“Next month, Reni Folawiyo opens the doors to the eagerly anticipated Alara, an ambitious concept store in Lagos, housed in a landmark structure designed by starchitect David Adjaye. The official launch of the store isn’t until April, but in the meantime and an ongoing Salon, Folawiyo elaborated in an interview with Style.com more about Alara and about the women featured in its editorial shot by Nick Waplington:
There are some well-known brands that you’re planning to stock at Alara—Valentino, Dries Van Noten, Marni, Stella McCartney, etc.—but what else should people expect to find there?
Alara is an expression of myself—my travels, my interests. And it’s an expression of this place, how we live here. So there’s furniture from Moroso, the Italian brand, but also objects I’ve picked up in markets in, say, Turkey. We have designers from South Africa making furniture for us, baskets from women in Zimbabwe, scarves from Ethiopia, weaving and leather goods from Nigeria…
And in terms of the fashion? Maki Oh is one designer based in Lagos I know you’ll be stocking, but are there others who might be less familiar to people outside Nigeria?
Yes, Maki, of course, but also Tiffany Amber, Lanre da Silva Ajayi, Lisa Folawiyo, Ré Bahia, Tsemaye Binitie…Both in terms of the international brands and the ones from Lagos, I tried to choose based on our aesthetic. I’ve tended to go for brands that have a lot of work, a lot of color. It’s not about a streamlined look here. I love Jil Sander, but that’s not our aesthetic.
Yet, looking at Nick Waplington’s photos, there is quite a variety in terms of how the women he shot dress. I mean, there’s Adesua Dozie, in her bright, patterned Stella Jean gown, and then on the other hand, someone like Ebi Williams, very laid-back, wearing a pair of Dries shorts, or Eku Edewor in all-white Simone Rocha. And lots of Duro Olowu, I noticed. So there’s a range, but do you believe there’s a kind of overarching “Lagos style,” the way people think of there being a New York look?
I’m not sure if I can put it in words. As a people we’re very expressive, and so therefore we’re quite embellished. And so Lagos style, it is quite adorned, and most of the designers here, you find that going through their work. We wear a lot of color, a lot of beading. That’s why Duro does so well here—he’s from Nigeria originally, of course, and I think you see that expressiveness in his clothes. And the Alara woman, she connects with that.
In her story for Style.com/Print, the writer Uzoamaka Maduka talks about the fact that Nigerian luxury consumers do most, if not all, of their shopping abroad. They’re quite a force for retailers to reckon with, in fact. For these women, what will they get from Alara that they won’t get from, say, hopping a flight to London and heading to Selfridges?
We know her lifestyle. We know her life. That’s the difference. For example, Nana Otedola is, of course, a supremely elegant woman—a woman of the world. She could shop anywhere, but she’ll shop at Alara because the store is for her. And women like her. Or Adesua [Dozie]—here’s a woman, she has a prominent husband, but she also works, she has her own powerful position with GE, and she travels all the time, to West Africa or Atlanta, and it’s hectic. She lives on a plane. Now, we know what she’s juggling in a day, and things like, well, if she’s going to see her mother-in-law, she needs something to wear on her head. It’s not like walking into Selfridges where, yes, there’s a lot to choose from, but from the store’s perspective, she’s another corporate woman coming in to buy a suit. Or maybe a cocktail dress for a special occasion. We know she needs those things, but we understand more than that, too.
Lagos is really emerging as an international capital—of commerce and of culture, as well. And in the meantime, as you point out, the “Alara woman” is herself something of a global citizen, a hyper-busy professional wired into the international grid. I wonder how that has affected the sensibility of some of the younger women in your clientele—women who grew up in the midst of that, as opposed to pioneering the changes?
Well, when I look at my generation—and let me say, our mothers worked, too, although of course they weren’t hopping on planes all the time—what I think is, in a way, we had to go away, and then come back and see what we could do. Whereas this new generation, they seem to want to grow from here. They’re very connected to Lagos, to their heritage. You see that in people like Temi DollFace and Eku [Edewor], creative girls who are really the face of young Lagos. It’s a very creative generation—I think that’s what they’ve added, especially, a sense of creativity. And they want to create here and explode—let the rest of the world discover them, rather than the other way around. I think they feel like it’s their time.
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Tags: Alara, Dundun Peterside, Georgina Eku Edewor, Nike Oshinowo, Oluchi Orlandi, Reni Folawiyo, Tokini Peterside