew part of her inspiration from Nigerian Artist Kolade Oshinowo.
Nigeria is full of so much history and culture and we need not always look only to the West to find inspiration for new designs and silhouttes that can be marketed both locally and globally. As it is now rumored that Nigeria’s Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun novel, which chronicles the Biafra war in the 60s, will be turned into a film scheduled for release in 2011, one of the things that comes to my mind is the creative costumes Nigerian designers, if willing to look within, can create for such a compelling tale, one ultimately will be screened globally. What an opportunity to tell the world about our rich and diverse culture (good and bad with respect to Biafra) through fashion.
~ by Uduak Oduok
Warning: Some aspects of the BBC documentary on Biafra War below is at times graphic.
Biafra War Part I
Biafra War Part II
Biafra War Part III
Biafra War IV
Biafra War V
Biafra War VI
Biafra War VIII