10 African Fashion Designers Changing the World That the World Should Know
African fashion, like African music and art, is experiencing a global renaissance, and we’re here to witness it. International superstars such as Naomi Campbell, Zendaya, Tracee Ellis Ross, Angela Bassett, and Beyoncé, who was seen wearing African designers in the visual cinema for her award-winning album, Black Is King, have helped to bring some of the continent’s designers to the forefront.
These designers are change makers in their own right, helping to improve Africa’s developing economy, advocating for fairness and climate action, and creating a new bar for African talent, ensuring that the rest of the world understands what Africa is truly made of.
Africa’s fashion is adventurous and revolutionary, just like its people. Nigerian designers Adebayo Oke-Lawal and Fola Francis, for example, are pushing boundaries and challenging gender stereotypes on the continent through their work. Anifa Mvuemba, a Congolese designer, is credited with being the first to create a 3D virtual fashion show for her Hanifa line, which went viral in 2021.
Ann McCreath, the founder of the acclaimed Festival of Africa Fashion & Arts, is the organizer of Fashion Revolution Day in Kenya (FAFA) and one of the pioneer fashion designers in Kenya.
According to Statista, the garment business generated $1.5 trillion in global revenue in 2021.
This means that the fashion industry’s success in Africa can have a significant impact on the continent’s economy. With Africa having the world’s highest poverty rate, investing in the fashion industry and other areas can assist to alter the lives of those who are poor.
A growing fashion business in Africa implies greater job possibilities, development investments, and global recognition for fashion designers as well as the local tailors, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs who work with them. Many African fashion firms are currently developing programs to provide resources, contribute to social development, and empower people interested in working in the sector.
This is an excellent time to learn more about, support, and invest in the African fashion sector, given its global success and the potential for economic growth. So here are eight internationally famous African fashion firms that are also helping to address some of the world’s most pressing issues that you should be aware of, follow, and support.
KikoRomeo, which means “Adam’s Apple” in Kiswahili, was founded by Ann McCreath in 1996 and will be celebrating its 26th anniversary in May 2022. Over the previous two decades, it has established itself as a heritage brand, largely regarded with influencing Kenyan fashion and training designers and artists.
Wearing KikoRomeo is like being a part of an exclusive club, with recognizable distinctive items that signify a shared interest and initiate a dialogue.
KikoRomeo is committed to sustainability, employing hand-dyed and hand-carved textiles as well as hand-carved trims from the African continent to ensure that each item lasts. Cottons, linens, and silk are among the natural fibers used in our materials.
The silhouettes are effortlessly graceful and meticulously designed. Our clients consider them to be pieces of art.
KikoRomeo keeps asking us what we can wear to appear good. The unexpected blending of colors and mixed media creates individuality and richness in the textiles when viewed in paintings.
2. Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu is a luxury self-titled label created in 2016 by Thebe Magugu, a South African fashion designer.
Magugu uses clothes to tell stories about his heritage and culture while also bringing crucial topics to light. In previous collections, he has addressed sexism in South Africa, the country’s apartheid heritage, and femicide, with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling gender-based violence as “the second epidemic we are battling” in November 2020.
Magugu won the LVMH Award in 2018 and has since been featured in Paper, Another Mag, Vogue, and other international media. Magugu specializes on women’s ready-to-wear clothing.
3. Imane Ayissi
Imane Ayissi is a Cameroonian model, dancer, and fashion designer who was born in 1969 to Cameroonian parents. Ayissi was a sought-after model who walked for prominent luxury labels such as Dior, Givenchy, Valentino, YSL, and Lanvin before launching his fashion business.
Ayissi makes haute couture luxury ready-to-wear items that are inspired by civilizations from all around Africa. Ayissi is also a proponent of environmentally responsible fashion, frequently employing natural and organic materials with minimal environmental impact.
4. Anyango Mpinga
Anyango Mpinga is a cultural pioneer who promotes intersectionality as a circular fashion guiding philosophy. In 2015, she launched her own Contemporary Sustainable label, which is known for reinterpreted white shirts, colorful designs that pay homage to her multi-cultural ancestry, and size inclusive styles that are balanced between androgyny and a bohemian aesthetic.
Her ethereal designs have been shown in cities such as Tokyo, Paris, New York, London, Milan, Bangkok, and Porto, and she has garnered countless awards. Anyango is a forward-thinking designer who is experimenting with new technologies to develop biodegradable textiles.
Her campaign Free As A Human, which she founded as a social venture, addresses the humanitarian and environmental crisis caused by the fashion industry’s exploitative labor practices.
Anifa Mvuemba is a Congolese fashion designer best known for a viral 3D fashion presentation in which she blended two of her interests, fashion and technology, in an epic showcase of her brand Hanifa during the pandemic’s peak in 2021.
Anifa, founded by Mvuemba ten years ago, is noted for its appealing ready-to-wear designs for ladies of all sizes. On November 16, 2021, she had her first presentation at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., with nearly 20,000 people watching it on YouTube.
She’s also the founder of The Hanifa Dream, a program that helps women-led businesses “elevate fashion through passion, purpose, and social impact.”
6. Orange Culture
Adebayo Oke-Lawal, a Nigerian fashion designer, launched Orange Culture in 2011. Oke-beginnings Lawal’s are those of a real millennial, as he has been designing since he was 11 and self-taught via YouTube, and is now one of Africa’s most prominent designers.
Orange Culture is well recognized for their menswear, which has been worn by African superstars such as Global Citizen champion Davido, Rita Dominic, and Ice Prince, and was the first Nigerian company to have a store at Selfridges in the United Kingdom.
They provide mentorship and tools to budding fashion entrepreneurs all throughout Africa through their program, The Orange Mentorship, to help them develop their own fashion empire.
7. Christie Brown
Aisha Ayensu, a Ghanaian fashion designer and creative director, created Christie Brown in March 2008.
The luxury label, named after Ayensu’s grandmother, creates inventive and unusual ready-to-wear clothes and accessories for women. Ayensu reimagines traditional clothes and modernizes it for today’s audience when creating for Christie Brown.
Tongoro is a ready-to-wear womenswear brand that offers playful and unusual garments. It was founded in 2016 by Sarah Diof, a lady of Senegalese, Central African, and Congolese descent.
Tongoro, based in Dakar, Senegal, sources fabrics from artisans all across Africa, and Diof makes it a point to collaborate with local tailors in order to support the economic development of African craftspeople.
Priye Ahluwalia, the company’s founder, was born in London to Nigerian parents and an Indian mother. She creates award-winning ready-to-wear menswear, drawing inspiration from both her Nigerian and Indian roots.
Ahluwalia won the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design the next year after being one of the beneficiaries of the renowned LMVH competition in 2020. For a majority of her designs, Ahluwalia employs old and dead-stock apparel (discontinued and vintage products that are no longer in stock).
10. Loza Maléombho
Loza Maléombho, an Ivorian fashion designer, was born in Brazil and has been designing since the age of 13.
She chose to start her own line in 2009 after interning at world-famous fashion houses in New York City.
Maléombho presently makes garments and accessories that blend traditional African designs with contemporary fashion, she also collaborates with Ivory Coast artisans, such as shoemakers and weavers, to incorporate their skills into her creations.
Content courtesy of Global Citizen & NFH