Fashion Designing and Economic Development in Lagos State, Nigeria, 2011-2020

Cite this article: Orukpe, W. E. and Faruq, B. I. 2023. Fashion Designing and Economic Development in Lagos State, Nigeria, 2011-2020. Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 12. Pp. 115-127. www.doi.org/10.36349/sokotojh.2023.v12i01.010
Fashion Designing and Economic Development in Lagos State, Nigeria, 2011-2020

Williams Ehizuwa Orukpe, Ph.D.
Department of History and International Studies
University of Benin, Benin City


Boge Idowu Faruq, Ph.D.
Department of History and International Studies
Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos

Abstract: The economy of Lagos state, Nigeria is unarguably the biggest and the most developed in the country. Its self-sustaining capability was demonstrated from 2004-2007 when the Lagos economy did not grind to a halt when the Federal government of Nigeria withheld Lagos’ monthly allocation. But in the growing body of literature on Lagos studies, the contributions of the fashion designing industry to the attainment of this economic feat had not been given adequate academic attention. Hence, to close this gap, this paper examined fashion designing and economic development in Lagos from 2011-2020. Using the historical research methodology, this study interrogates secondary data and explains how fashion designing is partly giving life to the Lagos economy. It finds that through the employment opportunities, apprenticeship, internal revenue generation and the economics of brand ambassadorship that fashion designing provides Lagos state; it is aiding its economic development. It also found that the Lagos Fashion Week which is the pinnacle of the Lagos fashion economy attracts fashion designers from within and outside Nigeria to Lagos; and generates huge revenue for players in its hospitality sector and other local service providers. Consequently, fashion designing in post-colonial Lagos had been of significant help in soaking up some of the economic pressures caused by overpopulation, unemployment and underemployment. Therefore, this paper concludes that fashion designers in Lagos cover more than the nudity of Lagosians; they also augment the economy of Lagos state by contributing to its growth and development.

Keywords: Fashion Designing, Lagos, Nigeria, Economy, Development


Fashion designing in the twenty-first century Lagos economy covers more than the nudity of the people. It covers most fundamentally the economic weaknesses and conundrum of the emerging mega city. Without doubt, a nation that cannot cater for the basic needs of its citizenry such as food, clothing and shelter is a nation walking on the tightrope. Economic underdevelopment in the twenty-first century is a pitiable condition that shames Third World Countries (TWCs), as resource cursed states, among the comity of nations. TWCs are arguable the richest countries in the world in terms of human and natural resources endowment and control; yet TWCs are paradoxically least developed in the international system. This exposed economic underbelly of TWCs makes them vulnerable to the neocolonial predation. In post-colonial Africa, the fashion design industry is one of the markets where foreign producers are reaping the low hanging fruits of large economic of scale.

Therefore, it is incontrovertible that fashion designing is a critical economic activity that Federal and State governments in Nigeria can also exploit for economic growth and development. This is because, fashion designing creates employment opportunities, sustainable income earning and opportunities that make sustainable livelihood possible. It also creates a skill acquisition option that increases the capacity of artisans to pay tax; and thereby expand the tax-net of governments and improve their internally generated revenue. Furthermore, fashion designing as an important sub-industrial sector is a useful take-off point for full industrialisation. In Nigeria, the desire to fully exploit the job creation and overall economic development potentials inherent in fashion designing, encouraged the Federal Government to launch the National Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy (NCTGP) in January 2015.1

The fashion and textile industry in Africa is the second largest sector with a value of over $31 billion USD with Nigeria accounting for 15% of it.2 The economic development prospect the industry holds explains why through the NCTGP Nigeria sought to unlock the export potentials inherent in its cotton and cloth industries. And in the year 2000, the United States of America (USA) enacted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to exploit Nigeria’s cotton and cloth potentials among others. The instrument granted African countries duty-free export to the American market in some products.3 These products include vegetables, edible fruits and nuts, peel of citrus, melons, dates, figs, pineapples, and avocadoes among others. However, it is instructive to note that African textiles and clothing are among the over 1800 products that the AGOA act grants duty-free entry into the USA. This means that, for Nigeria, the AGOA act is an export promotion framework. It complements the American Generalised System of Preferences Programme (AGSPP) established by the US Trade Act of 1974 that grants duty-free access to 5000 commodities into the USA.4

The existence of AGOA and AGSPP provide responsive fashion designers in Nigeria the opportunity of enjoying economies of large scale production in the USA. The growing international market for African textile makes fashion designing a viable economic growth and development medium; and an alternate means of increasing Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. In fact, in 2012 clothing apparels were Nigeria’s second highest non-oil export to the United States. The country exported clothing worth $813 million (USD) to the USA.5 Apart from the lucrative duty-free international market that exists for clothing in the USA, in the Nigerian market there is also a secured market for fashion designers across the 36 states of the federation. The Switzerland Global Enterprise observed that,

