Africa is a beautiful, delicious melting pot of black culture and identity. Many countries within, have birthed designers that have transcended style as their creations have emerged down catwalks, splashed across television and film, and have become 'mainstream' as they have trickled through through every facet of every industry.
Clothing and textiles are major facets of the creative economy and their recent efforts towards amplifying the growth of this sector have made tremendous headway. Unique garments that have inspired beauty, tradition and culture are being used in ways that have inspired and are now in Western mainstream.
Whether its viewing collections online, running past new designs in online boutique shops or watching Africa's top catwalk shows, I've always had a passion for discovering designers. I gawk over aesthetics, fabrics and colors, while researching the designers and where they come from. I simply just love it.
In this article, I'm covering African designers (including African descent) that are making significant breakthroughs in the fashion industry. Their labels do not compromise on quality and are contemporary pieces that the modern woman or man can wear again and again. Some of them are already established, while others are exploding onto the scene at this very moment. Here’s a few favorites.
1. ANDREA IYAMAH
Andrea Iyamah owned by Nigerian fashion designer Andrea Dumebi Iyamah, is a clothing line strongly inspired by ethnic cultures and elements of nature. Founded in 2011, Andrea Iyamah adopts design elements that stay true to creating authentic clothing and resort wear that celebrate her African roots and cultures beyond. Inspired by travel and nature, the bold colours, modern femininity, retro classic silhouettes and a contemporary edge appeals to the A.I woman who is an adventurer in spirit, mind and style. Operating out of Toronto, Lagos and New York, the brand caters to females across borders who are confident, adventurous and unafraid of clothing designed with a statement. Since 2011, the brand has focused on celebrating ethnicity with a modern twist, while maintaining its attention to quality, detail and figure flattering silhouettes.
Founded by creative director, photographer and designer, Asiyami Gold, A.Au brand is a lifestyle brand that offers a singular view of beauty and exploration. Each piece sourced and made in Nigeria by the hands of sartorially advanced ateliers. With 10% of every sale going to building an education bursary that will fund the next generation of young and bright Abua youths through university, A.Au aims to empower women to embrace their history, culture, identity, stay connected to their roots, and to continue to push the narrative of their legacy.
3. ADEBAYO OKE-LAWAL, ORANGE CULTURE
Launching his lable Orange Culture with an official catwalk show at Lagos Fashion Week, Adebayo Oke-Lawal “ created a movement” that covers universal silhouettes with an African touch to a creative class of men, translating into a heady mixture of Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colour and contemporary urban street wear. This does not however, mean that Orange Culture forgets women who have taken over the brand, giving an androgynous twist on Adebayo’s designs. The garments answer to just about anyone who’s interested in telling a story with the way they present themselves. All pieces are manufactured in Lagos, from ethically-sourced fabrics from local Nigerian fabric makers. Aside from fashion design, creative director Adebayo Oke-Lawal also worked for three years as the fashion editor for WOW! magazine, and. has styled numerous celebrities such as Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Munachi, Lala Akindoju, Ice Prince and has done editorial work for magazines like Vogue Italia, Nataal, WOW and many more.
4. PRIYA AHLUWALIA
Ahluwalia is a label in which its roots were inspired by the designer’s dual Indian and Nigerian heritage. Named and recognized as Britain’s Leader of Change at the British Fashion Awards this year, Priya Ahluwalia is deemed as a pioneer in the fashion industry. Her brand is sold in Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Browns and Matches Fashion. She is also a multifaceted, talented artist whose heralded work not only includes fashion but can art, film and literature. Her work is inspired by art, music and books which brilliantly exhibits her talent with collaborative collections for campaigns in literature and film. Her has been seen at London, Paris and Lagos Fashion Weeks as well as have been recognized, awarded and partnered with brand names such as Adidas, Microsoft, H&M, Avery Dennison, GucciFes and LVMH just to name a few. She was also named on the Forbes 30 under 30 European Arts and Culture list.