Lagos Space Programme

Adeju Thompson on the art of post-adire and using cloth as a queer archive

Last year was a vibe for Adeju Thompson. The creative force behind Lagos Space Programme won both the Woolmark Prize and Fashion Trust Arabia Emerge Prize and began showing at Paris Fashion Week. These milestones are well-earned for this multidisciplinary artist who has been honing his brand’s visual language since 2018 and remains committed to building a queer archive through an evolution of Yoruba dress codes. “I’m pushing a vision of Nigeria rooted in the modern world – of living in Africa now and consuming all kinds of cultures – and yet still highlighting our progressive precolonial histories,” he explains. “A lot of conversations around gender and sexuality are monopolised by the West but I can show that Africa has contributed in a very parallel conversation. It’s about breaking misconceptions and producing work that is truly global.”

Central to this vision is Thompson’s commitment to West African artisanship and harnessing these crafts as tools for activism. His interrogation of adire eleko, the indigo resist-dyed textile, becomes post-adire as his team in Lagos meticulously hand draw his motifs onto cloth using the traditional feather brush method, and then send it to a family of dyers in Abeokuta, Ogun State. “Adire is very much a fine art, a way to tell your story through fabric. It’s also a dying craft,” he says. “I’m working with the best of the best, people who have been trained by master dyers, because it deserves that respect. And then I move the storytelling forward by incorporating queer semiotics to speak for myself and to my community.” Similarly, he works with a seventh-generation bronze caster in Benin to produce statement adornments. “There’s a curiosity on both sides to bring our ideas together to come up with very interesting forms.”


“Nigerian fashion has always been circular. It’s not a radical idea. It’s ingrained in how we dress”


LSP is inherently committed to sustainability yet he rejects the presumption that fashion from Africa must be solely framed as ethical. “There’s pressure on LSP now to have bigger collections and more merchandise such as hoodies and T-shirts. So, I am working on how I can do that in way that’s true to my values. My collections are 99% organic and 100% biodegradable. Plus, each piece is made to be loved for a long time and then given out to someone else who will love it in their own way,” he says. “But you know, Nigerian fashion has always been circular. It’s not a radical idea. It’s ingrained in how we dress. It’s great that the West is catching up. Like, good for you! But I don’t need to be defined just by that. I’m actually exploring some very important ideas.”

For AW24, titled ‘Invitation to Ojude Oba’, Thompson imagines a third generation British-Nigerian character who is preparing his wardrobe for the Ojude Oba festival, a celebration of Yoruba culture in Ogun State for which everyone wears their finest attire. He’s been invited by the king to join his entourage and to be photographed by a society magazine. In his suitcase goes a series of elegantly fluid and impeccably tailored styles reflecting his dual heritage and decolonised mindset. From Prince of Wales checks and romantic brocades to tweed-motif post-adire, and from “giving skin” shirts slashed at the front and smart waistcoats to a voluminous agbada and statement fur-like wool overcoat, the mood is ripe with pageantry and flair.

The collection also marks a growing confidence in Thompson as his aspirations for LSP take flight. In many ways, it’s a coming of age. “My designs used to be very soft and sensitive and minimalist. I rejected the Nigerian tendency for flamboyance and dressing to impress. But as I’ve gone along my creative journey and come into the fullness of my queerness, I’ve grown to love that drama. Now I like shiny things. For example, there’s lace and crystals in this collection, which is quintessentially Nigerian. It’s like I’m coming back to appreciating my culture through a different lens,” he reflects. Looking forward: “One of my big dreams is to join the Paris couture schedule within five years. Nigerian fashion is all made by hand and incorporates artforms such as beading and embellishments. So really, it’s not such a wild ambition. It’s all part of our knowledge and excellence.”

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