His has been a self-appointed task that looks daunting on the surface, but nonetheless achievable. Not satisfied with creating a recognisable menswear brand, Luzol, Austin Aimankhu has also established a vehicle to drive this vision. The platform became known as FashionArtFusion – a unique blend of arts, culture and fashion on the runway.
Apparently, his modest efforts at the last two seasons of FashionArtFusion have resonated in the right places and attracted the attention of the federal government which has offered a hand of fellowship through the Federal Ministry of Information, Culture, Tourism and National Orientation.
The working relationship between Aimankhu’s FashionArtFusion project and the government was announced recently at a meeting with journalists in Lagos. The 2016 FashionArtFusion will be executed under the broad theme ‘Wear Nigeria’. Joining Aimankhu to unfold the plans was Grace Gekpe, Director, Entertainment and Creative Services in the ministry, who expressed government’s keen interest to use the platform to promote Nigerian fabrics.
Aimankhu and Gekpe bemoaned the low patronage of made-in-Nigeria textiles and the epileptic state of the textile industry. “Ninety per cent of the fabrics we use in Nigeria are imported. 80 per cent smuggled. Our textile factories are gone. There is a part of this industry that people don’t know about – the local weavers. If you go to places like Abia and Ogun States, there are local weavers. They are everywhere but are not celebrated, recognised or acknowledged,” Aimankhu said.
Against this backdrop, the ‘Wear Nigeria’ campaign was chosen as the theme for the third edition of the fashion event. ‘Wear Nigeria’ will be a campaign to promote made-in-Nigeria fabrics. Unlike previous editions, this year will feature exhibitions as well as fashion show. The 3-day event will feature two days of exclusive exhibition of Nigerian fabrics and on the last day, the main runway event will hold.
While emphasising the rigorous process it will entail, Gekpe pointed out that her Ministry is committed to assisting local weavers in order to promote patronage by Nigerians. She explained that the next couple of months would witness a selective period where a research team will visit five states in the country
In her words: “There are many indigenous fabrics in Nigeria that are not exposed, that’s why we partnered with Luzol (Aimankhu’s fashion label) to showcase them. We will carry out a pilot research on these states: Abia, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ogun and Kwara. We want to use this platform to empower them and also draw the attention of the private sector. I believe this is one of the ways to diversify the economy.”
Scheduled to hold in November, the event will feature fashion designers who will use the local fabrics to create exquisite designs on the runway. As its tradition, the runway will be a blend of fashion, music and art. Aimankhu already promised that some talented artistes from the south-east will perform at the event. Another promise that has been kept consistently through the FashionArtFusion platform is donation of part of the proceeds from the event to a charity. The benefiting charity this year is the Down Syndrome Foundation.