African fashion designers are staking their claim on the international stage. Apart from using traditional African fabrics, designers on the continent have also gone ahead to experiment and create beautiful designs using fabrics from all over the world.
A new breed of young talent are determined to push the boundaries even further. Here are just 10 of the many African fashion designers to watch out for.
Nigerian designer Modupe Omonze is strongly influenced by her passion for travel. Over the years, she has grown to what fashionistas describe as a “culture fusion genius”.
Her passion for traveling has inspired her to create what she calls Afroarabia fusions. As the name suggests, the collection features fabric from her cultural heritage in Africa, heavily influenced by the classic Arabian flowing, elegant style.
Omonze also works with a generous dose of American influence as a tribute to the United States of America where she debuted as an international designer.
Because of her fascination with costumes, in 2005, she settled in the beautiful Island of Trinidad and Tobago studying carnival costumes and their heritage. Modupe moved to Dubai in 2010 dedicating her time to studying the Arabian culture, collecting distinct ethnic information across the entire region, using it as a basis to strengthen her Afroarabia collections. She hosts the annual RunwayDubai catwalk events.
The uniqueness of Holland born Moroccan designer Hana Himmi’s design stems from its multicultural flavour. She draws her inspiration from the culture of her native country, Morocco; mixing it all up with the wealth of designing experience she picked up from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute where she added formal education to her natural talent.
Hana has lived in Dubai, Istanbul, Hong Kong and Shanghai. She has also travelled the world, picking chunks of inspirations all along to eventually create the collections for her HimmiH label.
Himmi has always been a passionate artist. She sees designing beautiful dresses as her main goal in life. This can be seen in the quality and style of work she delivers. In every inch of every piece, she infuses passion and love. She is certain to make a lot of waves in 2016 and in years to come.
If you see sport jerseys made with African fabrics or wedding gowns made with the traditional Ghanaian woven fabric, Kente, then you have seen the brainchild of young Ghanaian fashion designer, Ellisha Boie.
Having spent most of her life in Ghana, Ellisha has found a way to fuse the country’s unifying love of football, love of western street fashion, youthfulness and traditional fabric into a unique collection exhibited as MyRRH.
The MyRRH collection has received wide acclaim, including endorsements from Ghanaian celebrities home and abroad.
South Africa’s Laz Yani, hails from the Eastern Cape, and made it to the limelight after he won the 2013 South Africa Fashion Week Renault New Talent Search. Laz had entered several fashion competitions before winning the SAFW award.
He moved to Port Elizabeth to study fashion and pattern engineering. After his studies, he had been able to secure a bursary and a two-year internship at an acclaimed fashion brand which afforded him the chance to showcase in Vienna, Austria in 2011.
After his 2013 win with the Cutterier’s Spring Summer collection, which was inspired by the travelling woman, Laz expressed his vision of working with large retail outlets to push his elegant wrinkle-free, garments to all lovers of great all-season styles.
Ugandan Solome Katongole is a biologist-turned fashion designer. Hers is one of the classical examples of those whose passion for fashion has not allowed staying away. Solome already bagged a Bachelor of Science in Biology and had started working at Cephalon, a pharmaceutical company, before deciding to follow her love for fashion. Katongole is regarded as one of those taking Uganda’s rising fashion industry to greater heights. Her ‘Solome Katongole’ label specialises in customised women’s clothing. She describes the line as being all about “chic comfort and color”.
What’s distinctive about her work is that she uses her designs and the colours to interpret feelings. She explores the nexus between traditional Ugandan attire and western style to give her clients a sense of genuine freedom.
Solome Katongole showcased her collection at the Mercedes Benz of Buffalo fashion week runway show.
Namibian fashion designer Chakirra Claasen is one of the best and most widely known in the country. She was selected as Namibian finalist for the Festival International de la Mode Africaine (FIMA) “L’Afrique à la mode” competition in 2009 in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
She draws her inspiration from her native Namibian culture, thus many of her works feature the Owambo tribe’s traditional fabric, ondelela and the Sotho people’s print fabrics, Shweshwe.
The designer also emphasises the fabric’s original quality and prints by creating simple designs.
Claasen describes her designs as sexy, but very elegant and sophisticated. Her inspiration is derived from the curves of a woman’s body. Attention to detail is Claasen’s hallmark, with great thought invested into the design and finishing of each garment.
Sara Mugambi is a young Kenyan Fashion designer behind the Sarahkaray label. She describes her Sarakaray collections as bold, exquisite, out of the box, high end clothing.
By the time she was just 22 years old, she had already costumed numerous celebrities in her country, including the Safaricom Choir. The Sarakaray brand exhibits ingenuity in the areas of colour, symmetry and finishes. It has been taken beyond the Kenyan borders where Sarah Mugambi has toured with full flavoured Kenyan designs. Her collections have been showcased at Sarakaray Runway show – Nairobi, Kenya, Atlanta International Fashion Show – Atlanta, Georgia, Tampa Bay Fashion Show – Tampa Bay, Florida, Maryland Fashion Show – Maryland, Baltimore Fashion Show- Baltimore among other places.
Shunnoz Fiel And Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga
Shunnoz Fiel and Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga, the duo behind Projecto Mental Fashion House is from Angola. They believe that fashion is a veritable means of making far-reaching statements. They see fashion as a means of attracting attention and hold it. That is why the duo is using fashion as a means of exhibiting Angola’s cultural image to the world. They maintain that their works will also open up avenues for other upcoming Angolan designers in the fashion world.
Fiel’s designs are influenced by his love for poetry, writing and music. As is often the case with especially talented people, Fiel who studied theology and psychology in the university had worked in the telecoms industry before realizing that his love for fashion cannot be drowned by any other thing.
Nzinga, the other half of the crew was born in Angola but raised in London, England. It was during his sojourn abroad that he discovered his gift of self-expression through fashion designing. So after studying anthropology and African studies, Nzinga returned to Angola and made a commitment to his true love, fashion.
The duo’s work and determination to take Angola to the world with their designs has won them international attention on reputable stages, including British Vogue Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, GQ Style, GQ Brazil and i-D Magazine.
Projecto Mental won Moda Luanda’s Designer of the Year award in Angola in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, the duo was awarded by Belas Fashion Week in Angola for promoting Angolan fashion nationally and internationally.
Nelly And Nelsa Guambe
The Mozambican duo, Nelly and Nelsa Guambe are self-taught design sisters who champion sustainable fashion, using recycled materials to create collections in their label, Mima-te. The siblings focus on who designs that not only make their clients stand out, but also feel comfortable.
Their fashion label, Mima-te, a Portuguese word for ‘spoil one’s self’ was launched in 2010. The sisters say they chose that name for their label because they want their clients to feel ‘spoilt in the luxury and elegance afforded by their designs.
Looking at the acclaim they have received from Mozambican media, European publications, and radio shows, they are a duo to watch out for in the African fashion scene.
Nkechi Harry Ngonadi
The proprietress of the NHN Couture label is a Nigerian designer whose powerful designs strike the balance between elegance and decency. Her choice of fabrics reveals her strong belief in the fact that simplicity is classy. NHN’s designs are among the favourites for plus-sized African women.
Ngonadi sees fashion designing first as a form of ‘evangelism’. Her mission, she says, is to bring decency back to thechurch first and the society at large. “Covered yet sexy, fabulous and simply classy is our motto,” she says. “It is a ministry first and clothing line second, our styles and designs are very simple, no drama.”
NHN collection is strongly influenced by the diverse cultures from the more than 300 tribes in Nigeria. It was featured at the last Lagos Fashion International Fair and the third season of Runway Dubai held in November 2015.