The Nigerian designer Adeju Thompson took home the top prize for the studio's innovative use of Merino wool.

By Kimberley Schoeman
Elegant Yoruba tailoring paired with off-white wool blend lavallière blouse with pleated detail and brass button hardware.

Lagos Space Programme, a design project founded by Nigerian designer Adeju Thompson has been awarded the 2023 International Woolmark Prize for the studio’s innovative use of Merino wool and marrying ethical practices with traditional African craft. The award was made recently at the Petit Palais in Paris.

Established in 2018, the non-binary brand’s ready-to-wear collections are cerebral and explore Thompson’s manifesto, which is rooted in the parallels of futuristic African ideas and centuries-old traditions – hence the sci-fi sounding name. Making use of traditional Nigerian techniques, Lagos Space Programme showcased their relevance in contemporary culture through six looks in a special collection for the International Woolmark Prize.

Traditions reimagined in hand-beaded Merino wool scarf draped over elegant tailored loose fit off-white coat and over blouse with cloudy wool knit exaggerated collar.

Thompson’s interests lie in the ways in which clothing and textiles remain critical parts of African spirituality and creativity, and an important means of livelihoods.

The winning collection featured pieces using techniques unique to Africa, including loose-fit trousers made from “Post-Adire patterned fabric”, an indigo-dyed textile done by women in the southwestern Nigeria city of Abeokuta. Lagos Space Programme also designed brass hardware, handcrafted in Nigeria’s Benin City, as a nod to Africa’s past pre-colonization.

A reimagined replica of engineered traditional workwear loose-fit trousers made of 100% Wool Gabardine with tailored asymmetrical waistcoat with brass hardware.

Lagos Space Programme points to the future by turning back to African textile traditions, with a contemporary lens. Through non-binary styled garments, the brand also contributes to the global conversations on gender and sexuality, but with indigenous touches.

Garments from the collection designed for the International Woolmark Prize also highlighted elegance achieved through beadwork done in Osogbo, Nigeria. To continue these centuries-old conversations around design, Lagos Space Programme’s hand-beaded merino wool scarf drapes over loose-fit tailored coat, and made from Merino wool.

Tailored waistcoat made from recycled wool with harness racer back detail, worn over sleeveless Post-Adire dyed Merino wool blouse.

Lagos Space Programme’s demurely radical approach to genderless garments beautifully acknowledges cultural and traditional techniques by reinterpreting them in modern contexts. Their garments, such as contemporary utilitarian pieces, celebrate Yoruba style tailoring, and blouses that feature brass buttons, sourced from Benin City.

But, at the core of Lagos Space Programme’s ethos is sustainability, reducing inequalities amongst communities, fair pay, sourcing local materials, as well as responsible production and consumption.

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