About 1.2 billion metres of cloth is required yearly for dressing in Nigeria based on an average of 6 metre per capita (individual). The market also include an access to all ECOWAS countries with a total of 350 people.6

However, the focus of this paper is on the contributions of fashion designing to economic development of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos state. It explores the role of fashion design in stimulating, expanding and facilitating the growth and expansion of Lagos. The urban metropolis being the commercial and fashion capital of Nigeria is arguably benefitting more from its fashion industrial sub-sector because of the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos. Some of the low hanging fruits that fashion designing had offered the city includes job creation. As at September 24, 2023, Rentech digital revealed that there were over 7, 430 of these registered jobs or fashion designers in Nigeria7; but a significant portion of them are based and operational in Lagos. They include the following: Farrione Creation and Designs, House of Joyce, JC Modelling Agency, Nigeria, The Lisa Folawiyo, AccNik Akara Fashion World, Ara Fashion Planet, Blenuel Fashion Design, Booms Fashion Designer, Couture by Isemini, Dadu Bajo, Erere Signatures, Elizawa Fashion, Furus Fashion, Hallero Fashion, Joelas Fashion, and Julia Fashion House among others.

These Nigerian fashion designers have even formed a national umbrella body known as Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria. The predominance of Lagos fashion designers in the country’s fashion industry explains why the national headquarters of the body was located at 77 Oduduwa Crescent GRA, Ikeja, Lagos. In addition to entrepreneurial development and job creation, fashion designing had improved the socio-economic balance in Lagos by boosting standard of life through the income and revenue it accrues to Lagosians and the government of Lagos state. It is also responsible for the emergence of the economics of pageantry and brand ambassadorship as business opportunities. To this end, in 2011, the Lagos fashion designing industry birthed the Lagos Fashion Week (Lagos FW) which has an economic goldmine for the state. Since its inception, the Lagos FW had been boosting trade, hospitality and tourism and foreign exchange earnings. This paper interrogates these developments in Lagos and put them into proper perspective.

The Lagos Fashion Week and the Economy of Lagos State

The Lagos Fashion Week is the grand finale of beauty and style showcase in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. The socio-economic activity started on October 26 2011, when Omoyemi Akerele of the Style of House Files organised the maiden edition of the event at the Eko Hotel Expo Centre in Lagos. The four day event that ended in October 29 went down as the biggest fashion event in Nigeria; and the biggest platform for Lagos fashion designer to launch themselves to national and global fame and recognition. This gala event is an economic game changer for the Lagos economy, fashion designers, models and other local businesses. The Lagos FW brought together fashion designers, the media, consumers of fashion, fashion enthusiasts, and other big businesses that that take part in the event as sponsors. The Lagos Fashion Week gives fashion designers in Lagos and across Nigeria the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, innovative and creative designs; and an opportunity to become pacesetters in fashion and style. It is important to note that, when the Lagos Fashion Week came into existence in 2011, Omoyemi Akerele the founder, intended for it to become a veritable career and economic development opportunities for fashion designers and Lagos state respectively.8 Hence, since 2011, at every single event of the Lagos FW, the organisers have successfully showcased nothing less than 60 Nigerian and African fashion designers to a global audience of more than 40,000 potential patrons and customers.9 And this brought huge financial reward to Lagos state, the centre stage of the event, in terms of tourism and media coverage.

The wide reach of the Lagos Fashion Week makes it attractive to both upcoming and established fashion designers in Lagos. It is conceived as a springboard for bouncing to stardom in the Nigerian fashion industry. The Lagos Fashion Week performs a dual function in the city, it repositions fashions designers for excellence and promotes trade and commerce in Lagos.10 Consequently, its utility as a medium of advertising drew large corporate sponsorship to the event. Some of the big businesses and organisations in Nigeria that have taken advantage of the platform of the Lagos Fashion Week to grow their business include: Heineken, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Lush Hair, Medbury Medical Services, Techno, Oppo, and Austrian Lace.11 Their capital investment in the Lagos FW is directly responsible for improving the monetary reward triumphant fashion designers take home from the event. Therefore, it is the robust financial sponsorship the Lagos FW enjoys yearly from its corporate sponsors that is responsible for increasing its lure to fashion designers within and outside Lagos.

Since 2012, fashion designers from other African countries such as Maxhosa Africa and Imprint from South Africa and Christie Brown from Ghana had used the big platform and runways of the Lagos Fashion Week to showcase their brand. Some of the Nigerian fashion designers who periodically and consistently used the Lagos FW to market their brand include: Gozel Green, DIDI Creations, Orange Culture, Kenneth Ize, Clan, Eki, Lisa Folawiyo, Iamisigo, Nkwo, Abisola Olusola, Maxivive, Larry Jay, Niuku, Bloke, Lagos Space Programme, Emmy, Kasbit, Aajiya, Cute Saint, Chip O’ Neal, Assian, Bonke Kuku, AAKS, and Cynthia Abila among others.12 The 2021 edition of the Lagos FW was held at the Federal Palace Hotel on October 27-30 with the theme “The Future Starts Now”; while the 2022 edition of the Lagos FW was held on October 26-29 at the same venue in Lagos with the theme “Collaboration, Co-creation and Community”. 

