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Inside Nigeria’s It-Bag Obsession – Vogue’s Marjon Carlos writes on A Nigerian Woman’s Love for Designer Handbags



Chanel - Photographed by Lakin Ogunbanwo

Chanel – Photographed by Lakin Ogunbanwo

Senior fashion writer at Vogue, Marjon Carlos recently wrote an article on a Nigerian woman’s love for designer handbags, the it-bag obsession. Here’s a bit of what she wrote;

It was practically the first thing that I noticed as I stepped off the plane at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, last week: an It bag.

As I slowly shuffled through an early-morning customs line, blurry-eyed and overwhelmed by the sweltering West African heat, I immediately perked up at the sight of a large quilted Chanel Boy bag in line ahead of me. I realized quickly that its elegant chain-link straps were strewn across the shoulders of the latest face of Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall 2016 campaigns, Nigerian model Mayowa Nicholas. Nicholas’s bag was subtle in its all-black colorway, but to the trained eye, it’s also a lavish indication of a woman who knows her designer accessories. A few hours later, as I sat alongside the runway at Lagos Fashion and Design Week, I quickly learned that it’s not just Naija fashion models who possess such intel. No, plenty of the chicest female denizens of the Nigerian cultural capital understand the sway of a serious It-bag game—and more than a few indulge in it.

Marjon later went to Alara to meet with the founder, Reni Folawiyo, who she said “chuckled at her naïveté.” Folawiyo said;

“It’s not that complicated,” she assured me. “Everywhere in the world, the bag you carry has always been a status thing.” But, she explained, in Nigeria, where the designer ready-to-wear market is still developing, it takes on a whole new meaning. “What connects you to what you think is fashionable and also speaks of your status more than your handbag?” said Folawiyo. “Your shoes, maybe, but your handbag more than anything else.” Ticking off Louis Vuitton and Hermès as favorites among Nigerian women (“Hermès is big here! Birkins! Plural!”), Folawiyo told me its not just the bag itself, but the way you carry it. Bending her arm at the elbow, the fashion doyenne motioned toward the inner crook of her arm, where a Nigerian woman’s purse handles would slide. “They carry it in a way that you must see it,” she said.

Later at Maki Oh‘s Spring 17 in-store presentation, the writer speaks to Folawiyo’s daughter Faridah on the topic, after she describes the it-bag as “armour.”

“There are some people who are ‘above’ leather,” Faridah laughs. “I say that ironically, of course! But the older and chic ladies like croc, snake, alligator, stingray.” Younger women start out at the ripe age of 18, she explained, borrowing their mothers’ purses before graduating to Chanel quilted bags of their own. It’s a way for women to stand out when they are wearing their trad, or traditional garments, like a buba or iro. “You have the same thing in the Middle East, where women wear abayas,” said Faridah. “The way they stand out is with their shoes and their bags.”

Read more of the article here.



  1. babe

    November 4, 2016 at 1:20 am

    This is a very good article… There’s something about carrying a label bag it allows you belong to a certain group of elites lol.. I personally have a thing for designer bags and i indulge every once and again. Its a good treat after putting work for the year.

  2. A grown woman

    November 4, 2016 at 2:18 am

    Biko, Bella when touting high end brands to your readers be sure to slip in…..(key word “slip in” not totally digress… before some crazy keyboard warrior decides to go on a rant o) the importance of securing your future. Being financial strong at a young age. A bag is not an investment…..and I am saying this because I have been there, done it, got the tee-shirt. Bags are just bags! Like a car depreciates when you drive it off the lot, so does that fancy, $7,000+ bag. Even if u decide to trade it in, Chanel/birkins have to be in pristine condition to get a good resale value…..and forget getting back what u paid for it, no happening!

    If u are loaded and money is nothing and u have enough saved up you can retire on in 40+ years after factoring in inflation, the knock yourself out.
    But if u just have a good job making $100k a year, got mortgage and bills of $4kmonthly and you are buying a $14k bag. Aunty! U aren’t being financially prudent o! Especially if you are over 30, u need some serious financial counseling.***** In my Suze Orman voice**** DENIED!

    • FasholasLover

      November 4, 2016 at 3:04 am

      @A grown woman, I just blew you a kiss. When l dump my bag on the floor or loose interest after a few wears/carry, l tell myself, that coulda bn a deposit for a small flat. She who has ears…..

    • Thatgidigirl

      November 4, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Well said….

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      November 4, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      I like your comment. Here’s my own recent experience re statement bags.

