By Oluwaseun Ashiru
There are countless names in the world of fashion and design today. In Africa we can boast of names such as Maki oh, David Tlale, Tokyo James, Mosyke and a host of other designers with unique and outstanding brands.
In the modern world today, the youths are the ones ruling the day and dictating what should be showcased and what to cut out. Shining our torch on designers all over the world from Kenyan designers to South African designers down to Nigeria and the rest of the world; bringing unique pieces and dangerous cuts to the lime light, these designers are becoming bold and endearing.
Below is a list of top ten African designers in no particular order, who hail from different parts of Africa ranging from Senegal to Mozambique and more:
- Pooja Jeshang: Pooja Jeshang is a talented upcoming fashion designer from Tanzania who graduated from Birmingham City University in England last year. She is currently a freelance designer who has used her time effectively to launch her own brand Saffron which specialises in ready-to-wear and evening wears. Pooja takes her inspiration from a range of sources in her everyday life whilst also being inspired by culture and society across the globe. She currently has two collections in her portfolio, the first Military Power which she worked on in her final year at university and the second Jambo Afrika which she launched with her label Saffron at Swahili Fashion Week 2011. She also works on creating digital illustrations, and textile prints.
- Taibo Bacar: is a Mozambique women’s wear fashion designer whose name commands attention across the industry. He operates from his base in Maputo and is one of Mozambique’s most celebrated fashion designers. He is a multi- lingual who is fluent in Portuguese, English, Spanish as well as a little French. The 26-year-old is a designer to two international fashion brands, Taibo Bacar and TB. He started in 2007 and since then has amassed a lot of achievements at record speed. In 2008, he was named ‘best established designer’ at Mozambique fashion week, in 2012 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. Taibo Bacar’s dresses are worn by celebrities like South African award winning singer LIRA.
- Adama Paris: birth name Adama Amanda Ndiaye is a Senegalese fashion designer whose fashion design name is Adama Paris which is also the name of her fashion line. Her pieces, manufactured in Morocco can be found internationally in places like New York, Tokyo, London and Paris. She is the creator of Dakar Fashion Week and by 2012, has witnessed a wide range of designers and audience members from all over the world. She has also organised Black Fashion Week events in Prague, Czech Republic and Bahia, Brazil. She is inspired by big cities and globalism. She is one of the most celebrated fashion designers in Senegal. Adama Paris features jumpers, dresses, bathing suits, and separates fashioned out of Ankara fabric. The silhouettes are modern, colours bold, and the details – Delightful.
- Maki Oh: birth name Amaka Osakwe is a Nigerian fashion designer and founder of the fashion label ‘Maki Oh’ which is a womenswear brand that started in 2010 from Lagos and is one of the Nigerian based brands that are globally acknowledged. She attended the Arts University Bournemouth where she obtained a BA in Fashion Studies. Her inspiration comes from the rural Ghana’s Dipo rites-of-passage ceremony during which girls taking part are partially naked and ornately adorned, and is fond of using traditional African fabrics. Her label was discovered by the U.S fashion scene in 2012 when she presented her designs at the New York Fashion Week. She caters to international stars such as singers like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Solange Knowles and Leelee Sobieski and Hollywood stars like Kerry Washington. Former first lady of the united states Michelle Obama is also on her client list. Her brand is unique because she hand dyes her textile using the traditional textile arte process called Adire. She was also named ‘designer of the year’ by African Fashion Magazine.
- Christie Brown: it’s a Ghanaian based luxury women’s fashion brand that aims to satisfy the stylish urge of the woman seeking a true taste of neo- African culture. The label was founded in 2008 with the brand’s first runway show in Accra. Her motivation comes from her grandmother who was a seamstress that created rich and vibrant colours. Today, Christie Brown stands uniquely as a women’s apparel and accessories manufacturer and retailer with pieces ranging from beautiful bespoke gowns and practical accessories. Her clothes and accessories have made a bold statement, painting the runway with a fuse of colour and culture fit for the contemporary African woman. She has been awarded the ‘emerging designer of the year’ 2009 at Arise Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg, to being the only Ghanaian label that showcased at the ‘arise L’afrique-A-Porter In Paris Fashion Week March 2010. She has also captured the attention of global fashion influencers such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Canoe 53 and Glamour Magazine. The brand has a consistent history of international acclaim and recognition with the flagship store in Osu-Re, Accra, Ghana.
