“A lot of our work exists within the notion of speculative futures — critically thinking about what futuristic African fashion means. We aim to contribute to the global conversation around gender and sexuality from an indigenous perspective in a well-researched manner by exploring design through a cultural lens.” In doing this, 2023’s International Woolmark Prize winner, Lagos Space Programme, a conceptual non-binary design label from Nigeria by Adeju Thompson, aims to educate and highlight Africa’s progressive past pre-colonisation.
“There are wrong misconceptions, and we believe fashion really can shift cultural prejudices,” says Thompson, who was picked by a jury that consisted of fashion stalwarts Alessandro Sartori, Carine Roitfeld, Caroline de Maigret, Elizabeth von der Goltz, Francesco Risso, John Roberts, Pieter Mulier, Salehe Bembury, Shaway Yeh, Sinéad Burke, Tim Blanks, and Tyler Mitchell. Held in Paris last week at the Le Petit Palais immersive showroom, the awards (that have celebrated designers from Valentino Garavani and Karl Lagerfeld to homegrown talents like Rahul Mishra and Bodice by Ruchika Sachdeva in the past) saw a special performance choreographed by last year’s IWP winner, Saul Nash, where each of the eight dancers wore a key look from this year’s finalists. Other awardees for the evening included A. Roege Hove from Denmark who was presented the 2023 Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, and Bybore, an Amsterdam-local textile innovation studio that won the 2023 Supply Chain Award.
This year’s IWP was centered around the theme of Dialogue, “representing both an important element in the creative process and acting as a letter both to, and for, the next generation”, reflective of the Woolmark Company’s vision-mission in establishing dialogue and building a network between design talent and industry leaders for a collective, sustainable future. Thompson’s collection, titled ‘Cloth as a Queer Archive’ (Project 8 collection), served as an inspiration to highlight the similarities between Western tailoring codes and the romance of traditional indigenous aesthetics of dress.
“Winning the prize makes things easier. It means we can invest heavily in capacity but also have direct access to a larger retail market. The amount of publicity LSP has received in the past few days has been overwhelming positive with buyers booking appointments for our showroom during fashion week”, says Thompson, “In addition to these developments, we plan to expand our research, increase our product offering, hire a larger team, and ramp our outreach programs within our community and across the globe.”
LSP, which shows in Paris next month, offers intellectual and ready-to-wear designs, and explores “parallel concepts through multidisciplinary collaboration projects”. “We will be showcasing my full collection at the shows and I’m very excited. We created a wonderful film that really expands on our research and celebrates a wonderful community that has given me so much inspiration.” He explains that there’s a very one-dimensional view of what design from the continent looks like from the West: “While these visual languages are accurate this is not entirely what African design is about. Through my work I convey a vision of Africa that is vulnerable, minimalist, and conceptual, I want to tell my reality as an African in a personal way.”