Written by Nadia Leigh-Hewitson, CNN

“There are very early examples of gender bending in African culture,” explains the designer behind the gender-fluid Nigerian clothing label Lagos Space Programme. “Queerness isn’t a western concept.”

From West Africa to Europe and beyond, non-binary fashion designer Adeju Thompson is showcasing genderless African fashion on the world stage.

Thompson, 30, who uses they/them pronouns, grew up in Lagos and, bar a stint studying fashion design in the UK, has lived in Nigeria their entire life. In 2018, Thompson founded label Lagos Space Programme. “I’m always collaging different ideas, tying all these things together,” Thompson said. “To highlight the queer community and also to make fun of myself and make fun of fashion.”

The result is luxurious indigo-dyed organic fabrics and elegant knitwear, offset by striking sculptural handcrafted brass accessories that flirt with queer iconography.

Many of Thompson’s designs use adire, an indigo resist-dyed textile — a key component of traditional clothing worn by West African Yoruba people. The heritage textile is reimagined by Thompson, in a modern context, by applying the dye technique to knitwear. Thompson calls this reinvention “post adire.”

‘We greet attire before we greet its wearer’

In the last year, Lagos Space Programme has skyrocketed onto the world stage showing collections in Lagos, Paris and Milan. In January, Thompson debuted their spring-summer 2021 collection at Milan Fashion Week.

The collection, called “Aso Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn,” takes its name from a Yoruba saying which translates as: “We greet attire before we greet its wearer.” Thompson says the collection responds to a turbulent year of pandemic and socio-political unrest in Nigeria, by addressing community and shared identity through clothing, to remind people that they are still together even though they have been physically isolated.

<img class="Image__image" src="http://hour-news.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/queerness-isnt-a-western-concept-adeju-thompson-is-bringing-genderless-nigerian-fashion-to-the-world-1.jpg" alt="Post-Adire Gélédé cape

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