In 2019, African designers broke new ground to reach astonishing new heights of ingenuity and creativity. Some of the world's top publications like Vogue and Forbes did in-depth features on African designers. The diversity charge led to a global push for recognition of a wider range of cultural contributions and African fashion made an unprecedented leap into the spotlight. With Africa becoming such a powerful force in the global fashion industry, here are 10 of the best African designers to look out for.
1. Thebe Magugu
The South African designer with the Midas touch, Thebe Magugu led by example through 2019. He was awarded the LVMH Prize and earned the mantle of GQ SA's Rising Star of 2019. His mission to spread the beauty of Africa's fashion industry is already proving an emphatic success. Known for fierce feminine designs, Magugu should definitely be on your radar for 2020. Supermodel Adut Kech showcased his pieces for the September 2019 issue of British Vogue. He also released a capsule collection on 24 Sèvres. All in all, 2019 was the year Thebe Magugu became a star, and he's just getting started. View his latest collection here.
2. Kenneth Ize
Kenneth Ize has carved himself a solid position at the forefront of the aso-oke world. He was a finalist for the coveted LVMH Prize for 2019, and was mentioned personally by the chief editor of American Vogue, Anna Wintour. Hailing from Nigeria, this is an African designer making huge strides into the global fashion industry. Notably, he made his way onto the BoF500 list in 2019, and you can rest assured that Ize has only just begun his journey. We expect to see big things from him in 2020 as he tightens his grip on fashion stardom. View his latest collection here.
Sika'afounder John Tchoudi is a fashion designer showing enormous promise. Just two years into an African fashion journey, the Sika'a mission to produce elegant and inventive handmade garments is flourishing. Hailing from West Cameroon, the focus is on producing wonderful high-end garments from sustainable fabrics. Sika'a is ahead of the curve for an industry that needs to shift towards more responsible practices. The passion and diversity at the core of the Sika'a ethos is a superb recipe for success. And a look over the outstanding portfolio is simply inspiring. Be ready to see more of the name Sika'a in 2020. View the latest Sika'a collection here.
4. Anifa Mvuemba
Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba may call the USA her home, but her designs share her African heritage. There can be little question that 2019 was a huge year for her. From working as a customs and alteration seamstress, Mvuemba founded her Hanifa brand in 2012. From that milestone moment, there has been nothing but an upward trajectory. She is known for incorporating elegant curves into her designs. Her work in 2019 landed her features in both Forbes and Teen Vogue. The latter publication also included her in its Generation Next section, cementing her status as one to watch for 2020.
5. David Tlale
There are few African designers as sought-after as the pre-eminent David Tlale. He is a creative genius from South Africa with a clientele that includes a number of A-list celebrities. In 2019 alone, his pieces were worn by global megastars like Oprah Winfrey and Nigerian musician Flavour. Tlale also secured a deal with Tasty Rice, a rice processing company based in South Africa. There are few who have made the kind of strides David Tlale achieved in 2019. We are truly excited to see what moves he will be making in 2020. A real icon of African pride and creative flair. View his recent collaboration with Avon.
6. Maki Oh
Nigeria's fashion scene is thriving, and Maki Oh is one of its shining lights. Founder Amaka Osakwe earned an LVMH Prize nomination and a place in the BoF 500. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, and studying fashion in the UK, Osakwe founded Maki Oh in 2010. She swiftly earned a reputation for playing with cloaks and traditional fabrics of Africa. A combination of indigenous textiles and Western silhouettes became her signature. Maki Oh's clientele includes Lupita Nyongo'o, Leelee Sobieski and Solange Knowles. Having already achieved much, we think 2020 could well be Maki Oh's year. View the latest Maki Oh collection.
7. Duro Oluwo
Duro Oluwo is as known in the art world as the fashion one. He evokes the same stylistic muse as his discerning clientele. He is a master of mixed-media dressing. He uses a range of fabrics and patterns to conjure unique ensembles that thrill and surprise liberally. You will find that evening silhouettes are his go-to in the main, but his designs often stray into more unique assemblages. Primarily targeting female garments, Oluwo has drawn inspiration from people and places from his eclectic lifestyle. His collections for 2020 are looking to be as groundbreaking as we've come to expect. See for yourself.
8. William Okpo
William Okpo is a womenswear brand rooted in traditional Africa design. The creators are sisters Lizzy and Darlene Okpo. These are two women with a passion and affection for creativity in fashion. You can see that flair and dedication in every garment in the William Okpo brand. Highlights include fresh takes on classic closet staples, emphasising voluminous, functional comfort. The mixture of Nigerian and American culture is evident, and the name is an homage to the sisters' late father. With huge names like Solange Knowles among their clientele, expect to see the name William Okpo a lot in 2020. See their latest collections here.
Aaks is the African fashion brand from designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi of Ghana. Having studied in London, Afriyie-Kumi founded Aaks with a commitment to creating handcrafted, ethical handbags. She uses traditional African techniques and employs local raffia weavers. Her support for the African community and fashion industry is unparalleled. Every handbag from Aaks is beautiful and eclectic, wonderfully encapsulating the spirit of Africa. We have immense respect for the work of this brand, and we can't wait to see what's in store for the year ahead. Explore the latest collections here and share in our excitement.
10. Andrea Iyamah
Andrea Iyamah is the brand from Nigerian designer Dumebi Iyamah. The inspiration comes from ethnic cultures and colour. Iyamah herself draws from the arts and launched the brand at the young age of 17. Her signature is unique takes on swimwear, but she also makes iconic, custom event dresses. Based in Canada, the award-winning brand has delivered for a diverse clientele. We expect to see Iyamah become a big name in the African fashion industry for 2020.
The African take on fashion is gaining momentum in this highly competitive industry. It is a tremendous pleasure to be part of this growing trend, and we would love to see which African brands are your go-to for contemporary style.
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2020 has been a memorable year for the fashion industry, from sustainable clothing to Covid-19. It’s a year when we’ve seen several consumer trends really gain momentum.
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