An image of Naomi Campbell with a microphone in her hand, talking to the audience at Arise Fashion Week in 2019.

Naomi Campbell address the audience during Arise Fashion Week the on April 21, 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Everything You Need to Know about Arise Fashion Week 2023

The popular fashion event heads back to Nigeria for a special celebration of African fashion and music.

Africa’s fashion season opens with Nigeria’s Arise Fashion Week. After showing out in Dubai for the 19th edition in 2021, Lagos will take over the spotlight this year. This isn’t a regular affair, though. Arise Fashion Week returns to mark the 20th occasion of one of Africa's biggest fashion events. Running from February the 2nd to 4th, it will hold space as a jazz festival in a specially curated three-day showcase.

Since 2007, when it first took to the halls of the Eko Hotel in Lagos, Arise Fashion Week has been committed to promoting African fashion through creativity, discovery and financial support. At a time when global fashion’s tastemakers had yet to wax lyrical about the African fashion industry, the Arise platform was dynamic, switching up venues and cities to host its events.

From the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2008 to the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg in 2009, and the prestigious Bryant Park, New York -- over the past two decades, it has cemented itself as a continental destination for African designers and beyond. Supermodels and entertainment superstars like Grace Jones, Alec Wek, Naomi Campbell, Imaan Hammam, Akon,Solange, and Rihanna have all made appearances.

The brainchild of ThisDay Media Group, the event started as a music and fashion festival then underwent name changes over the years: Arise Magazine Fashion Week, Arise Africa Fashion Week, before finally landing on Arise Fashion Week. In 2018, it returned to Lagos after a 6-year hiatus.

The African creative boom across art and music has also grounded Arise Fashion Week as a cultural extravaganza. Here's all you need to know about its 20th run, taking place where it all started, at the Eko Hotel.

Is there a theme?

For this grand occasion, a theme has already been chosen. Titled Future Forward, the event will see a celebration of African design talent and how it has evolved over the years. It’s a statement that will embody where Africa fashion is coming from, and where it is going.

Recently, the industry has been open to adopting technological tools as an adaptive measure and to scale forward businesses, for example, the try-outs we have seen taking place in the metaverse. Also, appreciation for local craftsmanship has been revitalized through a synergy between brands and local communities. Lagos Space Programme, Eki kere, IAMISIGO, and Nkwo are just some of the brands whose production methods have an artisanal heartbeat.

Throughout the event, Arise will show how it's supporting the next generation of African designers, and giving them the platform to take charge.

Which designers will be showing?

While a provisional schedule was released during press announcements for the 20th edition, a timetable confirms which designers will own the runway. Lagos-based womenswear brand Kadiju is scheduled for the closing day, February the 4th.

Founded by Oyindamola Aleshinloye in 2021, Kadiju opened Lagos Fashion Week in 2022, surprising fashion lovers by putting a male model in a lapel collar shirt with large, bubbly pleats for sleeves, while another walked in a bustier. Fingers are crossed this blurring of gender lines continues at Arise Fashion Week.

After the launch of a gated storefront in Lagos in December last year, accompanied soon after by the release of a runway collection held on its premises, Folake Coker’s Tiffany Amber will present a collection at Arise. It will also signal a return to familiar ground for the Nigerian womenswear luminary.

Bianca Saunders, Joy Meribe, Mokodu Fall, Selam Fessahaye, Xuly Bet, and UNI FORM are among the African designers and those in the diaspora billed to present runway collections. The likes of Ameer by Ameer, Mariya Sanusi and Syari Bespoke will present for their first time at Arise Fashion Week, while brands that were showcased during the 30 Under 30 competition, like BLOKE, Fruché, Pepper Row, and overall winner Kenneth Ize, will also showcase their latest offerings.

Ituen Basi, NKWO, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Lisa Folawiyo are among the familiar names who'll also return to the Arise runway.

Which major or international designer should I be aware of?

London-based, British-Jamaican designer Bianca Saunders recently showed her FW23 collection at Paris Fashion Week in January, and continues to build on her reputation as one of the most exciting young talents in British menswear.

Has the jazz setlist been announced?

So far, American jazz pianist and composer, Herbie Hancock is the only name that's been revealed on the lineup. Opting for jazz does seem a little odd, given the current global takeover of afrobeats, and this is the first time the genre will take center stage, but music has been a staple during Arise Fashion Week.

Will Naomi Campbell walk the runway?

Most likely. The supermodel has been a regular collaborator of Arise Fashion Week since 2018, walking the runway for designers like Kenneth Ize, Banke Kuku, Huddaya, and Tzar, among others. Campbell has been vocal in her support of the African fashion industry, championing it on a global stage.

A month into the international fashion season, she’s seen spotted front row at Paris Fashion Week and even walked in the Schiaparelli couture show. Showing up at Arise Fashion Week will continue her involvement as a runway fixture on the African fashion scene, too.