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Versage: contemporary Nigerian knock-off designer street wear

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Like when the government fails to place a crosswalk at an intersection that pedestrians must traverse, so they cross anyway, pounding a pathway through the central median. So, traders circumvent visa restrictions and import bans to bring goods to Nigerian consumers. When the formal structures are long absent, the informal solidifies. In Lagos the informal market is methodical, if unwritten. It is constantly evolving, but there are rules and hierarchies to the game.

Government is interwoven with alternative power structures: Government agents enforce rules sporadically, and not necessarily to the letter. A shopper in the Mandilas section of Balogun market, trying on Versage, March Mandilas, a subsection of Balogun market on Lagos Island is the locus of Versage.

It is both the central distribution point and also, with its crowd of fashion consumers and retailers, it is the inspiration hub for new designs. Bright t-shirts, studded jeans, and sparkly shoes cram streets and alleyways, shrinking roads to a thin pedestrian path. Goods are laid out on mats; dangled from constructed stands like an umbrella; suspended from makeshift extensions to the buildings; or stacked in several-story plazas. Balogun is overwhelming because so many people work there, each running a small operation, that together create the bustling chaos you feel on the street.

The risks and the successes, the relentless boom and bust cycles of poverty and investment all fall on the shoulders of the individuals. It is difficult to estimate the number of these small-scale shops.

But Grossman and Startz have tallied over a hundred market associations in Lagos island, each of which have dozens of members. Another way to estimate the scale is through BuyChat and BalogunMarket.

The founder, Olayinka Oluwakuse has registered 7, vendors in Balogun, 1, of which are in fashion, the largest single category. He said that the vast majority of fashion transactions in the country come through Balogun market. He estimates that 60 percent of customers in Balogun are traders themselves.

They buy in bulk then resell the clothes across the country, in small shops, from the trunks of their cars, or online on instagram and whatsapp. Along the edges of the streets, vendors fold and refold clothing, and watch the world pass by. They observe trends shifting, and new patterns gaining popularity. Then they communicate that with their brothers in China. An eighteen hour flight away, Nigerians in China are placed at the source, selecting and creating the fashion that will soon strut through the streets of Lagos.

The area has been dubbed the factory floor of the world, and Guangzhou is the textile node. China produces and exports the most garments of anywhere in the world, three times as much as India, the second largest producer.

Shoppers balance massive bags of clothes over their shoulders, a spare pair of jeans dangling out. Many Nigerians weave through the streets. They mostly travel on tourist visas and many overstay. They work independently, often learning the ropes from another freelance trader during their initial months in China.

Guangzhou, China, May — Creator: China came to dominate the textile trade because of its cheap labor costs, state support of the sector, and also because of lax regulations. In China you get what you pay for, and can special order clothes to be cheaper.

This is an important factor for the Nigerian buyers who are catering to consumers that are among the poorest in the world. The factories in China are stacked in nondescript lofts or tucked along alley ways. Job boards on surrounding street corners are speckled like confetti with the remnants of flyers.

Many of the factories are small family businesses. One factory I visited looked like a garage. A handful of workers attached sleeves to t-shirts and tags to polos at sewing machines lined up in rows. The interactions between Nigerian traders and designers and the factory owners is also individual and personal, which allows for the ducking beneath regulations. If it is good for business, and mutually beneficial, bans on knock-offs can be willfully forgotten. Kingsly goes to the fabric market every morning, walking through the aisles, fingering the rolls of fabric spilling out from the shops.

In these giant wholesale plazas that feed everywhere in the world, you can see starkly where Nigerian fashion falls in the global hierarchy: In the factory Kingsly scrolls through images on his phone, googled or sent from his contacts in Lagos. He gestures to his own shirt, demonstrating how he wants to adjust it: He speaks a few words of Chinese, but he also relies on a translation app.

When the orders are complete he brings them back to the plaza where he has a skeleton shop. Just a few designs are suspended on the walls, for Africans who travel on brief trips to buy stock. Most of his goods, though, he ships directly to Lagos. One by one he pulls out the shirts, ironed flat and enclosed in plastic, and puffs the lining like a balloon.

He said they sell better in volumized bags, even though the shirts are the same. Worried about suspected surveillance, he is laying low, loitering until late at night to avoid going home. When he leaves, he skirts the African hotspots in the city, like the Tong Tong Hotel, a plaza with wax print and Versage spilling onto the street beneath a gleaming Neon sign advertising the African-Pot Restaurant upstairs.

Police officers are often stationed outside, checking passports and visas. Still, for all the challenges and the instability, the Nigerians stay in China. The Nigerians in China are the translators, and curators of taste: Whether they are designing clothes and ordering them, or scouring markets to buy stock, each bale, each shipment, each entrepreneur has a slightly different flavor than the next.

While from the outside the thousands of small shops in Balogun bleed together into one overwhelming aesthetic, plywood extensions covered in a tapestry of swirling medusas, on closer inspection each shop has completely different stocks. Once a look arrives in Lagos, there can be a swift mimicking among the other purveyors of taste.

Suddenly the boys watching the streets in Lagos are calling their brothers in China telling them to build on the latest evolution of the aesthetic. But the first one with a hot look can earn a windfall.

This leads to intense secrecy and competition between vendors. Chike, a Versage designer jealously guards his creative process: This is because he is a knock-off designer, oxymoronic but true. Chike, a designer and curator of Versage, wearing Versage, at a wholesale plaza in Guangzhou, China, May , — Creator: This is partially why traders still travel, to verify what they are ordering.

Every entrepreneur I spoke to, from street hawkers to factory owners had a story of getting cheated. Chibuzo invested in a shipment of shoes that disintegrated before they arrived in Nigeria. Many of the traders travel to China after some kind of business catastrophe at home.

They need a fresh start, a fresh opportunity and they hope China can offer it. But few of them plan to stay long-term. They stay intricately connected to Nigeria. After seven years living in China Chibuzo still keeps Nigerian time, sleeping in the wee morning hours and waking midday in Guangzhou. Everybody texts him in the middle of the night, he said, and his clients are following market hours in Lagos and Aba.

When an order is rushed, Chibuzo ships his goods by air. This informal shipping system is an expensive option for thesender, so most clothing is sent by cargo. Nigeria level student fucked and recorded themselves. Naija dude on some white bitch. Teen banging step mom in the house. Nigeria girl enjoying herself with a bottle. Round ass naija girl fucking neighbour big cock for Christmas gift.

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The airport in Guangzhou is full of Africans shipping wares.

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Goods are laid out on mats; dangled from constructed stands like an umbrella; suspended from makeshift extensions to the buildings; or stacked in several-story plazas. When he leaves, he skirts the African hotspots in the city, like the Tong Tong Hotel, a plaza with wax print and Versage spilling onto the street beneath a gleaming Neon sign advertising the African-Pot Restaurant upstairs.

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