Rising local labels and relevant global brands will be available at luxury boutique Alara this weekend in a curated pop-up by the Homecoming Festival in Lagos.
Every year, Nigeria kicks off Homecoming Festival, a massive cultural exchange with the world, featuring fashion, musical guests, panel discussions and pop-up shops to showcase the best and brightest Nigerian and African talents.
This weekend, Homecoming Festival returns to Lagos featuring musical acts like London rapper Central Cee making his debut in Africa, and a fashion takeover at luxury concept store Alara.
Homecoming founder Grace Ladoja MBE has built stores for the festival to showcase brands, but this year teamed with Alara, the store founded by entrepreneur Reni Folawiyo, to give young brands like Wafflesncream and Motherlan space in the luxury boutique. Alara, which primarily carries African brands as well as global luxury players like Jacquemus and Christopher John Rogers, is regarded as one of Nigeria’s and West Africa’s premier luxury fashion destinations, attracting tourists from all over the world. And after this weekend, Alara will dedicate the top floor of its store to the featured young brands going forward.
“Alara is interesting because it’s luxury, it’s the Dover Street Market of Nigeria,” Ladoja explained. “How do we challenge what luxury is and give these kids a platform? This year, we have a lot of newer brands that we haven’t necessarily worked with as much.”
A number of global and local brands will be available at the pop-up this weekend, like Off-White and Ambush, skate brands Stussy and Patta, Casablanca, Mowalola, Cactus Plant Flea Market, Denim Tears, Nocta, Daily Paper, Awake New York and Post Imperial, which will be stocked alongside skate, streetwear and denim brands from the U.K., Nigeria and Ghana including, Wafflesncream, Motherlan, Street Souk, Ashluxe, Free the Youth, Vivendii and 5200, among others.
Ladoja singled out brands like Wafflesncream and Motherlan, two skateboarder favorites that helped foster the skate community in Lagos, as two of the more popular streetwear brands in Lagos. Denim brand 5200, she added, is at the “forefront of denim” for its hand-distressed jeans adorned with embellishments, and then there’s heralded Ghanaian streetwear brand Free the Youth that has collaborated with Off-White, Daily Paper and Foot Locker. Ashluxe, which will also be featured, is one of the brands “street kids like to buy,” according to Ladoja.
“I see so many fakes of it,” she added of Ashluxe. “It’s desirable because of the luxury side.”
Ashluxe founder Yinka Ash opened his own store selling designer clothes in 2017 before ultimately producing his own collection in 2019.
“Everything started as a collective. That was very important to me,” Ash explained. “It was called Ashluxe Society first. My collection had a lot of ‘Ashluxe Society’ graphics on it. People were wearing my T-shirts with Off-White, Palm Angels, Louis Vuitton.”
Ash also operates Ashluxury, a multibrand store offering labels like Ambush, Rhude, Coperni, A-Cold-Wall and Nigo’s Kenzo collection that just hit the store, as well as coveted sneaker releases from Nike, Jordan and Yeezy.
Streetwear convention Street Souk, which will have its own pop-up at the Homecoming event, is one of the players in Nigeria, as Ash noted, putting “the light on brands.”
“Because of how our fashion climate and landscape is in Nigeria and West Africa, many haven’t accepted the fashion calendar,” Ash said. “They really don’t understand a lot of that, so we’re not catering to that yet.”
Ladoja, who is from London of Nigerian descent, kicked off the first Homecoming weekend event in 2017 inspired by her travels to Nigeria over the past 10 years, as she wanted a platform where Nigerian culture could connect with the world.
The first Homecoming Festival featured British grime rapper Skepta, who Ladoja manages; Golden Globe Award winner John Boyega; designers Ozwald Boateng and Mowalola; models Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam, and artists Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Odunsi (The Engine) and Cruel Santino.
Ladoja also tapped fashion brands to collaborate, such as Patta with Wafflesncream, and Motherlan with Awake New York. Virgil Abloh had also designed pieces for Homecoming.
“Virgil [Abloh] was the first to design something for us that was bespoke,” Ladoja said. “I come from a streetwear and sneaker background and these kids don’t have exclusive products, because it’s difficult. I thought, let’s get all of our friends like Awake, Ambush, Off-White and Patta to make products for us here and collaborate and build organically.”
Ash believes Homecoming breeds collaboration and communication that fosters creativity and nurtures success. “If we continue to collaborate, communicate and discuss ideas often, it will push us to evolve,” he said. “The onus is on those of us perceived as successful to do more, open doors and share as much knowledge as we can with our peers.”
Ladoja cites the information exchange as a cornerstone of the Homecoming festival. The event features panel discussions each year, and this year will feature a talk with 21-year-old artist Slawn, who will discuss creative marketing.
“The thing with kids now is they want to know how to do things from people they know,” Ladoja said. “Slawn is 21, but they see themselves in him. They’ve seen his life change in front of their eyes. Before Virgil passed, we talked about how important that knowledge is, but it’s on us to pass that down. The information exchange is the most valuable. I’ve worked with an artist like Skepta that cares about ownership and generational wealth. We have to be able to show people there are options. The important thing to me is generational wealth. The main goal this time with the panels is to have those transparent conversations.”
A few years ago, Abloh was part of a talk at Homecoming with brands Motherlan and Daily Paper to discuss whether Africa can be the rebirth of streetwear.
“Street culture is more than just clothes, art and style,” Ladoja explained. “That’s why Stussy and Supreme can last 25 to 30 years because they’re constantly evolving.”
As Ash added, “Skate is so valid when it comes to streetwear because of the power of community. Nothing brings people together as much as football and skateboarding, in my point of view. The skate scene is connected to the sneaker scene. It’s also connected to the music and art scenes. Everyone in the skate scene is doing something else.
“Everything is so intertwined,” he continued. “Homecoming is more than clothes — there’s so much knowledge to be shared and inspiration, and it’s all so important for the people to put their foot in the door in fashion and any other medium. Each one teach one. Grace has been a catalyst for that over the years and put so many people on. I can’t measure the impact Homecoming has had on the culture.”