One of the biggest fashion events in the world continues to be New York Fashion Week.
The twice-yearly exposition (held in February and September) serves as a big platform for showcasing the top international and American designers as well as a hot conduit into the American market. African designers have occasionally surfaced during NYFW, showcasing their collections on the runway.
Nigerian Maki Oh made her debut in 2012, while in 2014, South African and Nigerian industry icons David Tlale and Deola Sagoe both made their debuts. However, the watershed event in the late aughts is to thank for these designer debuts.
A group of African fashion designers attacked New York City in 2009.
African businesses Stoned Cherrie (South Africa), Xuly Bet (Mali), Momo Couture (Nigeria), and Tiffany Amber (Nigeria) were welcomed in the Bryant Park tents as part of the African Fashion Collective for the first time in NYFW’s history.
The “Obama Effect” was referred to by the general public in the fashion industry after Barack Obama became America’s first Black president a month earlier.
Through their presentations, these designers refuted stereotypical perceptions of Africa and highlighted the ingenuity and craftsmanship the region had to offer. There will never be another NYFW.
Since then, African designers have made progress. Nigeria’s Head of State Tia Adeola had been on the February program for NYFW’s Fall 2023 season.
Both brands are returning this September, the latter in the lineup for the eighth outing of The Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showroom.
1. Abigail Ajobi
Abigail Ajobi, the self-named brand’s creative director and fashion designer, is of Nigerian heritage.
The brand is a high-end streetwear company that uses exclusive and scarce materials to make its exquisite products. Additionally, by offering convertible styles that may be worn in different ways, it supports sustainability.
several methods. Abigail Ajobi has been in business since 2020. She has presented her designs at London Fashion Week and Lagos Fashion Week events and she has been featured in a number of periodicals. The collection’s profits are given to charities of the brand’s choosing.
The distinct and fashionable forms of Nollywood Y2k fashion served as the inspiration for Abigail Ajobi’s SS24 collection Anti-Muse.
Omar Salam chose to create Sukeina in 2012 after spending two years working at Christain Lacroix and working for French fashion designer Madame Sonia Rykiel in Paris.
The Senegalese designer with roots in New York, who studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design, has created a sartorial extravaganza with his womenswear line.
His distinctive designs for the brand include sculptural gowns, elaborate weaving, and dramatic forms.
Tribal elements from the continent have also affected his collections. His Fall 2022 collection incorporated the vibrant patterns of Bantu clothing, which can be seen in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa.
2020 saw the launch of Sukeina, an origami dress, flapper-style mesh, and sheer looks collection.
Klèntár is a Nigerian contemporary womenswear brand with a whimsical and feminine look that was founded by Michelle Adepoju in 2019.
Adepoju had at first begun by purchasing clothing to sell online.
She would purchase clothing items from her neighborhood thrift shop or charity shop, such as crop tops and blouses, and tastefully adorn them.
African sartorial features like cowries, indigo dyeing (adire), and hand weaving are also infused into the brand’s aesthetic. One of the newest labels in the NYFW lineup of African designers, Klèntár will exhibit alongside Korlekie, Onalaja, Fumi the Label, and Tia Adeola under the auspices of The Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showroom.
Barbara Biosah, a British-Nigerian fashion designer, founded the upscale womenswear line Dumebi, which specializes in handcrafted couture apparel, shoes, and accessories. Barbara’s designs are influenced by African and European Renaissance art with a British modern twist and a Parisian flair because of her British and Nigerian roots.
The brand wants to bring back custom-made clothing crafted with high-quality materials and creative ideas while cutting back on excessive mass production.
Beatrice Korlekie Newman, who graduated with a BA in fashion design from De Montfort University in Leicester, started Korlekie in 2013 from her Peckham, London, bedroom.
For the ladies in her local church, the British-Ghanaian designer created one-of-a-kind pieces in African textiles. Rita Ora, Anna Freil, Ellie Goulding, and Alesha Dixon are just a few of the A-listers who have worn the brand’s fashionable, upscale knitwear and crochet.
Further drawing inspiration from Ghanaian traditional craft, Korlekie combines luxurious materials with sensuality for the contemporary woman.
Feben’s collection is influenced by the nomadism of her personal identity as well as her Ethiopian ancestry, North Korean, and Swedish upbringing.
Vemmenby collaborated with Beyoncé to design and style costumes for the Brown Skin Girl music video after completing her MA in fashion at Central Saint Martins as an Isabella Blow scholar.
The visual codes of Black life from all over the world are explored via a surrealistic lens in Feben’s works.
Onalaja is one of a number of contemporary Nigerian businesses that prioritize luxury and wearability in their design aesthetic. Kanyinsola Onalaja, a Nigerian-born fashion designer who founded her company in 2014, obtained her BA in Fashion Design from London’s Istituto Marangoni.
After that, she traveled to Rome to study 3D pattern cutting at the Academia di Costume E Moda. Onalaja creates expertly designed clothing for women with contrasting textures and patterns utilizing high-end materials. Particularly the coral red and the elaborate embroidery that represents the designer’s Bini origin, these patterns are masterpieces.
