Lagos Space Programme Bridges Fashion Worlds


For Fall-Winter 2024, the Lagos Space Programme story opens with a fictional British-Nigerian immigrant at the apex of his professional life, invested in his career and their philanthropy, who never loses sight of his African roots. Invited by the oba (‘ruler’ in Yoruba), to attend a festival in his homeland, the character embarks on a sartorial homecoming journey. Designer Adeju Thompson’s latest outing amounts to a collection that deconstructs gentlemanly dress codes refracted through a queer lens and grounded in the nexus of British and African influences. From A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton to Ovation (a Nigerian magazine he compares to Hello!, the British title that publishes stories about high society), Thompson has bridged the two cultures and explored the many ways they interact.

He arrives at this true melding of cultures in an act he calls “decolonizing fashion.” On one hand, there are musings on Britishisms through rigorous tailoring and dramatic coats. On the other, traditional West African garments become modern through the use of contemporary fabrics like wool and silk. Elsewhere, one can find an ancient indigo dyeing technique called àdìrę, which is employed to emulate the Prince of Wales check. Other styles are painstakingly hand-painted, resembling hand-woven fabrics in their meticulous finish. Quintessentially British Mackintosh outerwear is enriched with elaborate baroque patterns. “I want to celebrate the fact that we live in a global world where people can take from anywhere – so not to see one culture as more important than the other,” the designer explained over the phone from Lagos ahead of arriving in Paris for fashion week.
By Paul McLauchlan.

How did you take the initial inspiration of this fictional character and channel it into the clothing?

The collection [explores] how he presents himself and the clothing he wears. It starts from his day-to-day life in the UK to the finale of him being the guest of the king at a festival in Nigeria. It’s a world-building exercise, so there’s a sense of this wealthy person in London who most likely wears Savile Row tailoring. It’s like a marriage of Eurocentric dress codes with traditional Yoruba dress codes. It’s also a study on good taste. Western perspective often sees itself as the superior culture. I think we’re showing how there have been many great contributions from the continent. Of course, there are many sad things happening [in Africa] today, but there are great institutions, high cultures, accomplishments, and amazing stories – and this collection is about celebrating that. 


What techniques did you use in the collection?


Alongside the tailoring elements of the collection, you have àdírę, which is a natural indigo dyeing technique that’s been in Nigeria for centuries. In Nigeria, it’s very much an art form in a traditional dress context. It’s all about storytelling for members of the community. To me, it was quite exciting to take traditional crafts and textiles and put them into a modern context.  


How much does your heritage play into what you do?


Growing up, we read Ovation, which is like Hello! Magazine, and were transported to the lives of amazing Nigerians and Africans doing amazing things internationally. It was fascinating to see these people exist and how they presented themselves at the intersection of where they originally came from and where they are now. The older I get, I find myself referring back to this in my research. But it’s not about a historical person, [rather] a person who could exist right now. 


How does your work fit into contemporary African fashion?


People construct expectations about what African design is; but when they see Lagos Space Programme, they realise it might not conform with that idea. It’s very much in tune with the Belgian design language. These are codes that inform my practice; I enjoy the work of Martin Margiela and Raf Simons. Also, I love John Galliano and how, in his work, he transports you to entirely different spaces connected to world-building and storytelling. Throughout the collection, we were constantly thinking about how and where he would wear each look. As a designer from somewhere [without] a winter, it pushed us as a studio to make pieces that really work for winter climates because this is a Fall-Winter collection presented in a Western context. It’s allowed us to tap into new ideas and make clothing that is very desirable and creative with visuals that are fresh and modern.