Since its debut in the mid-19th century, haute couture has remained the highest level of fashion. The French phrase refers to fashion that is created with the finest materials and top-of-the-line craftsmanship. Globally, the haute couture market brings in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, which is why many of the world’s largest design brands dedicate entire season revenues to putting their best couture on the runway. In France today, there are a series of criteria that fashion brands must meet before their pieces can legally be deemed as haute couture. These include that the piece must be a made-to-order design for private clients designed in the fashion house’s Paris workshop. The workshop must employ at least 15 technical members of staff full-time and must present a collection of at least 35 original designs to the public in each fashion season.
While these stringent conditions were created to prevent the oversaturation of brands using the term to describe pieces that were not up to par with the work of true couturiers, they have created a disparity that creates the impression that haute couture can only be made in Paris. This is further stressed by the fact that Paris Haute Couture is the world’s only officially recognized Couture fashion week. African designers have been creating couture worthy pieces for their private clients for generations yet, they have mostly been left out of the haute couture market and have thus missed a very salient income generator. On the 29th of March, 2020, noted Nigerian fashion label Odio Mimonet is poised to become the first Nigerian brand in history to host its own standalone haute couture show in Lagos. This bold move will present Nigeria, already being looked upon as a fashion capital, with a new dimension in fashion that fully immerses our designers in the production of haute couture and further bridges the gap between African designers and the Western market.
The haute couture collection is dubbed “The African Story” and with it, the designer plans to highlight the many elements and motifs that directly reflect the Nigerian woman and her style choices. African culture and heritage will be focal points as models strut down the runway in carefully curated pieces from the brand that weave together a cohesive narrative of an African story. Each piece will be intricately made using only luxurious fabrics and artisanship that make the haute couture distinction.
There are only a handful of Nigerian fashion labels that successfully hold a show of this magnitude and significance and, fortunately, Odio Mimonet is on that list. Since being founded by its Creative Director, Odio Oseni, about twenty years ago, the brand has cemented its status amongst the fashion elite with a string of discerning clients that include billionaires, world leaders, celebrities and many more. Oseni has fostered a tradition of creating custom-fitted pieces that are crafted using only the best quality fabric and materials, a staple of any true couture house. The designer has also ensured that her team has perfected the fine art of detailing through continuous extensive training that only further fine-tuned their talents to produce the best quality of work.
A major concern with the production of haute couture is the exorbitant costs involved. Each piece, on average, can take an average of 4 – 29 days to complete. This can lead to astronomical fees considering that in the French model, the expectation is for couture houses to create at least 35 looks per season. Paying tailors for 29 days of work making one piece that involves a lot of intricate and attention-driven work is run-up the bill in no time. While the concern is valid, it does not impede the production of haute couture in Nigeria as only brands, such as Odio Mimonet, that can finance their productions should be concerned with creating haute couture collections. They also have the requisite skilled manpower and client base who can afford to purchase their pieces.
With this show, Odio Mimonet will set the precedent for the production of haute couture in Nigeria. It promises to be a one-of-a-kind culmination of fashion and entertainment that will forever change the landscape of the Nigerian fashion industry. The success of the show will show France and the rest of the Western world that Africa is ready to create haute couture and we will no longer be excluded from the large market share we have long been excluded from.