The bodycon dresses from this brand are also size-inclusive, fitting a variety of body types.
This is why the company’s Zusi dress, which celebrates the feminine body in all its variety, has been a success. Indiyah Polack, a former Love Island contestant, and Kandi are two celebs who have been seen sporting it.
8. Labrum London
Foday Dumbuya, the creative director and founder of Labrum, found inspiration while growing up and learning in London, Cyprus, and Sierra Leone.
A contemporary menswear company’s mission is to “tell the untold stories of West Africa to help bridge the gap between Western and West African culture.”
The distinctive features of British tailoring are combined with West African inspirations to create Labrum’s unique sense of style.
In honor of his Sierra Leonean heritage, his SS24 collection, NOMOLI ODYSSEY, was shown at the Four Seasons hotel in Trinity Square.
A number of Labrum’s creations featured depictions of the Nomoli figure, a native of Sierra Leone and a symbol of fertility and harvest.
9. Fumi the Label
Fumi the Label is a ready-to-wear womenswear line created by Toronto-based designer Fumi Egbon that emphasizes comfort, grace, and sophistication. The brand, which debuted in 2016, specializes in vibrant colors, breathable clothing, and the possibility of wardrobe-building styling.
One example is the Naomi dress, which may be combined with thigh-high boots, denim, or jeans. The brand will reach a new milestone when it exhibits at NYFW.
10. Tolu Coker
After graduating from Central Saint Martins, British-Nigerian Multi-Disciplinary Artist Tolu Coker created her own brand in 2018.
Her work, which is heavily influenced by identity politics and social environments, uses fashion as a platform to promote social change.
Her 2019 collection honored the lives of women who had survived being raped as a result of war atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The earnings from a portion of her collection were donated to the charity “Choose Love” in 2020, which assists minority populations, refugees, and immigrants both locally and internationally.
Irapada, the SS24 collection by Tolu Coker, is inspired by her Yoruba heritage.
Through the prism of her own family’s relationship to both religion and fashion, she used her works to explore how Yoruba spirituality is seen.
11. Victor Anate
Despite the fact that Nigerian designer Victor Anate won’t present his edgy womenswear line Vicnate at NYFW, he has contributed his talent as a co-collaborator by creating Naomi Campbell’s debut collection for Pretty Little Thing.
The renowned supermodel tapped Anate and Brooklyn-based Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, both of Jamaican descent, to create her line for the fast-fashion behemoth.
It launched as a runway show on September 5 to kick off NYFW, showcasing a 70-piece collection of outerwear, mesh dresses, sharp pantsuits, and more. Now that the project is finished, it joins Anate’s impressively expanding and exciting portfolio.
12. Tia Adeola
The Tia Adeola line was previously presented at NYFW. The brand’s launch, the Autumn/Winter 2020 collection, brought models down the catwalk wearing its recognizable sheer and ruffles. They were seductive, extremely provocative, and were modeled after Renaissance-era dress regulations.
Tia Adeola, a 2019 Parsons School of Design alumna who was born in New York and raised in London, has established herself as an intriguing new designer and amassed a cult following that includes Gigi Hadid, Flo Milli, SZA, and others.
13. Studio 189
OkayAfrica attended Studio 189’s debut spring runway show in 2019, which featured a number of notable guests like Quincy Brown, Fantasia, Justin Skye, Naturi Naughton, and Ayo Tometi (formerly Opal Tometi).
We also learned how the brand’s design principles combine cutting-edge tailoring with ancient West African crafts like indigo dyeing, hand-batik, and weaving.
The sustainable brand, which was established in 2013 by Abrima Erwiah and the actress Rosario Dawson, is propelled by an artisanal pulse and collaborates with regional artisans in a way that highlights their abilities and gives them employment opportunities. Studio 189 is more than simply a brand; it currently conducts business in Accra and the United States. Additionally, it is a social enterprise that finances numerous initiatives started by locals both in the U.S. and on the continent.
14. Head of State
Head of State wasn’t yet a fully developed brand in 2016 when Taofeek Abijako founded it.
His goal was to earn money to build a water infrastructure in his area while still a senior in secondary school in Nigeria.
Fast forward to 2017, when his brand’s spring/summer 2018 collection made him the youngest debutant at NYFW. He wasn’t even 20.
Taofeek, who is now based in Brooklyn, New York (his parents had won the lotto in 2010), utilizes the Head of State as a bridge to connect cultures in Nigeria and the United States.
The brand has focused on striking a balance between the two through their clothing.
Traditional Nigerian design features like silhouettes and embroidery are executed with a contemporary twist.
Oshobor was founded in 2020 and is the creation of Peter Oshobor. It combines slow fashion, traditional craft, and cultural tales.
The brand expanded into the 2022 Green Access program, Lagos Fashion Week’s platform for talent identification.
It further highlighted the brand’s zero-waste philosophy by showcasing a small number of exquisite outfits made from waste yarn and offcuts.
Oshobor will visit New York for their Carnaval Couture NYFW event thanks to a collaboration with Upscale Magazine and Art Meso, the art and fashion exhibition that highlights up-and-coming designers and creatives from all around the world.