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Sustainable Fashion In Nigeria: Where Are We?

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Trashion A La Mode III, brings to our notice, the seminal steps Nigerian fashion and product designers are taking to reduce waste and environmental pollution in the country; and in the same breath, encouraging sustainable fashion and life practices.

… The Triumphs, Challenges & Way Forward

What is Sustainable fashion?
Green strategy defines sustainable fashion as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects.
In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.
One of the significant improvements of the sustainable fashion runway this year, indicates the wastes were more processed than previous years, they presented better looking if not properly refined outfits, a good number of the spectators professed they could wear them.
Some of these outfits gave no indication of the inherent materials they were made of. Case in point is Fabody’s Bunmi Ibrahim’s powder blue top with an intricately woven aluminum can cork embellishment neck border, an off-white gown of a nylon tarp bodice and flared skirts rendered with balloons. Yes, real balloons. In addition, there is Ruyina Anani of Ruyina Apparels’ white and black polka dot garment made of Styrofoam that looks more like leather.
Other designs although, their inherent recycled wastes are visibly detected, were so smoothly rendered that their potentials when properly processed, come through. These include Ibrahim’s long, white sleeveless jacket made of grain sack, inlaid with triple-coloured beverage straws, and chain strapped shoulder purse whose flaps are overlaid with cork design, and Anani’s Biker’s Skirt and PET bottle cap outfit.
Also, impressive to see are the home décor pieces from recycled and upcycled wastes as newspapers, tires, oil drums, textile offcuts, electronic wastes, kitchen wares, wine bottles, and many others exhibited at the event.
Most creatives of the recycled home décor will be sustainable architect, Bilkisu Garba’s upcycled centre table, a bottled legged faux grassed e-waste design that not only showcases how arty wastes can become when upcycled but offers architects an alternative to designing miniature building models with e-waste. And the bottle legged tables serve as a vase for inhouse vegetation.
Her design is seconded by the Love Foundation, Olarewaju Ogunlana’s recycled furniture, made of recycled oil drum coated with red alcide to prevent rust, recycled foam and textiles, and a small tire made coffee table – which strictly holds books and magazines.
The Village Weaver’s handwoven rugs and mats made of recycled textile offcuts, and finally, Nawal Fahkry’s recycled newspaper floral wall arts.
These sustainably designed products, made by lay Nigerians, without a sustainable décor or product design academic background indeed is ‘a tip of an iceberg, the possibilities of new discoveries/development to be made in this area.
But alongside these potentials and possibilities exist challenges and setbacks, topmost of which is insufficient awareness creation of sustainable lifestyle and environmental preservation. Many Nigerians are neither aware of the subject of environmental sustainability of sustainable life practices, nor understand why it is important to practice sustainability.
While Trashion A La Mode introduces the subject to the designers that join the green runway show every year for the past three years, the inconsistency of the designers in the show and their perspective of sustainable wears leave more to be desired.
As already known, very few countries and organisations in the world possess the equipment necessary to process sustainable wears, and indeed, sustainable wears often times, turn out more expensive to make than conventionally produced fabric due to the environmentally conscious steps taken to make them. It doesn’t help that the designers’ perception of sustainable fashion is as a showpiece, “something done occasionally” rather than a lifestyle. A designer’s defense against delving partially or full time into sustainable wears, is that Nigerians don’t patronise or don such garments. A marketer of recycled rugs and mats, chose the ‘pity purchase’ line instead of selling the strengths of the products. If the designers do not believe in their products or envision its future, how then can they convince and persuade government and private investors to invest this aspect of fashion and design industry?
To advance growth and acceptance of the sustainable industry (sustainable fashion, design and recycling), extensive awareness creation must be carried out to educate the masses on the importance of a sustainable lifestyle.
As part of that sensitisation, designers of sustainable wears and products must see their crafts beyond the ‘recycled waste’, and ‘an occasional activity’ and focus on producing product quality whose strengths, rather than ‘pity purchase’, drive their sales.
“For us in the Philippine, sustainable fashion is real fashion. It is not a pity purchase. It is not about, “Oh, I am going to do this for my country,” rather it is about, “I am going to buy this skirt because it looks good on me. You don’t have to have to visually see the sustainability part of it, so long as it looks good. If Nigeria has very colourful and good designs, if her designers push further and see these materials as more than just trash, then we will definitely see that it would become normal fashion. This will be a good thing because there is so much waste in the fashion industry,” says Joan Corrado, Third Secretary and Vice Consul of the Philippine Embassy.
CEO Legendary Gold and creator of the Nigeria Fashion Week, Lexy ‘Mojo’ Eyes, while affirming sustainable clothing is the future of fashion industry, however, recommended public sensitisation, and government support of the fashion industry as a priority. “We are having difficulty getting government to support the entire fashion industry. Let’s get government’s support in the fashion industry in general, then, we can talk about the future of the industry which is sustainable fashion.”
“I am of the opinion that with a unique aspect of fashion, which enables government to rid itself of the second largest world pollutant, textile and/or cotton, as well as empower its citizen, it will attract government’s support.
“When it comes to support, government, international agencies and private investment can impact the industry by investing in the cultivation, harvesting and processing of sustainable wears, as well as providing certain tax waivers for local organisations or bi-lateral corporations that import such equipment.
“And finally, empowering, humanising the sustainable industry. In the Philippines, and Indonesia, empower indigenous communities and makers of sustainable producers via visual background stories of the resources used to create their products and who creates them.
“This encourages human connection, because once you buy your clothes, not only does it look good but it becomes part of Philippine history, knowing who weaved that fabric for you. It creates a connection and empowers the weavers – who didn’t acquire western or contemporary education – to know their crafts are good when people patronise them,” added Corrado.



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