Deola Sagoe used white models to sell her traditional Nigerian haute couture and Twitter is having none of it

Deola Sagoe’s eponymous fashion outfit has been known for creating premium-priced designs for over two decades; she’s one of the finest in the business, a class that’s most likely out of your tax bracket.

“Iro and Buba” for the Komole

The ad which is attracting criticism is a two-minute-long video of white models wearing the traditionally-styled iro and buba from her Komole collection. The setting is a Victorian-styled room with tapestry, wallpapers and vintage furniture in an old-style English castle.

Deola Sagoe describes the collection as “Nigeria’s regal gift to the world” but Twitter is having none of it.

Most users have taken offence to the design house’s decision to use white models to sell traditional Nigerian attires made out of prints that we have come to call our own.

On a particular frame with the caption “TRUE AFRICAN GEMS”, a bevvy of caucasian models poses in some of the attires with traditional western ornaments and interior design.

Some of the reactions show that people are distressed by the attempt to create haute couture traditional iro and buba (which only a select few can afford).

For the most part though, others are more aggrieved that her use of Nigerian culture to sell an ad where there are no Nigerians was somewhat two-faced.

From Ijebu to the World

There have been reactions from those who see things as Deola Sagoe may have seen them. Her Haute Couture lines are more expensive that most foreign brands.

As harsh as it is to say, the average Nigerian is not her target market. Also, the case has been made that there’s nothing stopping her from using relatable faces to expand her brand and take our iro and buba into new markets.

Whatever the case may be, the reactions call to mind the heightened sensitivity that most Nigerians (and black people in general) have to matters regarding race, colour and attempts at cultural appropriation.

Just weeks ago, black Twitter went up in fumes after photos of Kim Kardashian wearing braids, a style associated with black women, surfaced on social media and ignited a conversation about stealing from cultures.

Deola Sagoe’s case may be less extreme, but considering the success of our creative exports in the western world today, it is a conversation worth having.

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