Africa has an array of talent, and the fashion industry is one industry that has been showing out for decades. Many designers have found glory both at home and on the international scene, and this decade has been no different.
From creating innovative ways of still bringing the runway to the people during a global pandemic to scooping up prestigious awards, these designers make Africa proud with every stitch.
Here are some designers from Africa and the diaspora who are carving formidable lanes of their own internationally.
Anifa Mvuemba founded contemporary ready-to-wear brand ‘Hanifa’ ten years ago yet only had her debut show in 2021. However, at the height of the pandemic, the Congolese designer shook the fashion industry last year when she showcased her line using 3D renders of her designs on Instagram Live, cementing herself as one of fashion’s newest visionaries.
Mvuemba’s designs celebrate the female body using vividly intense colours, accentuating silhouettes and textures that look luxurious even on print. The ladies of Hollywood LOVE Hanifa, as many female celebs are spotted rocking her designs regularly.
2. Christie Brown
Founded by Ghanaian Aisha Obuobi and named after her grandmother, ‘Christie Brown’ the brand has managed to stay on top of its game since 2008. The fashion bug bit Obuobi as a little girl watching her grandmother work as a seamstress, thus trying her hand out at designing by creating outfits for her dolls.
Two years after launching with a debut show in Accra, Obuobi and Christie Brown became the only Ghanaian label showcased at the Arise L’Afrique-A-Porter in Paris Fashion Week in March 2010. As a result, this brand has enjoyed international acclaim, including nods from Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Italia.
Christie Brown is known for its “beautiful bespoke gowns, practical yet statement pieces to innovative accessories all inspired by the African culture and art.” This brand is perfect for the modern African woman.
3. Imane Ayissi
Imane Ayissi has dedicated his life to the world of art and fashion. He is a world-renown designer, but he is also a dancer, performer, and model, working with giants such as Dior and Givenchy.
The Cameroonian haute couture designer fuses the duality of African and French culture into his pieces. This reflects through the unorthodox bright colour and texture combination in his clothes.
Ayissi has enjoyed an 18-year career and was the first black African designer to showcase on the Paris haute couture catwalk. His designs have been seen on A-List actresses like Angela Bassett and Zendaya.
Established in 2011, Laduma Ngxokolo’s ‘Laduma by Maxhosa’ has become not only a South African household name but also one of the most recognisable knitwear brands on the continent.
Ngxokolo’s unmistakable men’s knitwear design inspired by Xhosa beadwork won him the international Society of Dyers and Colourists Design Award in London in 2010 while studying Textile Design and Technology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He has also been featured in Fader US, Wallpaper UK, and Vogue Italia and showcasing his work on stages in Paris and London Fashion Week.
His unique use of South African mohair and wool in strikingly contrasting colours has made him one of Africa’s most innovative exports. ‘Maxhosa by Laduma’ is available in Switzerland, Paris, Japan, Nigeria, the US, and the Netherlands.
5. Kenneth Ize
Kenneth Ize is a Lagos-born and based designer. He grew up in Austria and studied fashion and design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, launching ‘Kenneth Ize’ in 2013 after graduating. His signature creations are two pieces with daring prints and colours, definite statement garments that tell a story, and reimagine West African textiles.
Ize was a finalist for the LVMH prize in 2019. This designer is a must-watch for 2022, and his work is only getting better and better.
6. Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s best breakout designers of the past decade. The Kimberly native founded ‘Thebe Magugu’ in 2016, and the brand has soared to great heights locally and internationally.
Born just a year before apartheid was dismantled in South Africa, Magugu tends to reflect his connection with South African politics and the after-effects of such an oppressive regime in his garments, and always championing the decolonisation of African fashion.
Awarded the prestigious LVMH prize in 2019, Magugu’s visibility globally has been undeniable. From British Vogue to superstars like Rihanna, it is hard to resist this designer’s talent.
‘Ahluwalia’ is the brainchild of London-born designer Priya Ahluwalia of Indian-Nigerian descent. ‘Ahluwalia’ is one of the newest menswear brands on the scene, but it has made quite the splash in such a short time.
Priya was listed as a part of Forbes 30 Under 30 and was the joint winner of the LVMH prize in 2020. Her fusion of African prints and Indian textiles injects a new feel into streetwear. In addition, this brand is sustainable as it prides itself on using secondhand and deadstock clothing to reduce waste.
It is safe to say that African fashion is in capable and talented hands.