The ascension of African fashion internationally can no longer be denied as the continent has emerged as a major powerhouse in the industry, unafraid of showcasing bold prints, textiles and motifs on a global stage. It is no secret that major labels in other parts of the world (Burberry, Stella McCartney, Vivian Westwood) are drawing inspiration from Africa, with their lines liberally lifting from the continent’s expansive history. An even bigger seal of approval of how impactful African fashion has become was when it was spotted on pop icon Beyonce and First Lady Michelle Obama, whose appreciation for Nigerian designer Maki Oh shined a light on the label and the market at large.
Long underestimated by the mainstream world, African’s fashion industry is valued at over $31 billion dollars and continues to expand internationally as brands from all over the continent begin to permeate the far reaches of the planet. As the world moves towards styles that are more bombastic and unapologetic in attitude, Africa stands confidently, with a slew of innovative designers that are becoming notable outside the continent. The following are just a few of the designers from Africa that are making a distinctive style statement that the entire world is falling in love with.
A designer that believe in celebrating feminism and individuality, Ituen Basi is the Nigerian label that merges elegance and the contemporary with singularity. Although based on the continent, the founder of the label, Ituen Bassey, studied at the prestigious London College of Fashion, where she honed her talents as a designer and expanded her knowledge of the industry. Ituen Basi is celebrated for creating clothing that tell a story, with fabrics that evoke a sense of nostalgia and singular flair that has set it apart from other leading brands. Fashionistas searching for apparel that combines classic elegance with a twist of contemporary concepts will appreciate the sophistication that this label brings to runways and stores worldwide.
Maxhosa by Laduma
The fashion industry has experienced an explosion across the board in recent years, with menswear leading the pack the world over as more men begin to think outside the box when it comes to apparel. African designs are perfectly in line with this new direction and Maxhosa by Laduma is an innovative line that has lit up catwalks both on the continent and worldwide.
Under the creative direction of Laduma Ngxokolo, the label celebrates the Xhosa people and their use of traditional beadwork, exotic colors, and distinctive motifs. Not only has their collection of knitwear inspired designers across the globe, but the label has been recognized as one of the most respected brands in Africa, with many buyers looking to invest in authentic clothing that use traditional raw materials via modern technology and machinery. Ngxokolo’s designs have been showcased in Johannesburg at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and in 2010, he won the coveted South African Society of Dyers and Colourists’ design competition, then went on to claim the first price against other international designers. Not one to rest on his laurels, Maxhosa by Laduma has expanded into other areas of fashion, including furniture and carpets. By teaming up with new international partners, the brand is poised to become a household name and a powerhouse on a global scale in the years to come.
As a rising star in her native Senegal, Sarah Diouf and her Tongoro line have already taken the country by storm, with an ambitious agenda underway to make a woman self-described as the ‘child of Africa’ a mogul in the making. At just 28 years of age, her pret-a-porter label and lifestyle magazine exclusively for black women, Noir magazine, are blazing a trail that is a testament to her fierce determination against the challenges she has had to face as a designer rising up the ranks.
Diouf’s background as the child of a Senegalese/Congolese father and Central African Republic mother has had a tremendous impact on influencing her own personal style, which has seeped into her collections that celebrate the many sides of her cultural journey. Tongoro is a label that works for women of all sizes and shapes, enabling women across the spectrum to look and feel confident and stylish simultaneously. Proof of Diouf’s influence was confirmed recently when Yves Saint Laurent copied one of her designs, motivating the 28-year-old to provide more protection for her creations. As the entire world watches her every move, the Tongoro line and its creative director are driven towards success on a global scale.