Lagos Space Programme, a Nigerian fashion label that explores African futures and queer identity, has won the prestigious International Woolmark Prize 2023. The award ceremony took place on Monday in Paris, where the founder and creative director of Lagos Space Programme, Adeju Thompson, received a cash prize of AU$200,000 (€122,956) to invest in the development of his brand.
Lagos Space Programme was founded in 2014 by Thompson, who has a background in architecture and art. The brand is known for its conceptual and non-binary design approach, as well as its use of locally made fabrics and prints. Thompson draws inspiration from his Yoruba heritage and culture, as well as from contemporary subcultures and queer semiotics.
For the International Woolmark Prize 2023, Thompson created a collection that showcases the versatility and innovation of Merino wool. He used Adire, a traditional indigo-dyed cloth produced by Yoruba women in southwestern Nigeria, and applied it to wool fabrics to create unique patterns and textures. He also experimented with felting techniques and hand embroidery to add depth and dimension to his garments.
The collection is titled “Aṣọ L’Ago”, which means “clothes are wealth” in Yoruba. Thompson explains that the collection is a study of minimalism from an African perspective, as well as a reflection of his personal journey as a queer Nigerian designer. He says: “I want to preserve and reinterpret Nigerian culture. Coming from Nigeria, there’s no support from the government, so getting support from the Woolmark Prize means a lot.”
The judges of the International Woolmark Prize 2023 were impressed by Thompson’s vision and craftsmanship. Elizabeth von der Goltz, chief executive officer of Browns and chief fashion and merchandising officer of Farfetch, said: “What I loved was the story behind the brand which is so important, and what they’re bringing to light in their community in Nigeria. They’re crafted beautifully and look like something you could buy in the most luxurious retailers in the world.”
Lagos Space Programme is currently sold in Nigeria and Japan. The brand was also a semi-finalist of the LVMH Prize in 2021. Thompson plans to use the Woolmark Prize to expand his production capacity and reach new markets. He says: “I’m so speechless and I’m looking forward to the future.”
The International Woolmark Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in fashion. It was established in 1953 to celebrate Australian Merino wool and its potential for fashion design. Past winners include Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino Garavani, Gabriela Hearst, Bode and Saul Nash.