See the spectacular design on display at Lagos Design Week

Twentieth century design was outlined by European actions, like Scandinavian minimalism or the German Bauhaus. Might design in the twenty first century be formed by a brand new technology of African designers?

Design Week Lagos definitely makes a robust case for it. The occasion, which begins at the moment, options dozens of up-and-coming designers from throughout many disciplines, together with style, structure, and industrial design. And collectively, these designers provide perception into what units African design aside, with a singular strategy to supplies and incorporating conventional artisanal practices into trendy objects.

The occasion is the brainchild of Titi Ogufere, a Nigerian inside designer who has spent the final decade and a half serving to to determine an infrastructure for inside designers in the nation by founding a trade association and journal dedicated to the craft. In 2019, she launched the inaugural DWL as an annual occasion that might convey collectively designers from many fields and from throughout the African continent. The pandemic stymied her plans to develop the occasion in 2020, however this yr, it returns with a bang, thanks partially, to a documentary Ogufere developed for Netflix–debuting subsequent week–that can function lots of the designers she has introduced collectively by means of DLW. “Given Netflix’s international attain, the documentary will give audiences from round the world an opportunity to see what designers are doing right here in Africa,” says Ogufere. “I hope it’s going to additionally pressure individuals to rethink what they find out about African design.”

I spoke with three designers displaying at DWL to debate how African design is evolving.


Adebayo Oke-Lawal

Lawal knew he wished to be a clothier from the time he was in his early teenagers and began making his personal garments. Rising up in Lagos, he was conscious that there wasn’t a longtime style trade in Nigeria, however he tried to study the craft by working as a style editor for a neighborhood journal referred to as WOW! and as a stylist for native celebrities. A decade in the past, he launched his personal label Orange Culture, which he describes as an effort to push again towards poisonous masculinity by creating items which can be androgynous and have fun range.

Adebayo Oke-Lawal [Photo: courtesy Design Week Lagos]

“The concept of permitting males to be susceptible with out being emasculated was necessary to me as a person making an attempt to navigate these points in Nigeria,” he says. “We received numerous unfavorable suggestions after we launched: There have been demise threats and hate mail saying that what we have been doing was evil. However that turned a turning level for me.”

Orange Tradition was a finalist for the prestigious LVMH prize in 2015, and has additionally been invited to take part in London Style Week. However when Lawal travels the world, he typically feels as if his work doesn’t match into peoples’ slender conception of African design, which tends to learn by conventional, artisanal crafts like screen-printed materials in loud colours. “It typically looks like there’s a field we’re pressured into as African designers and that if we don’t match into this stereotype, individuals in the West is not going to be focused on us,” he says. “We’re very a lot towards the ideology that African designers should conform to a colonialist stereotype.”

Lawal does incorporate African design into his garments. Over the previous decade, he’s typically used conventional “ankara” material in his clothes and makes use of a completely Nigerian provide chain. However he doesn’t need that to outline his model. “We don’t make that the essence of our story as a result of we don’t care about making an attempt to abide by another person’s want for our work to look African in accordance with their stereotypes. We are able to categorical ourselves in any method we select.”

Nifemi Bello [Photo: courtesy Design Week Lagos]

Nifemi Marcus-Bello

Industrial designer Nifemi Marcus Bello runs a small studio in Lagos the place he creates furnishings and installations. He liked making issues as a baby, and finally studied design at the College of Leeds in England. Upon returning to Lagos a decade in the past, he arrange a design follow that’s centered on creating furnishings utilizing industrial manufacturing processes–like sheet metallic bending–which can be widespread all through Lagos.

Nifemi Marcus-Bello [Photo: courtesy Design Week Lagos]

Bello factors out that Nigerian designers have to be concerned in each side of manufacturing as a result of the nation’s design infrastructure is proscribed. And in the end, this restricts how a lot designers can produce, as a result of it’s time consuming to be concerned with each stage of producing. “Whenever you practice to be a designer in Europe, you possibly can convey your abilities to manufacturers to create merchandise for them or work with a manufacturing facility to make your individual merchandise,” he says.”However we don’t have an ecosystem like that right here. Nigerian designers should be designer-makers as a result of there are not any factories we are able to flip to make our merchandise.”


In his personal studio, Bello is fascinated by figuring the way to use industrial manufacturing processes to create his personal merchandise. He not too long ago designed a stool out of sheet metallic; to create it, he needed to go to upwards of 15 factories and discuss to the homeowners about how he may plug into their meeting line. Many factories turned him down. However then he discovered a facility that makes casings for electrical energy mills–that are widespread in Lagos as a result of the electrical energy typically cuts out and in–and so they partnered to co-create the stool.

Bello has needed to do numerous work to remodel his concepts into merchandise. However he believes he might help lay the groundwork for the subsequent technology of Nigerian designers. “Although I’m a comparatively younger designer, I see my position as making an attempt to place some infrastructure in place for individuals who will come after me in order that design could be a viable profession,” he says.

Tosin Oshniowo, Ironrun Desk. [Photo: courtesy Design Week Lagos]

Tosin Oshinowo

Tosin Oshinowo is considered one of the best-known architects in Nigeria. She acquired her undergraduate and superior levels in structure in London after which joined structure corporations in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands earlier than transferring again to Lagos. Oshinowo has designed every thing from luxurious beachfront properties to Lagos’s iconic Maryland Mall, which has the largest LED billboards in West Africa. She’s at present working on a challenge for United Nations Improvement Programme in the northeastern a part of Nigeria; the settlement will likely be for individuals who have been displaced due to Boko Haram. Oshinowo additionally launched a way of life furnishings line, Ile ila, which makes a speciality of upholstering trendy chairs in conventional African prints.

Tosin Oshinowo [Photo: Spark Creative/courtesy Design Week Lagos]

Oshinowo says that there’s nonetheless an unlimited wealth hole in Nigeria. She is usually commissioned to construct multimillion-dollar homes for wealthy prospects who can afford to import all their constructing supplies, even whereas many in the nation are desperately poor. However the rising center class is creating new alternatives. “You will have these younger individuals who have gone overseas and are available again house,” she says. “They’ve been uncovered to different cultures. They may not have some huge cash, however they’re optimistic that issues can transfer ahead. That is the social class that at the moment’s African designers are producing for–as a result of in addition they exist inside this class.”

Like Bello and Lawal, Oshinowo has confronted the challenges of being a designer in Nigeria, with the lack of sources and infrastructure. However over the course of the previous decade, she’s met different creators in the metropolis who’ve been beneficiant about sharing their sources. She’s turned to them for every thing from studying the place to dry wooden to creating a selected material.

“The design scene in Africa didn’t exist at all for a very long time; the motion continues to be in its infancy,” she says. “We don’t have a sophisticated manufacturing trade so many issues are nonetheless executed by hand. I’d liken the place we’re at the moment to early post-modern Europe, the place issues have been nonetheless being made in workshops and there wasn’t but an concept of mass manufacturing but. What has actually saved this design motion going is the energy of networks.”