      Was State-side for my birthday this year & I’ve shared here in the past about how mumsie likes to yab me sometimes about not carrying “bags befitting my level”, to which I always respond with a very calm yimu in her direction. Anyways… she partnered with my sister to give me some birthday money and said I should treat myself to a new bag. We visited Saks and me kwanu now decided to be carried away by the notion of perraps seeing how my arm will look with a statement bag. I splurged $499.99 on a brand-name tote (& I know BN is filled with big gals &swagger boys but I have never – even in my dream inside dream – ever considered putting that kind of investment inside an accessory. It’s never made any sense to me).

      The $499.99 price tag was after a 50% discount so more incentive to believe it was a steal. My internal justification: “Don’t worry, nne, once you have this bag, you won’t need to buy another bag, it’ll be your statement piece, it’s black and will go with everything, you’ll rock it to work and church and everywhere else, this is going to be your one-is-one bag etc. etc. etc.”. Lovingly packed into my suitcase & brought it home after the holiday… only to discover that I practically cannot carry ANYTHING in this tote because if it’s heavy, the clasp will tug against the flap and it’ll keep opening, plus it’ll also distress the leather. And this is a large sized bag.

      Just imagine my frustration; obviously, the designer wasn’t thinking of mgbekes like me that need to cart gbo gbo e around, as the bag just seems fabulous for the sake of being arm candy. So, it’s languished in its dust bag for 6months+ as I can’t comprehend how it’ll be used if I can’t put regular things in it. And the final irony – in that same period of 6 months, the bag I’ve ended up using repeatedly has been a leather cross-body bag, bought in a high street shop for £30. Ended up with a $500 investment (that money could have offset my holiday shopping instead of what I spent it on) that was fruitless but the £30 bag has given me more than 100 x the return in its usefulness.

      And even if I could have used the tote… there’ll always be another “nice” thing. Your eyes will wander shop-wards to the next item to buy & your thirst will increase… with your brain calculating ways to extract spending money from your salary/savings. Nice things are nice (& by all means, buy luxury if it’s *truly* affordable) but anything labelled as “goods”, luxurious or not, won’t retain its original value. Truth. Ask car manufacturers or Apple; that’s why the consumer goods production market is forever active, churning out the next “It” thing because they know the last “It” thing will soon be replaced … to anyone in your 30s, you won’t work forever either. Spend the bulk of your earnings wisely on growing your nest egg to become much larger than your collection of goods.

    • PointSure

      November 4, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Hmmm a $100K salary a year? Depends on the field you are in and years of experience. My dear go and by a $250 bag and that is a struggle. That could have been half of a car note

  3. Marian

    November 4, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Lol, They full balogun and Alade market.

  4. Middle Aged Profnl

    November 4, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Sad! This actually is a symbol of poverty of values, and a dearth of wealth. Crass is the word actually……

  5. Zee

    November 4, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Bagssss….d major thing that make nigerian women spend all the money they hv trying to look rich hence hustling backwards!!! The next foolish thing is keeping up with APPLE n buying every latest gadget,those things are liabilities

  6. Madman

    November 4, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Oyinbo, not all the bags are real na.

  7. Mo'Diva

    November 4, 2016 at 8:53 am

    I go with you @Zee. The crave for designer bags in Naija no be here o


  8. Thatgidigirl

    November 4, 2016 at 9:38 am

    The idea is not to look and act rich, but to actually be rich. Pls think of this before you splurge on that $5k bag. A plot of land around ibeju lekki( free trade zone) is slightly less than that amount and would appreciate. It’s good to spoil yourself when you have worked hard, but pls ensure that you are doing so because you deserve it and not because u’re trying to prove a point… most ladies in Lagos, the bag and watch validates them.

  9. Kem krm

    November 4, 2016 at 9:41 am

    And I still can’t afford a Micheal Kors bag, been saving tirelessly for it????

    • abi abi

      November 4, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      which of d MK bags re u craving,i might have one for u

  10. Caramel chic

    November 4, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I find it hilarious how foreign magazines discuss Africa’s affiliation with luxury brand. It’s been in our blood for 70years….. It’s part of the culture….you think Nigerians like luxury?, go to Gabon your head will twist 100 times.

  11. Flexe

    November 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Whenever I complained about hand bags, mom always told me that when I’m old enough I’ll understand the need for it. Now I’m grown and I still don’t like them. Give me a purse and I’m good to go.

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