Hi BellaStylistas! It’s Isoken and every month, I’ll be sharing a short letter spotlighting our monthly theme from my personal perspective and giving you an idea of some of the amazing content we have planned. For April, our theme is #FashionSZN.

Editor-At-Large Isoken Ogiemwonyi introduces the BellaNaija Style’s #FashionSZN theme for April.

I am writing this in Toronto, while we prepare for an intense Arise Fashion Week, following extensive South Africa Fashion Week SS19 coverage and the Lagos Fashion Week presentations and popup in London to international press and buyers as well as the start of the CNI Luxury Conference and AFI Capetown Fashion Week. Suffice it to say, it’s only the 8th day in April and it’s already been an intense one for fashion.

Speaking to the Stylist UK on about the growth of the fashion industry, led me to really reflect on how far we have come as an industry. Does fashion on the continent feel like a frustrating yet surreal circus from time to time? Definitely. Is there enough happening on a commercial level to fuel exponential growth and opportunities for established and emerging designers? Probably far from enough.

However, despite all the well documented challenges that afflict us, the industry continues to grow rapidly and that is in no small part due to catalysts like Omoyemi Akerele, the rise of the creative industries – art, film and music in particular, media and technology platforms like BellaNaija, BellaNaija Style and Instagram – who drive discovery and purchase intent.

Awareness of  the nuanced gap between skills, talent and resources means that announcements like the winner of 5,000,000 naira at the Fashion Focus Live pitch day by Lagos Fashion Week are more crucial than ever.

How can we do more though?

‘Fashion rests upon folly,’ Oscar Wilde once proclaimed in ‘The Philosophy of Dress’ written in 1885. Wilde – the king of the bon mot, a lover of  fashion, and an incredible writer – was well aware of the power of fashion, and its ability to transform and create a sense of self. Referring to the endless cycle of change that drives an entire industry, the folly may perhaps satirise not only that relentless need for newness, but in the African context the inability to marry the commercial and creative successfully.

In the endlessly shifting search for the new designer, a fresh approach, an exciting creative campaign – we can sometimes become alienated from the core fact that fashion is a business, and while it is creatively fulfilling for many , the pervasive idea that making money is somehow a dirty word is only one of the limiting beliefs holding us back.

Right now, there are brands who are great at everything but the commercial, and brands who are making money but are more trend driven than aesthetically adept. This makes the former distinct but vulnerable to failure and the latter easily replaceable when competition is based solely on price.

What does this mean in the context of BellaNaija Style? We continue to build on the belief that fashion in Africa is not monolithic, and in examining and showcasing the thriving parts and problematic issues facing our industry today, we want to give our community – our contributors and audience alike, a chance to delve deeper into what it means to be in fashion on the continent and in the diaspora as well as learn from intriguing personal stories like that of Sharmaine Aderemi at Storm Models.

Elsewhere in the issue, we explore the behind the scenes moments at fashion weeks continent wide, examine and highlight new brands we hope will bridge the gap of commerce and creativity and everything our editors, are doing, loving and coveting this month.

Welcome to #FashionSZN