The Beauty Of African Fashion
Fashion is a term that means an ‘ongoing trend’. Fashion is not limited to dressing style but includes footwear, lifestyle, accessories, and beauty. We can indeed say Africa has proven to showcase the true meaning of fashion to the world, as it is particularly known for the beauty and splendor it brings to the industry. For a long time, African fashion has been misconstrued as “tribal” or “exotic” and simplified to leopards skins and mud clothes. Many times, it is a point of reference. However, the source is never regarded as much as the derivative. In the early days, the majority of Africans did not dress for warmth due to the warm climate of the continent. Africans have always dressed to showcase their sense of fashion and beauty. Loins clothes were sufficient for men, while women wore wraps around their waists or breast
The most beautiful people are those that have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle , know loss, and have found a way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, sensitivity, and understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep love.
The first forms of clothing were barks cloths, furs, skins, and hides, and the rest of the body was adorned with beautification marks, beads, and colour pigments. Soon Africans began using raffia to sew separate pieces of bark cloth together. In time, grass skirts were the rage. Likewise, they used accessories to adorn the uncovered parts of the body. This consisted of more intricate jewelry and headgear fashioned from seashells, bones, ostrich eggshell pieces, and feathers. The world has changed and it is safe to say African fashion has changed along and is in fact known for its glitz and glamour all over the world. Africa is a large continent, endowed with beauty and uniqueness in fashion and in culture. Within the African continent, the fashion design industry has experienced continuous growth and development. This has resulted in fashion shows held across the length and breadth of Africa with models donning the exquisite designs of fashion designers cat-walking on runways across the continent.
The thing about history is that it repeats itself, maybe not in the exact replicas, maybe with slight modifications but history often repeats itself. This is especially visible in fashion. Clothes that had their shine in the 80s are now rebranded as Vintage, and every alte kid seems to be rocking different shades of bell-bottom jeans and coloured lenses. More appropriately, people are starting to return to their roots. Our culture deserves to be preserved, celebrated, and updated to suit our times, and this is what African fashion has indeed done.
Attention on African fashion is increasing, with channels hosting fashion shows all around the globe. Africa has influenced and also been influenced by other continents. This can be portrayed in the willingness to adapt to the ever-changing modern world rather than staying deeply rooted in their static culture. African fashion portrays a collective sense of solidarity, uniqueness, colour, beauty, diversity, and sanctity of life.
Let us talk about some unique fashion designers in Africa, we shall start with Lisa Folawiyo.
Lisa Folawiyo is a Nigerian fashion designer that is celebrated for her colourful collections that fuse traditional West African fabrics with modern tailoring and beaded embellishments. She started her label in 2005 and since she started, she has spearheaded the movement of Nigerian designers achieving international recognition for their works.
In 2012, Folawiyo won the African Fashion Awards, nominated alongside Maki Oh and Kofi Ansah, two more prolific designers from the Nigerian fashion scene. Championed by Vogue Italia, Folawiyo has also partnered with L’ Oreal and done a trunk show on Moda Operandi. Her line is stocked in Selfridges.
Another unique fashion designer to talk about is Duro Olowu.
Duro Olowu is a Nigerian London-based fashion designer who shares both Nigerian and Jamaican roots and is a household name in both the African and global fashion industry. He is undoubtedly, a well-respected African fashion personality, famous for his unique and colourful African prints. He is super talented in working with patterns, and his designs incorporate the rich culture, spirit, and diversity of the Nigerian people.
At the African Fashion Award in 2009, he was named the Best International Designer and was one of the six nominees for the Swiss Textile Federation’s top prize of 100,000 Euros. Both British and American Vogue in 2005 named his waist patchwork “Duru”, as the ” Dress of the Year”. One of Olowu’s famous quotes is ” My job is not dictating to women what they should wear, it is presenting them with beautiful options”.
The next designer on our list is Loza Male’ombho.
Loza Male’ombho is an Ivorian fashion designer, she was raised between Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Silver Spring, Maryland. In February 2015, Solange Knowles featured her in the Black Designer Spotlight series with ten other independent artists. The singer Beyonce’ ( sister of Solange Knowles) wears one of her creations in the clip for her title Formation ( on the album Lemonade). She handles traditional but also original shapes, and plays with colours, reflecting her cosmopolitan journey, in particular of this Brazil where she was born, from the New York of these beginnings, and West Africa.
Another unique African fashion designer to talk about is David Tlale.
David Tlale is a South African fashion designer who is known for his crafts that advocate on their own, his work has been showcased at the Cape Town Fashion Week, and Paris Fashion Week, and he also designed collections for major retailers. Tlale was a semi-finalist at the South African Fashion Week Elle New Talent Show Competition in 2002. In May 2003, Tlale started design studios in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The next African designer on our list is Toyin Lawani.
Toyin Lawani is a fashion designer, stylist, entrepreneur, and reality TV star from Nigeria. She is popularly known for her company Tiannah Palace Empire, where she is the founder and CEO. Toyin Lawani has designed outfits for various African celebrities. The entrepreneur has also won several awards including the City People Entertainment Special Recognition Award and Stylist Of The Year Award(2015).
The next African fashion designer on our list is Thebe Magugu.
Thebe Magugu is a South African fashion designer born in Johannesburg, he rose to prominence as the winner of the 2019 LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize and a finalist in the 2021 International Woolmark Prize. Magugu has released ten solo collections under his own namesake label since 2017, as well as several capsules in collaboration with international brands such as Dior, Adidas, and AZ Factory.
The next fashion designer on our list is Imane Ayisis.
Imane Ayissi is a Cameroonian fashion designer, he moved to France in the 1990s and worked as a model for Dior, Givenchy, and Lanvin. Ayissi founded his own label in 2004. His designs have been worn by Zendaya and Angela Bassett. He is the first black African designer to have his designs shown on the Paris haute couture catwalk. Only two other African designers have shown at the Paris show: Alphadi ( Nigerian) in 2004 and Noureddine Amir ( Morocco) in 2018. Much like his dual culture, African and French, many of his pieces appear paradoxical, combining unlikely colours and fabrics with avant-garde silhouettes. Each collection is comprised of traditional materials and textiles from abandoned heritages that are natural, organic, and have the least environment impact.
The last African designer on our list is Sika ‘a.
Sika ‘a founder 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 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 really inspiring.