Dear Shaded Viewers //

A week ago I traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with Belgian stylist Pholoso Selebogo to attend the first ever ARISE Fashion Week. Admittedly my interest in AFW was equal parts adventure paired with the romantic idea of supporting lesser known creative talents. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

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Naturally I expected things to be disorganized, as one does when they travel to a "destination" fashion week. For example, show times are merely a suggestion, casting / fittings happen only minutes before a show and power to the tents may be a luxury one could not always count on. I had to settle into the idea that things will happen as they happen yet amidst all the productional chaos the Lagosian people were privy to a few special moments, moments where the energy vibrated off the tented walls. 

Shrewdly the organizers programmed regional talent such as South Africa's KLUK CGDT who took home top honors, winning both "Designer of the Year" and shared a "Lifetime Achievement" award with fellow African designer Deola Sagoe. Having put Ms. Tanzania's Millen Maqese personally into her finale dress, I could see firsthand how much fun the girls were having with this theatrical presentation backstage. Pairing this with Odio Mimonet's show, where her fans waited for two hours in nearly 100 degree heat to catch the designers new collection of prints and boldly colored gowns – one could truly feel the hometown pride. 

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Its without question that the two highest energy shows were those of the British houses Bunmi Koko and B-Side by Wale Adeyemi. Bunmi Olaye presented three mini-capsules that spanned the designers last few collections accessorizing each with multi-colored masks, a live drummer and a giant pom-pom corsages leaving the audience at full attention. Next came the menswear designer Wale Adeyemi who had the audience chanting along with his models (which included the top international girls dressed as boys) during the finale – the room felt electric.       

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For me, it was with great pride to see two young Belgian designers, Angelo Von Mol and Pierre-Antoine Vettorello, show their graduating collections from the Royal College of Art in Antwerp on an international stage – considering I sat on their Masters jury this past year. Von Mol, who is half Ghanaian, won "Menswear Designer of the Year" and a Shaded favorite Vettorello, who's roots are from the Ivory Coast, was awarded a coveted slot in the forthcoming ARISE Fashion Week event in New York City next September. Its without a doubt that you will hear much more from these two talents.      

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For a bit of U.S. star power – the organizers enlisted the charms of LaQuan Smith (Andre Leon Talley's new "boy wonder") and Project Runway's Korto Momolu. Momolu dressed the ever-fantastic Estelle for her performance during the festivities and Smith later reveled that he felt guilt to be away from his atelier, where he sews every single garment himself.  

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It must be said, this was an experience like none other. Despite being accosted at gun-point, being without shelter, being prisoner to an unorthodox production, enduring unnecessary stress – I can still say with ease that I had a wonderful time in Nigeria. I found the Lagosian people to be full of life and spirit. This was a trip to remember and a new source of creative inspiration and friends.   

– Kristopher Arden Houser