SUPERSATURDAY

Renowned feminist and writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is unique, not just in her views and ideas; but in her style mantra. Omolabake Fasogbon highlights her support for the Nigerian fashion industry

Taking a cue from the words of Coco Channel that says “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only, it is in the sky, in the street, it has to do with ideas, the way we live and what is happening,” one can without contradiction, describe Chimamanda Adichie as all-round fashionista.

As a global figure, it is just natural that everything about this author conveys a message, other than the popular subject that defines her. This is why her signature style, which appears to be more of ‘Nigerian’ continues to set tongues wagging.

Asides the fact that Adichie’s dress sense is on choice, it is also purposeful. According to the culturist, her taste and preference for Nigeria label have a direct bearing to her immeasurable love for her motherland. Beyond that, she is out to portray the overall richness of Nigerian fashion to the whole world.

In her observation, fashion which happens to be one of the country’s greatest assets valued at $4.7 billion industry by Euromonitor, has not been justifiably represented in the global scene, where most foreigners still perceive Nigeria as “a museum of traditional clothes” away from her luxuriance.

In addition to debunking this perception in her story titled ‘My Fashion Nationalism’, published recently by Financial Times, she is on a mission to spread the correct message through her dressing which she flaunts proudly on her social media pages.

“I decided to use fashion as a kind of political statement which is to say that I made the choice to wear mostly Nigerian designers to public events because obviously, I want to support an industry that is full of talent, but also to make a case for how fashion can tell a story. Fashion and culture are intertwined in very interesting ways,” she remarked.

Adichie adds: “President Buhari Government instituted a retrograde currency policy, the value of the Naira plummeted and suddenly everyone was talking about ‘buy Nigeria products to grow the Naira’. The political rhetoric gave me an idea: what if I wore only Nigerian designers to the public, I would be supporting the different layers of the industry, from the button-sewer to the delivery person, and I hope to bring other buyers to Nigerian brands.”

In her commitment to this worthy goal, she recently launched a wear Nigerian project to drive home her point.

On this, the award-winning writer stated: “I have practical hopes for my project; that it shows Nigerian fashion as it is, not a museum of ‘traditional African’ clothes but a vibrant and diverse industry, and that it brings recognition to the brands. But it is also a personal and political statement. At a time of political uncertainty, when I find myself questioning the future of two countries I call home -Nigeria and the U.S.- this project is an act of benign nationalism, a paean to peaceful self-sufficiency, a gesture towards what is still possible and my uncomplicated act for complicated times.”

Beyond any other reason, the proud mother of one melts the heart of Nigerians for her decision not to culturally cringe despite her close affinity with the Americans.

Asked about who her fashion influencer is at a sudden tap, she needs not take a breath before she gives it to Grace Adichie, her mother. Baring it, she says “it’s not that I’m a feminist and made a strategic choice to speak about make-up and fashion. It’s that I was raised by Grace Adichie in a culture in which you care about how you look.”

The literary icon recalls that when she was much younger, her mother always dressed her and siblings well. “ Me in little girl dresses crunched at the waist, my brothers in suits and well-ironed shirts.”

To go out, she said, “we had to di ka mmadu ” which translates literally to look like a person. “There were frequent market visits to buy yards of fabrics and trips to the tailor to be measured,” she adds.

Adichie, whose definition of style simply means to wear what she liked, draws attention to the drawbacks in the industry such as poor quality zipper, limited opportunities for talents as well as infrastructure, and adds that these should be sharpened to boost a highly competitive industry.

The multiple-award winner, who will be 41 next Saturday, recently added another feather to her cap when she received an honorary degree from the prestigious Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, United States.