The organisers of the Lagos Fashion Week are also engaged in different human capacity and economic development activities that are geared towards talent discovery and brand development. One of these activities is the Fashion Focus Africa. This is a talent discovery initiative of the organisers of the Lagos FW that seeks to create enabling environment for upcoming fashion designers to get access to fashion focus funds and wider market. It also assist upcoming fashion designers in acquiring vital knowledge and gain networking opportunities that are needed to grow their business.13 There is also the Fashion Business Series through which the Lagos FW engender open communication among the key players in the Nigerian and African fashion industry. Furthermore, the Lagos FW engages in a talent discovery programme known as Green Access. Under this programme, upcoming fashion designers are encouraged to create socially, economically and environmentally sustainable fashion trends.14

The Lagos Fashion Week also include after parties that provide opportunities for guests and visitors to experience and enjoy the Lagos nightlife economy. This activity contributes to the economic development of Lagos by increasing the rate of turnover of some small business operators and boosting its hospitality and tourism industry.15 Therefore, it is safe to say that the Lagos FW each year means good business for hoteliers in Lagos, “Suya” (barbeque meat) vendors, transporters, eateries outlets and photographer in Lagos among others. The increased patronage of small businesses operating around the venue of the Lagos FW during the event helps them to cash-out and stay economically afloat.

The NCTGP and Economic Development in Lagos

The launching of the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan in 2014 by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment was a milestone in economic development planning in the country. It paved the way for the emergence of the National Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy (NCTGP) in 2015 as a blueprint to developing the fashion designing industry and harnessing its full economic development potentials. The NCTGP was launched by the Federal Government as a fashion designing regulatory framework through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. It was aimed at developing the local fashion industry across the 36 states of Nigeria; and to limit the importation of foreign textile into Nigeria.16 More so, through import substitution, the NCTGP sought to save up to $2 billion (USD) for Nigeria; and increase the level of direct employment in the textile sector from 24,000 to 50,000 by the end of 2015, and to 100,000 workers by the end of 2017.17 The policy was also geared towards increasing cotton seed production from 200,000 to 500,000 metric tons by the end of 2015. And increasing indirect employment in the fashion designing industry across Nigeria from 650,000 to 1 million workers by 2015; and to 1.3 million indirect workers by 2017.18 However, Onyinye Nwachukwu19 observed that the policy had been fraught with poor implementation. Consequently, in terms of capacity and benefit NCTGP is yet to achieve its goal. For instance, out of Nigeria’s 52 ginneries that were operational in the past only 21 ginneries are operational as at 2022. Resultantly, the country’s cloth production capacity currently stands at 100 tones of cloth being ginned per annum instead of the potential 600 tones.

It is expedient to note that the 2015 National Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy was a follow up to the ₦100 billion Cotton, Textile and Garment Revival Fund the Nigerian government launched in 2010 to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria’s fashion designing industry. The failure of the 2010 fashion designing restoration effort was what informed the initiation of the NCTGP in 2015. As a national economic development plan, the new policy was expected to increase Nigeria’s export earnings to at least $3 billion (USD) annually for five years. And to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Nigerian Textile and Garment sector to the tune of ₦255 billion annually for five years.20 To achieve these goals, the 2015 NCTGP provided the Nigerian textile industry with modern world class facilities needed to make textiles produced in Nigeria globally competitive.21 But the NCTGP due to poor implementation had not been able to drive Nigeria’s cloth export to its full capacity; and has still not been to attract the level of FDI Nigeria needs to reach her economic development target. However, on the brighter side the NCTGP has arguably succeeded in propelling the growth of sectional fashion designing industries across the country. Under the protective cover of the NCTGP, fashion designing businesses at the state level had grown to reach their full potential; and this had improved their contribution to the state and National Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is against this backdrop that this study will now discuss the NCTGP in the context of its contribution to the Lagos fashion designing industry and economic development.

Fashion Designing and Skill Acquisition/Apprenticeship in Lagos State

The employment of direct and indirect labour as part of the cardinal goals the NCTGP injected new life into the Lagos fashion designing industry. Its focus on engendering manpower development and capacity building benefitted fashion designers in Lagos. It funded several training and retraining programmes that sharpened the skills of fashion entrepreneurs and repositioned them to be better employers and trainers of labour. This in the long run helped flattened the curve of unemployment in Nigeria. More so, the enabling environment the NCTGP provided across Nigeria enhanced the ability of Lagos fashion designing outlets to engage skilled fashion designers and apprentices. Consequently, skill acquisition through apprenticeship became one of the large doors to productive economic activities that opened up in the Lagos fashion designing industry. Skill acquisition at the formal and informal sector of the Lagos fashion economy triggered its economic development by equipping labour with the right vocational knowledge and technical know-how in fashion designing.

