It reminded me of what Don Cheadle said in Crash ‚ÄúIt’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” The chaos of Nigeria overwhelmed its way into my heart like my first love did.¬†It made me question what it was to be African, especially having grown up in such a sheltered environment in South Africa.
I was going through yet another one of those existential ‚ÄòI‚Äôm a year closer to 30, what is my life!?‚Äô moments, but when I left my hotel room and stepped out into Lagos I felt so alive; into a¬†rowdy mix of interaction and colour. As much as I stared, they stared right back. I was Oyibo, the Westerner, the Outsider.
People here interact in such a beautiful way. Walking into your first market experience, you‚Äôre shifting through different walks of people and bumping into them, you arrive at a shop and are welcomed to sit down on a small unstable handmade wooden stool with a fan loosely connected to something above your head. You’re treated with respect and kindness as you’re squeezing through rows and rows of fabric from all over Africa (and China, of course) bargaining prices down and making friends. It’s a hell of a step up from Canal Walk mall.
Throughout the traders and traffic, whether you‚Äôre in a rural or westernised space you‚Äôll find ordinary people wearing the most extraordinary things. It‚Äôs not fashion, or style, it‚Äôs culture. Each fabric is specific to a tribe and each tribe has its quirks whether Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa. The best part about this colourful armour is that you cannot buy anything off the street, everything is handmade which is a breath of fresh air in a world where mass production reigns. My heart has always been close to the idea of becoming a fashion designer and creating wearable art, and I found myself inspired again in a place where tailors travel with their machines on their backs. No matter where you are, they‚Äôll look at you and without a pattern will make you a 100% printed cotton suit in under an hour.
My assistant Lolo was like the Queen Latifa of Nigeria. I was lucky enough to have her with me speaking Pidgin when I needed it. She taught me the Nigerian way, ‚ÄòLook expensive, buy cheap.‚Äô and wouldn‚Äôt settle for less.
She made me a pair of shoes, fixed my Louis Vuitton leather travel bag and protected me from the hotel Chef who proposed to me over well-deserved glasses of wine. I think no matter where you go it‚Äôs always good to have your people and make sure your people have you.
I didn‚Äôt go to Nigeria to shoot a travel story, or tell you about it. Like the bustle around me, I was on a job. This city got to me, so here are my Lagos eyes.
Chloe Andrea is a wardrobe stylist who works between Johannesburg and Cape Town.