Fola Francis, a model and fashion designer, smiles broadly as she glances through her phone.
She smiles even larger when I inquire as to what is going on. Francis mentions her Instagram and the compliments she has received for making her runway debut at Lagos Fashion Week the day before by saying, “The messages keep rolling in.” “It’s really exciting!”
At the end of October, designers from all over Africa were featured during Lagos Fashion Week, which Vogue characterizes as Africa’s top fashion event. Francis was the first transgender person to ever walk the catwalk and model for Cute-Saint and Fruché. In Nigeria, there are no transgender rights, and residents and the government alike frequently discriminate against them. In light of this, Francis’s debut on the runway is a big event.
Her debut was tense; making history isn’t simple. Before taking the runway, she reportedly danced backstage while telling herself, “You’re the Fola Francis. a shithead Your efforts are bringing your idea to fruition. She wouldn’t ruin it because she had worked so hard to get here.
She claims she felt uneasy when she saw so many people waiting outside for the first performance. “Shit! Shit! I was like, ” But when everyone started yelling with delight, Francis recounts, “I wanted to laugh.
“You know what? I said to myself. You must consider this seriously. They need to know that you’re here and serious about business.
Francis was serious, after all. Fortunately, as I was running late, I was present to see it. Thankfully, the Cute-Saint event began two hours later than expected.
A contemporary African fashion label called Cute-Saint is genderless. African-inspired textures and fabrics with words like Omo Eko inscribed on them were part of its 2022 collection (Lagos child). Few individuals in the audience at the Federal Palace Hotel were aware that Francis would be strolling.
Disclosure and Fatoumata Diawara’s “Douha (Mali Mali)” was playing loudly when Francis took on the runway. She donned a flowing red robe with clear high heels, a ponytail in her hair, and rich red lipstick on her lips. Her eyes were covered by yellow shades. When Francis appeared on the runway, the crowd cheered enthusiastically, as was obvious.
She walked calmly, keeping a straight expression, and focusing on the path in front of her. She modeled just one outfit for Cute-Saint. At the conclusion of the performance, there was more applause. Many audience members congratulated Francis on her debut, which some of them described as monumental.
Femi, the creative director of Cute-Saint, tells me on the phone, “To be very honest, we didn’t think about including a trans woman in our show until Fola approached me.” “As a company that encourages diversity, we found it intriguing because it reflects our own ideals. We think that fashion significantly changes people’s perspectives and that if everyone is afraid to change anything, nothing will ever change.
I query Femi as to whether he is concerned about any unfavorable effects of Francis’s participation. Before we took the action, “we were well informed of the possible implications of the action,” he claims. “But I think we’re okay as long as our ideals remain intact. People who share our ideals will be attracted to it. To fully satisfy the market is impossible.
A few hours after Cute- Saint’s, I watched footage of the Fruché show with Francis as I had missed some of it. The garments are ready-to-wear and exposing; Fruché is known for designing clothing for contemporary women. Once more, the crowd applauds Francis when she enters, this time wearing all-white clothing, her face somber, and her hair perfectly coiffed.
There is a loud rendition of Beyoncé’s “Alien Superstar” Francis responds, pointing to her stroll, “This is my favorite.” As a Beyoncé lover, I think it fits the song exactly right.
The hymn is being sung, and I can hear people intently observing Francis. Many people in the crowd, once more, were unaware that she was walking.
“We’re a progressive company, and I have a fantastic relationship with most of the individuals who buy from us, so I don’t have any fears,” says Frank Aghuno, founder of Fruché. But if something were to happen, good riddance to them because they had never been on our side.
It was simple for Aghuno to choose Fola, he continues. She is a young, independent woman, so when she reached out and I didn’t have any issues with it, I was thrilled to have her.
Content courtesy of Xtra Magazine & NFH