In Lagos, the capital of the Nigerian fashion industry large population of the city and their passion for dressing and grooming, beauty and style, entertainment and recreation and partying lured many into the industry as apprentices. These young Lagosians who aspire to make it big in the fashion world and gain economic freedom began their fashion career by enrolling as an apprentice for a minimum period of three years. Before this period of training could begin, the master negotiates an apprenticeship agreement spelling out his terms and conditions of service with the intending fashion designer. The apprentice is expected to accept and meet up with all the master’s conditions and be of good character in order to be trained in fashion designing.

During the period of apprenticeship, the prospective fashion designer learns to walk the tightrope of the fashion, beauty and style industry either as a producer of clothing or footwear among others. In the course of time, through observation, trial and error, tutorship and applying instruction given by the master the apprentice gradually grows to maturity in the craft. As the apprentice progresses, he begins to serve his master as a semi-skilled and unpaid labour. His services contribute significantly to increasing the production capacity of the fashion designing outfit of his master. This enables the master of the apprentice to meet up with customer demand as at when due and increase his income. However, when the apprentice finally completes his/her training a graduation/freedom ceremony is held for him at his master’s shop. During this ceremony, prayers are offered to the apprentice by his master; and certificates are at times issued. Subsequently, the new fashion designer acquires his own office space and begins his own independent engagement with members of the public. In post-colonial Lagos, this process of industrial reproduction is vital to expanding the city’s productive capacities and the sustainable livelihood of some of its residents. At the completion of apprenticeship and setting up of their own business, the new fashion entrepreneurs become upcoming designers. But as actors in the Lagos economic space, the new fashion designers contribute to its economic growth and development by paying taxes, employing labour (fashion designers) and helping to train other apprentice for future production.

Fashion Designing and Unemployment in Lagos State

It follows from the foregoing that NCTGP in the Nigerian economy was designed to combat unemployment and unproductivity. This is because the white-collar job oriented education that Nigerians received at primary, secondary and the university levels turned most of them into perpetual job hunters after they graduate. And the economic reality in Lagos is that most of them end up not getting any gainful white-collar employment. This renders bulk of Nigeria’s labour resources underexploited, idle and unproductive. Economically, labour unemployment in any society is antithetical to economic development because it causes leakages and wastages in the economy. In Nigeria, despite Lagos state being the commercial capital and economic centre of excellence where any kind of business thrives; the city paradoxically still has the highest number of youth unemployment in the country. In 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that there were 1.85 million people without a job in Lagos.22 And in the same year, the total youth unemployment profile of Nigeria stood at 42.5%, which meant that a total of 4 out of 10 youths in the country who can work and willing to work do not have work.23 In economic development planning, Lagos high unemployment rate meant that the city must get its unemployment figures down for its economy to thrive.

Consequently, scholars such as Habeeb Abdul24 had argued that fashion designing across Nigeria since 2010 had been very helpful economically by taking most of the unemployed off the street. The sector had consistently been employing an average of 17% of Nigeria’s youths across the country. Increased labour employment in the Nigerian fashion capital also produced a multiplier effect in the national economy. Therefore, Euro monitor observed that in sub-Sahara Africa the fashion designing sector is currently worth $31 billion (USD) with Nigeria contributing 15%, that is, $4.7 billion (USD).25 The employment opportunity the fashion designing industry had provided for most of the youths explains the sector’s robust contribution to both the Lagos and Nigerian economy. As an employer of labour, fashion designing help to mitigate the economic menace of poverty and hunger in Lagos that is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. By so doing, fashion designing is also contributing to the economic development of Lagos by stemming the tide of crime rate, youth restiveness and idleness that saps economies of the vitality they need to grow. It has also improved the per capita income of Lagosians and GDP of Lagos by pushing back unemployment and increasing local productivity.

For many young tailors, they cover the cost of setting up their own business through personal savings, borrowing from friends and family members, and by purchasing sewing equipment on hire purchase. Getting their start-up fashion business outfit running in the local neighbourhood begins with prospecting for vacant shops to rent as a business premise for fashion designing. After settling the rent with the landlord of the property and procurement of sewing equipment like sewing machines, industrial machines, pressing iron, kneading machine, measuring tape and needles and pins among others, the fashion entrepreneur begins production. What is economically significant here is the fact through the process of establishing their business by renting a facility and buying the needed sewing equipment in the local market. Fashion designers contribute to sustainable livelihood of others in Lagos. Landlords need their rent to run their families and traders dealing with fashion accessories need their patronage to make sales and sustainable livelihood. However, it should be mentioned that the comparatively low cost of setting up a small scale tailoring business in Lagos explains why the business has become one of the highest employer of labour in the city.

