Lagos store brings modern African luxury to Nigeria’s rich

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Take a sought-after architect, add the king of “new Africa cuisine” and a smattering of famous designers, and you get a concept-store in Lagos that seeks to bring modern African luxury to Nigeria’s ultra-rich.

The chaotic, cosmopolitan metropolis has largely failed to cater for its mega-rich minority despite a big appetite for high-end shopping and eating in a country that houses 11 of Africa’s 50 biggest fortunes, according to Forbes magazine.

So, Reni Folawiyo, a businesswoman married to 1 of the 11, multi-millionaire Tunde Folawiyo – decided to create “Alara”, a four-story building housing a mix of African fashion, design and art and a selection of work by Western designers, complete with a gourmet restaurant.

Nestled in the heart of Lagos, the store does not attract droves of shoppers in a country where the vast majority still lives on less than US$2 a day, but it already has its share of discreet regulars who rarely leave the building empty-handed.

The price tags are in dollars and often count several zeroes, aimed at customers who are used to traveling far and wide and shopping abroad.

But while they can afford items in New York and Paris luxury stores, these don’t necessarily always cater for the tastes of African women or their body shape.

“We like color, we’re dramatic, adornment is our way of expression,” says Folawiyo.

Enter Alara, which she says is geared towards “the flamboyance of the Africans,” from the retro, multi-colored dresses by Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean, futuristic glasses by Kenya’s Cyrus Kabiru to the python bags made by Nigeria’s Zashadu. The store also has a personal shopping service on offer to cater for customers’ varying needs.

“We are specific in terms of our bodies. We don’t necessarily fit into a sort of international mold, in terms of the size and shape,” says Folawiyo. The building itself — an imposing black and orange-ochre bloc whose square, openwork patterns bring to mind Nigeria’s traditional Adire textile — was designed by David Adjaye.

David Adjaye

http://www.adjaye.com/projects/retail-commercial/ala-concept-store/

The store is the first major work on African soil by the British architect of Ghanaian origin, who is also behind Washington’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.

In : Lifestyle

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