Nigerian designer seeks to challenge norms with gender-fluid fashion

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 2:13 AM

By Sanni Kazeem and Vining Ogu

LAGOS (Reuters) – A Nigerian designer is making waves in fashion with a gender-fluid clothing line, which he says is intended to challenge the notion that non-binary dressing is a Western concept and to defy societal norms in a country where LGBT rights are restricted.

Adeju Thompson, founder of the Lagos Space Programme brand, designs clothing that transcends traditional gender boundaries, drawing inspiration from his African heritage and personal experiences.

For instance, Thompson is influenced by the Gelede masquerades, a Yoruba tradition where men dress as women to celebrate female power.

While the brand has found success abroad, with pieces stocked in stores across North America, Europe, and Asia, Thompson has struggled to find recognition at home, where same-sex relations are criminalised.

“In Nigeria being queer isn’t something that is accepted,” Thompson said in an interview. “I am just expressing myself as a designer, and through my work highlight that these ideas aren’t Western constructs.”

Thompson joins a growing number of local gay and non-binary designers who are seeking to create new spaces for self-expression.

Thompson said he hopes his designs will spark an “alternate African narrative” that celebrates diversity and challenges traditional views on gender and identity.

(Editing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo and Rosalba O’Brien)