- Gavin Rajah: he is a South African designer, who works out of his atelier based in Cape Town and regularly shows at Paris Fashion Week (Couture). He uses his visibility and fashion events to bring awareness to various child related issues. Gavin Rajah has been appointed by the United Nations as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
- Mimi Plange: Mimi Plange is a fashion designer born in Accra, Ghana. She moved to California with her family when she was young. She received a BA in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California. After school, she moved to New York and worked for both Patricia Fields and Rachel Roy. She and her business partner, Ibrahim Ndoye, created a Fashion line Boudoir D’huîtres but she later changed it to her own name Mimi Plange in 2010. Her designs are influenced by her African heritage and Victorian fashion. Former First Lady Michelle Obama wore her A-line skirt on The View. Plange was the Designer of the Year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week South Africa. In an interview with the NY Times, Plange states, “I want to prove to people that African fashion can’t be pigeonholed,” she said. “I can compete globally.” Plange doesn’t use traditional African prints or textiles in her designs. In her spring 2012 collection, Scarred Perfection, she referenced the body scars that Africans would use as a mode of tribal identification. Plange explains, “I am motivated by those things that make us question how we represent ourselves to other people.
- Sindiso Khumalo: She is a South African textile designer living and working in Hackney, London. Central St Martins graduate, Khumalo, studied architecture at the University of Cape Town prior to moving to London, where she went onto study a Masters in Design for Textile Futures. She founded her eponymous label in 2014, with a focus on creating modern sustainable textiles. With her complex graphic language she has developed a uniquely colourful visual voice, which draws upon her Zulu and Ndebele heritage. Sustainability, craft and empowerment lie at the heart of the label. She works very closely with NGO’s in developing handmade textiles for her collections. At a various small workshops around South Africa, groups of women assemble to create handmade textiles for her womenswear collections. In October 2015, she won the Womenswear Award for the Vogue Italia “Who’s On Next Dubai” competition. Fashion and empowerment is what Sindiso feels very passionate about. She has spoken at the United Nations on sustainability in fashion and is currently working closely with the International Trade Centre Ethical Fashion Initiative. She has showcased work at the Royal Festival Hall in London, The Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington and the Louisiana Museum in Denmark. Her work has been published in “Africa: Architecture, Culture and Identity”, Vogue Italia, Vogue UK, Elle Magazine and Marie Claire Magazine.
- Thula Sindi:He matriculated from the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg 2001 and studied at LISOF (London international school of fashion).He started his first job – as head designer at Dutch textile company Vlisco- the day after he graduated. After showing at South African fashion week in 2005, Thula started developing his own range, which hit the runway at SAFW 2006 (a year in which he earned a semi-finalist spot at the Nederburg Rare fashion finds contest). He has gone on to show his collections in Hong Kong, Beijing, New York, Lagos, Paris and many other cities across the world. The designer has gone on to win many accolades within the fashion industry, include being crowned SA Tourism’s South African Designer of the Year in 2012. Thula now produces his effortlessly elegant women’s wear from his Illovo studio in Johannesburg, dressing well-known clientele such as Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Terry Pheto, Azania Ndoro, Penny Lebyane, Liezel Van der Westhuizen and Jena Dover to name a few.
- Jewels by Lisa:
Lisa Folawiyo is a multi-faceted global womenswear and accessories collection Designer, Lisa Folawiyo perfected the art of wearing Ankara (local West African cloth) through the use of ornate embellishment. By incorporating texture with this cultural established traditional textile, Lisa Folawiyo transformed the textile and created a globally coveted print. This conceptual and global design hybrid has been the key to Lisa Folawiyo ʼs success. Fused with its very own African-inspired custom luxury prints, the Lisa Folawiyo collection skilfully delivers contemporary garments. With a strong eye for tailoring and fit, Folawiyo creates feminine and modern silhouettes with nods to traditional African aesthetics. Each Lisa Folawiyo garment boasts a handcrafted and unique history from inception to construction. Folawiyo ʼs expert artisans hand embellish each Lisa Folawiyo piece, on average a 240—hour process that reflects the brand’s focus on design integrity. Lisa Folawiyo has shown its collections on international platforms – in Lagos and Johannesburg to London, Paris, Milan and New York; from Lagos Fashion & Design Week to New York Fashion Week to the Pitti W Tradeshow and the Vogue Talent Exhibition in collaboration with Vogue Italia. Lisa Folawiyo has been featured in several publications such as Vogue, Style.com, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Wear Daily, Drapers, BBC.co.uk, Dazeddigital.com, ModaOperandi.com, The Financial Times Online (How To Spend It), Essence, and Marie Claire. The brand has also been well received and worn by the likes of actresses, Lupita Nyong’o, Lucy Liu, Thandie Newton; and Singer, Solange Knowles.
Lisa Folawiyo has been stocked at Moda Operandi, Mytheresa.com, and Selfridges.
Lisa Folawiyo has collaborated with global brands such as Blackberry and L’Oréal, to create limited edition Blackberry Phone cases and Lipstick & Nail polish covers, respectively.
The Lisa Folawiyo line is housed under the Jewel by Lisa Group, with other brands namely Jewel by Lisa (The Ankara collection), The J label (The Diffusion collection), and Pretty Precious (The Kids collection).
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