In 2020, during the pandemic fashion designers were instrumental to keeping the economy of Lagos afloat and the public safe. They diversified into production of facemasks which kept the informal economy of Lagos running and provided sustainable livelihood for many. The sewing of facemasks with local fabrics helped to manage the budget of Lagos under the pandemic. It prevented the government from over-importing foreign facemasks which would have put a strain on the revenue of the state.

Fashion Designing and Internally Generated Revenue in Lagos

The NCTGP as an economic development policy was principally geared towards boosting the revenue generation capacity of the textile and fashion designing industry of the 36 states of Nigeria and the national income. But out of all the federating units of the country, Lagos state being the fashion headquarters of Nigeria is currently taking the lead in exploiting its internal revenue generation potentials. The growing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) capability of the state is without doubt due to the preponderance of big and small businesses in Lagos state. Since 2015 when the NCTGP revolutionised the cotton and cloth industry, it had whipped up demand and consumption of locally made clothes, especially in Lagos state. By so doing, it transformed fashion designing businesses, both large and small, into viable taxable enterprises for the Lagos state government. Understandably, between 1999 and 2021 the IGR of Lagos grew by 7,400%. The governor of Lagos state, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, made this known at the 149th Joint Tax Board (JTB) meeting held in Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island. The JTB meeting is a quarterly conference of Chairmen of Inland Revenue Service from the 36 states of the federation. However, the governor of Lagos through his representatives, Mr. Rabiu Olowo, Lagos Commissioner for Finance, attended the 2021 JTB meeting in his capacity as the hosting state and because Lagos is the largest contributor to Nigeria’s national non-oil revenue through corporate income tax, VAT, custom duties, and port charges.26 It is safe to assert that the revenue Lagos generated from taxing fashion designing outfits operational in the city partly contributes to its status as Nigeria’s biggest non-oil revenue earner. Therefore, it can be argued that fashion designing contributed to keeping the economy of Lagos afloat during the reign of Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld the monthly allocation of the state in 2004. Commenting on this development, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo observed that the seizure of Lagos’ allocation forced the state to think like a sovereign state in term of internal revenue generation.27

This culminated in Lagos expanding its tax net to catch all businesses operational in the state. And the fashion designing business being the one of the highest employers of labour in Lagos occupied large part of the tax net. The result of this was the increase of the IGR of Lagos to around ₦45 billion monthly.28 Inside Lagos, fashion designers, traders, artisans and other small business owners across the 37 Local Government Areas of the state pay a minimum of ₦6000-9000 as tax to the government.29 In fact, the informal economy of Lagos where most of the upcoming fashion designers in the state operate constitutes one of the biggest revenue goldmines for the state. Taxation as an instrument of revenue generation in Lagos is not restricted to the official ₦2,500 that the Local Government Authorities collect from the small business owners such as tailors; it also include the tenement rate of ₦4000 that they also pay to the state government. Taxation and levies as internal revenue generation opportunities are also collected in the form of business premises registration fee, development levy, market taxes and levies, signage (sign board permit), and mobile advertising permit.30 However, it is important to note that the amount of taxation imposed on fashion designing outfits varies in Lagos. It is determined by a number of factors such as the age of the business, size of the business, location of the business and rate of turnover of the business among others. Hence, a 2021 business survey conducted in Lagos found that the Lagos tax system was biased towards low income earners and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). This implies that while tax rates may at times be flat, SMEs are usually taxed more and double taxed by government agencies than big businesses in Lagos. This situation is directly responsible for tax avoidance and tax non-compliance among SMEs in some cases.31

In Lagos state, despite the problem of tax avoidance and tax non-compliance, there are a huge number of fashion designers operating both at the formal and informal sector of its economy; the industry has been able to contribute in no small measure to the economic development of the state. Lagos fashion designers constitute a sizeable taxable population that the Local and State government of the region are exploiting to the full. It is true that this working population is not taxed according to the “Pay as You Earn” (PAYE) system; but their contribution to the tax purse of the government is still significant to meeting the economic development need of Lagos state. Fashion designers who pay direct taxes proportional to their business sizes; also pay other indirect taxes through the purchase of fashion designing materials and sewing machines whose prices have been imbued with taxes. By so doing, fashion designers help other business value chain in the fashion sector to stay in business and remain competitive and viable. These other businesses in turn pay their taxes to the government of Lagos state; and the government in turn uses the tax revenue to pursue other economic development plans such as the Lagos megacity master plan.

