“One thing we make best in Africa is craftsmanship,” Ize explains. At the heart of his eponymous brand are Nigerian hand-constructed fabrics produced by local communities. With each garment, he’s dispelling the myth that “Made in Africa” means “this should cost less.” But it’s an uphill battle — the remnants of colonialism and the industry’s inherent Eurocentrism are suffocating African manufacturing.
“The truth of the matter is that most of our resources are still held by the colonial malice that has never left,” Aighewi illustrates. African designers struggle to survive in a world that is skewed to their disadvantage. While the high cost of manufacturing at home in and of itself is already incredibly prohibitive, the high quality of artisanal manufacturing demands a high price. “There are so many people like me here that can do even more than me […] that don’t have the chance,” Ize says.
When Ize made his official debut at Paris Fashion Week this February, it was despite the industry, not because of it. He was not asking for a seat at the “haute couture” table, but proving to the (naive) masses that luxury was never not-African. Even with his clothing strutting down fashion’s most covetable runway on models such as Naomi Campbell and Imaan Hammam, Ize still had to ask himself, “Will anyone buy this collection?”