African fashion, much like African music and art, is currently having a moment on the global stage – and we’re here for it. International celebrities like Naomi Campbell, Zendaya, Tracee Ellis Ross, Angela Bassett and Beyoncé – with Queen B having been pictured wearing some African creators in the visual film of his award-winning album, black is king — have contributed to highlighting certain creators from the continent.
Not only do these designers deserve accessories for their stunning garments, but they are also agents of change in their own right, helping to boost Africa’s developing economy, championing equity and climate action, and establishing a new normal for African talent, ensuring that the world knows what Africa is really made of.
It helps a lot that just like its people, African fashion is bold and revolutionary. For example, designers like Nigeria Adebayo Oke Lawal and Fola Francois use their creations to push boundaries and challenge gender stereotypes on the continent. Congolese designer Anifa Mvuembameanwhile, is recognized as being the first person to hold a 3D virtual fashion show for her label, Hanifa, which went viral in 2021.
The fashion industry is the fourth largest industry in the world and according to Statistical, the global apparel industry turnover was $1.5 trillion in 2021. This means that the success of the African fashion industry can have a huge impact on the economy of the continent. With the continent having the highest poverty rate in the world, investing in the fashion industry and other sectors can help transform the lives of people living in poverty.
A thriving fashion industry in Africa means more job opportunities, investment in development and global recognition not only for fashion designers, but also for the local tailors, artisans and entrepreneurs they use. Many fashion brands in Africa are now also creating programs to provide resources, contribute to the growth of society and empower people who wish to work in the industry.
With the success of the African fashion industry around the world and the potential economic growth that could come with it, now is the perfect time to learn about, support and invest in the African fashion industry. So here are eight globally recognized African fashion brands that are also helping to tackle some of the biggest global challenges you need to know, follow and support.
1. Orange Culture
orange crop was founded in 2011 by Adebayo Oke-Lawal, a Nigerian fashion designer. His debut is that of a true millennial, as Oke-Lawal has been drawing since the age of 11 and self-taught with the help of YouTubeand is today one of the most prestigious designers in Africa.
Orange Culture is best known for its menswear, which has been worn by African celebrities like Global Citizen lawyer Davido, Rita Dominic and Ice Prince, and was the first Nigerian brand to stock its clothing in the iconic grand British store Selfridges.
Through their program, The Orange Mentorshipthey provide mentorship and resources to young fashion entrepreneurs across the continent to build their fashion empire as well.
Anifa Mvuemba is a Congolese designer best known for the viral 3D fashion show that combined two of her passions, fashion and technology, in an epic showcase of her brand Hanifa at the height of the pandemic in 2021.
Mvuemba founded Anifa 10 years ago and the brand has since become known for its captivating designs of women’s ready-to-wear in different sizes. His first show was at the National Portrait Gallery on November 16, 2021 in Washington, USA, with over 20,000 people streaming the show on YouTube.
She is also the founder of Hanifa’s Dreaman initiative that empowers women-owned organizations that “elevate fashion through passion, purpose and social impact.”
3. Thebe Magugu
Thebe Magugu is the eponymous luxury brand of Thebe Magugu, a South African fashion designer, who founded his brand in 2016.
Through fashion, Magugu tells stories of its heritage and culture while highlighting important issues. In his past collections, he has commented on sexism in South Africa, South Africa’s apartheid past and femicide – with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa describing gender-based violence as “the second pandemic we face ” in November 2020.
In 2018, Magugu won the LVMH Prize, a prestigious award given to young fashion designers by well-known designers in the industry, and has since been featured in Paper, another magazine, vogue, and other international publications. Magugu primarily designs women’s ready-to-wear clothing.
4. Imane Ayissi
Imane Ayissi is a model, dancer, and fashion designer born to Cameroonian parents in 1969. Before starting her fashion business, Ayissi was a sought-after model who walked for popular luxury brands like Dior, Givenchy, Valentino, YSL, and Lanvin.
Drawing inspiration from cultures across the African continent, Ayissi creates luxury haute couture ready-to-wear pieces. Ayissi is also a advocate for eco-responsible fashion and often uses natural and organic materials that have the least impact on the environment.
Christie Brown was founded in March 2008 by Aisha Ayensu, a Ghanaian fashion designer and artistic director.
The luxury brand, which bears the name Ayensu’s grandmother, manufactures innovative and unique women’s ready-to-wear clothing and accessories. When designing for Christie Brown, Ayensu reinvents traditional clothing and modernizes it for today’s audience.
Priye Ahluwalia, founder of Ahluwalia, was born in London to a Nigerian father and an Indian mother. Drawing inspiration from both his Nigerian and Indian heritageit designs award-winning ready-to-wear menswear.
In 2020 Ahluwalia was one of the recipients of the prestigious LMVH award and the following year won the Queen Elizabeth II award for British design. Ahluwalia’s label also focuses on being ecological and she uses vintage and unsold clothing (discontinued and vintage items that are no longer in stock) for many of her designs.
7. Loza Maleombho
Loza Maleombho is an Ivorian fashion designer born in Brazil who has been creating since the age of 13.
After interning at world famous fashion brands in New York, she decided to start her own label in 2009. Maléombho now creates clothing and accessories that combine traditional African aesthetics with modern contemporary fashion.
She also works with local artisans in Côte d’Ivoire, including shoemakers and weavers, to incorporate their craft into her collections.
Founded in 2016 by Sarah Diof, a woman of Senegalese, Central African and Congolese origin, Tongoro is a women’s ready-to-wear brand that produces playful and unique clothing. Based in Dakar, Senegal, Tongoro sources from artisans across Africa, and Diof makes sure to work with local tailors to foster the economic development of artisans on the continent.