Pageantry and the Economics of Brand Ambassadorship in Lagos State

Without a doubt, the rise of pageantry was another crucial way through which the fashion designing industry had been contributing its quota to the economic development of Lagos and Nigeria at large. The industry through beauty pageant competition has been raising models and celebrities that contribute significantly to the growth and development of big businesses by serving as their brand ambassador. The economics of brand ambassadorship in Lagos was set in motion in 1957 when the first beauty competition, Miss Nigeria contest, was held in the city in 1957. It gained acceleration in 1959 when television broadcasting, which paved the way for models to feature in television advertisements, started in Nigeria. Pageantry developed in Nigeria to promote Nigerian design, pride and patriotism. Its goal is to inculcate in the beauty pageants the belief that they can do anything and even achieve the unthinkable.32 Implicit in this understanding is the fact that pageantry seeks to train and equip beauty queens with the right tools to break into the commercial and advertising world. It is also geared towards empowering beauty pageants financially and morally by bolstering their confidence to purse their economic dreams endlessly.33 However, over time and space the Miss Nigeria and the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MGBN) competition were entrenched as the bastion of pageantry and the main driver of the economics of brand ambassadorship.

It is expedient to note that it was the rise of the Silverbird Group in Lagos and its diversification into the beauty and style industry through pageantry that elevated the industry a new lease on life. Guy Murray-Bruce, the executive director of the Silverbird Group, struck fashion gold in advancing the economics of brand ambassadorship when he guided the Lagos born Agbani Darego to winning the Miss World Beauty competition in South Africa in 2001. It is a truism that the economics of brand ambassadorship as an economic activity predated 1986, when the MGBN competition started and 2001 when Nigeria won the Miss World competition was introduced in Nigeria; but it grew to maturity after 2001. Pageantry gained much advertorial, public relations and business brand development capability in Lagos with the triumph of Agbani Darego and her contractual appointment as the brand ambassador of L’Oreal, a global cosmetic hair care and perfume giant, based in the United States of America for three (3) years.34 This economic success unpacked the business and economic development opportunities inherent in brand ambassadorship in Nigeria. Consequently, big businesses operational in Lagos increasingly started investing in the fashion designing industry by employing beauty queens and models to be their brand ambassadors. For example, Oluwadamilola Bolarinde, the 2021 Miss Lagos contracted to Lush Hair to be their brand ambassador. She shares this position with Denrele Adun and Yemi Alade among others. Furthermore, Shatu Garko the 44th Miss Nigeria was in 2021 to become the brand ambassador of Kia Motors Nigeria.

It is worthy of emphasis that Nigerian celebrities such as comedians, actors and actresses and musicians have ridden on the back of Agbani’s accomplishment to become brand ambassadors of different companies. Telecommunication giants such as MTN, Globacom Communications and Airtel Nigeria have increasingly keyed into the economics of brand ambassadorship to improve their profiteering. At different times telecommunication services providers have entered into contractual business relationships with Nigerian celebrities such as Tuface Idibia, Odunlade Adekola, Kunle Afolayan, Toyin Aimakhu, Teni, and Don Jazzy among others to become their brand ambassador. More so, Esther Agunbiade, a 2019 Big Brother Nigeria Housemate and Abimbola Abayomi who were engaged as the brand ambassadors of Fair and White Nigeria and Brentwood Multiservice Global Services Limited respectively are other players in the economics of brand ambassadorship. This fashion designing induced economic activity has grown to become a big money spinner for Nigerian beauty queens, fashionists (devoted followers of fashion), and celebrities. It also boosts the public image of companies who ride on the back of the fame and success of their brand ambassadors to break into the local market and their fan base. However, what is significant here is the fact that Lagos is the epicenter of Nigeria’s economics of brand ambassadorship. This is because most of these Nigerian celebrities and companies are based in Lagos. And this had enabled the business of brand ambassadorship to contribute meaningfully to improving productivity and revenue generation in the state. Brand ambassadors as brand marketers for the companies they represent help to increase the demand and sales of their products. The result of increased sales is improved profit margin for companies; and increase profit means increase profit-tax for the Lagos state government and more money for economic development projects.

Lagos based brand ambassadors usually exploit social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to advertise the product and services of their employers. This is because they have large followership on these online communities and consequently their posts and comments quickly attract wide responses in the form of likes, views and comments from their fans. Therefore, as social media influencers, beauty queens and other celebrities easily give the companies they are representing good online presence and positive ratings and reviews on social media. This helps big businesses to exploit the economic advantages inherent in the digital economy. Brand ambassadors are also featured in television and radio advertisements and on billboard advertisement. And through these activities brand ambassadorship benefits a whole lot of other people and organisations. Television and radio stations make good money from these advertisements and the dividends trickles down to the economy and government of Lagos state. The owners of these media houses pay workers’ salaries from the profit they make from the economics of brand ambassadorship; and pay their taxes as well to the government of Lagos. Therefore, pageantry and the economics of brand ambassadorship it promotes have become critical to the smooth functioning of big business brands and the Lagos economy. They engender Private Public Partnership (PPP) development framework that improves the capacity of Lagos State to take care of its population and its economic development needs.

Challenges of Fashion Designing in Lagos State

The fashion designing industrial sub-sector of the Nigerian economy across the 36 states of the federation is plagued with many teething problems. Austin Imhonlele35 identified the general challenges of the fashion designing business in Nigeria as follows:

·                     Infrastructural decay and lack of modern technology;

·                     Energy crisis and high cost of energy;

·                     Inconsistent government policies;

·                     Multiple taxation and high cost of doing business;

·                     Invasion of local market by foreign textiles and clothing as a result of importation of textiles and used clothes;

·                     Low patronage of made in Nigeria textiles;

·                     Inadequate funding by investors;

·                     Lack of political interest and commitment to industrialisation.

Murtala Muhammad Ramatu, Yusuf Hameed Ajibola and Gold Kafilah Lola36 in their study “Nigerian Textile Industry: Evidence of Policy Neglect” also identified the above challenges as some of the teething problems of the fashion designing industry. These general problems are symptomatic of the core challenges fashion designers in Lagos face daily. The city being the epicenter of the Nigerian fashion designing industry is arguably a microcosm of a macrocosm. This implies that anything good or bad concerning fashion designing in Nigeria is more expressed or experienced in Lagos than in elsewhere in the country.

However, in Lagos fashion designers are also faced with other set of challenges that comes with living and doing business in the city. Lagos is the second most expensive city in Africa to live in after N’Djamena in Chad.37 This situation is partly due to the ever increasing population of urban metropolis that has impacted heavily on the cost house or shop rent for business; and on the prices of goods and services in Lagos state. There are also the activities of criminals such as fraudsters, who are ever on the prowl in Lagos seeking who to devour. Crime and criminalities in Lagos increase the risk of doing business in the city. Criminals in the city see the unsuspecting working population of Lagos as their prey. Hence, the most popular watchword in Lagos has become “This is Lagos; Shine Your Eyes”. This is an apparent warning to residents and visitors to the commercial capital of Nigeria of the need to be wary at all times because of the ever present risk of being swindled of their hard earned money at any point in time. Another formidable challenge to the fashion designing industry in Lagos is the rise of new generation of Lagosians that believe in soft work as the key to making a living.

The philosophy of soft work which they subscribe to is one that promises much and quick financial reward for less labour. In the Yoruba language, it is rendered as: “Ise kekere, Owo pupo” which when translated into English directly means “Little work, more money”. Implicit in this philosophical disposition of some youths is the revelation that some young people no longer have the time and patience and are perhaps no longer interested in learning a trade like fashion designing. This is seen as too cumbersome a thing to do. Consequently, there is growing preference for get-rich-quick schemes that promotes more money for less work. And also the motorcycle transportation or okada business because of the quick and easy money it brings on a daily basis. What is certain of the fashion designing business in Lagos is the fact that despite these challenges, it is still holding on and thriving. Its future prospect designing in Lagos towers above its challenges. This is because dressing and grooming, beauty and style are now integral part of life in Lagos. Consequently, looking good will continue to be good business in Lagos now and in the future.


The fashion designing business is packed with many economic development possibilities for Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. This paper found that this realisation was what informed the creation of the Lagos Fashion Week as the economic nucleus of the Lagos fashion industry. Through this event, the fashion designing sector provides sustainable livelihood for many and help to generate revenue for the government of Lagos. Beyond the four days Lagos Fashion Week, fashion designing as an economic activity in the city help to push back on unemployment, poverty and hunger, and crime and criminalities. It provided skill acquisition opportunities and vocational training through apprenticeship to many Lagosians that serves as alternative education to obtaining university education. This in the long run snowballs into self-employment creation opportunities for many youths which increase their productive capacities. For the Lagos economy, it also improves the gross domestic production and expands the tax net of the government.

Furthermore, this study found that the success of pageantry as an aspect of the fashion and style industry, also contributed significantly to the twenty-first century economic development of Lagos state. Since 2001, there has been a steady growth in the economics of brand ambassadorship in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole because of Agbani Darego. This business is profiting both the beauty queens, models or celebrities, big companies that engage the brand ambassador, and the economy of Lagos. Therefore, in Lagos state fashion designing cloth more than the nudity of the people to make them look good; it also partly clothes the nudity of the Lagos economy by contributing to its economic development. Hence, there is a pertinent need for Nigeria to introduce a national policy on vocation and technical education. This would help engender skill acquisition culture in the country and reposition the minds of some young Nigerians. And it would go a long way in making fashion designing one of the respectable and preferred career alternatives to white-collar jobs.


1.      M.M. Owen et al, The Nigerian Textile Industry: An Overview, Nigerian Journal of Polymer Science and Technology, Vol. 11, 2016, 104.

2.      Business Sweden, “Nigeria: A Fashion Hot Spot” (January 1, 2022), Available at: https://www.business-sweden.com/insights/articles/nigeria-a-fashion-hot-spot/ Accessed November 14, 2023.

3.      Office of the United States Trade Representative, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Retrieved from: https://ustr.gov/issue-area/trade-development/preference-programs/african-growth-and-opportunity-act-agoa Accessed August 4, 2022.

4.      Office of the United States Trade Representative, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

5.      Switzerland Global Enterprise, Nigeria: Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy Re-awakens Clothing Industry. Abuja: Embassy of Switzerland in Nigeria, 2015, 1.

6.      Switzerland Global Enterprise, Nigeria: Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy Re-awakens Clothing Industry.

7.      Rentech Digital, “List of Fashion Designers in Nigeria”, Available at: https://rentechdigital.com/smartscrappers/business-report-details/nigeria/fashion-designers Accessed November 14, 2023.

8.      Google Arts & Culture, Lagos Fashion Week. https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/Lagos-fashion-week Accessed August 4, 2022.

9.      Ibid.

10.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”. Retrieved from: https://lagosfashionweek.ng/about Accessed August 4, 2022.

11.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”.

12.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”.

13.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”.

14.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”.

15.   Lagos Fashion Week, “About Lagos Fashion Week”.

16.   Blueprint (March 12, 2019), “The Failed $2 billion National Textile Policy”. https://www.blueprint.ng/the-failed-2bn-national-textile-policy/ Accessed August 4, 2022.

17.   Blueprint, “The Failed $2 billion National Textile Policy”.

18.   Blueprint, “The Failed $2 billion National Textile Policy”.

19.   Onyinye Nwachukwu, “Stakeholder Demand Implementation of Textile Sector Policies”, Business Day (April 12, 2022), Available at: https://www.businessday.ng/news/article/stakeholders-demand-implementation-of-textile-sector-policies/%3famp=1 Accessed November 14, 2023.

20.   Blueprint, “The Failed $2 billion National Textile Policy”.

21.   Switzerland Global Enterprise, Nigeria: Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy Re-awakens Clothing Industry, p.2.

22.   National Bureau of Statistics cited in Biodun Busari (June 14, 2022), Lagos, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom to States Suffering from Worst Unemployment in Nigeria. Vanguard Online https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/06/lagos-rivers-akwa-ibom-top-states-suffering-from-worst-unemplouyment-in-nigeria/ Accessed August 8, 2022.

23.   Ibid.

24.   Habeeb Abdul, The Nigerian Fashion Industry: Challenges and Viable Solutions, Qwenu. https://qwenu.com/2021/06/09/the-nigerian-fashion-industry-challenges-and-solutions-habeeb-abdul/ Accessed August 8, 2022.

25.   Ibid.

26.   Adepeju Adenuga, “Monthly IGR grew by 7,400% in 22 Years says Lagos”, Punch, https://punchng.com/monthly-igr-grew-by-7400-in-22-years-says-Lagos/ AccessedAugust 9, 2022.

27.   Victor Ogunje, “Osibanjo: Obasanjo’s Seizure of LG Funds Forced Lagos to Think like Sovereign State”, Thisday, https://thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/10/15/osibanjo-obasanjos-seizure-of-lg-funds-forced-lagos-to-think-like-sovereign-state/ Accessed August 9, 2022.

28.   Victor Ogunje, “Osibanjo: Obasanjo’s Seizure of LG Funds Forced Lagos to Think like Sovereign State”.

29.   Odinaka Anudu, Inside Lagos Local Government Council Where Officials Divert Taxes to Personal Bank Account. The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, https://www.icirnigeria.org/inside-lagos-local-government-councils-where-officials-divert-taxes-to-personal-bank-account Accessed August 9, 2022.

30.   Lagos Internal Revenue Service, Taxes Collected by State Government. https://lirs.gov.ng/tax-information/tax-collection Accessed August 9, 2022.

31.   Muinat Wuraola Salawu and Moruff Adeyemi Salawu, “Determinants of Tax Compliance among SMEs in Lagos State”, Paper presented at the ICAN 7th Annual International Conference on “Accounting and Finance, Disruptive Technology: Accounting Practices, Financial and Sustainability Reporting”. Available at: https://icanig.org/documents/17.%20determinants%20oftax%20compliance%20among%20SMEs%20Lagos%20State.pdf Accessed November 15, 2023.

32.   Miss Nigeria, “A Brief History of Miss Nigeria”, Available at: https://www.missnigeria.ng/history-2/ Accessed 9, 2022.

33.   Ibid.

34.   Biography.jrank.org, Agbani Darego Biography. https://biography.jrank.org/pages/2741/Darego-Agbani.html Accessed August 9, 2022.

35.   Austin Imhonlele, “Nigerian Textile Industry Heads for Total Collapse” cited in M.M. Owen et al, The Nigerian Textile Industry: An Overview, 4.

36.   Murtala Muhammed et al, Nigerian Textile Industry: Evidence of Policy Neglect, Sarjana, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2018, 40-56.

37.   Victor Oluwole, “Lagos is the Second most Expensive City in Africa to Live in: Mercer Report”, Business Insider Africa (June 30, 2022). Available at: https://africa.businessinsider.com/local/lifestyle/lagos-is-the-second-most-expensive-city-in-africa-to-live-in-mercer-report/8sbegg7 Accessed November 15, 2023.

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