Africa has always fascinated the creative industries due to its unique cultural diversification, fondness for color and vibrance for life. But despite having a clothing tradition dating back to 2000 BC, the continent has been on the back seat of high-end fashion for some time.
However, in the past ten years globalization and technological advancements have helped Africa’s fashion entrepreneurs step up their game. Fuelled by a well-educated and motivated new generation of designers, Africa’s fashion industry has begun the transition into a new era.
Johannesburg, Lagos, Dakar and Accra are now established fashion hubs, hosting regular fashion weeks. They also serve as home to some of the most well-established local designers who are now making waves on the international fashion scene, due to the unique style and quality of their pieces.
Given that the continent currently hosts seven of the world’s fastest growing economies, and with a steadily growing and fashion conscious middle class, Africa’s $31billion fashion industry is on the rise. And with the right investment and promotion, local designers can compete with their global counterparts, and mirror the success of the following designers.
Deola Sagoe - Nigeria
Deola Sagoe is a fashion visionary with a unique approach to her craft, one that has endeared her to followers and critics all over the world for the past 25 years. From humble beginnings as a MNET Face of Africa/Africa Designs winner in both 1998 and 2000, Deola has since left a global footprint across various continents.
In 2000, Deola was among four designers from Africa nominated by former editor-at-large for American Vogue André Leon Talley to show their work at New York Fashion Week. Then in 2004, she became the first black woman to present a collection at Alta Roma, Rome’s celebrated fashion week. With a flagship store located in the Nigerian capital of Lagos, Deola continues to put the African fashion scene well and truly on the global map.
Using local hand-woven materials in which she brings to life a range of distinct cultures, contemporizing almost-lost traditional African techniques, Deola’s designs present a unique vision and attitude for the modern woman. They evoke a subtle nostalgia for history, embodying Africa’s cultural diversity, artistry, earthiness and mystery in complex combination of color and warmth.
Christie Brown - Ghana
Creative Director Aisha Obuobi began her love affair with fashion at an early age. However, her real motivation came from watching her grandmother, Christie Brown, a seamstress after whom the brand is named, create rich and vibrant garments, leading her to establish the brand in 2008.
Aisha aims to infuse modernism into carefully curated traditional African aesthetics which transcend international tastes, expressing the cultural opulence of Africa without self-compromise.
The label prides itself in making fashion from Ghana relevant internationally. From winning the Emerging Designer of the Year Award in 2009 at the Arise Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg; to being the only Ghanaian label showcased at the Arise L’Afrique-A-Porter in Paris Fashion Week in March 2010; to capturing the attention of global fashion influencers such as Harper's Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Canoe 53 and Glamour magazine, Christie Brown has a consistent history of international acclaim and recognition.
The brand is built on a foundation that has helped develop a business which today, goes beyond just creating clothing and accessories. Beyond the awards and the international recognition, Christie Brown is now, proudly, a “go to“ brand for women looking for sophisticated yet wearable fashion pieces inspired by African culture, art and heritage.
Taibo Bacar - Mozambique
This Maputo-based fashion brand was founded in 2010 by creative director Taibo Bacar and his partner Tatiana Ismael.
Considered to be one of the leading brands in Africa, Taibo Bacar is known for fusing high fashion and ready-to-wear, with an emphasis on the female form via selected cutting techniques and considered material choices.
In 2010 Taibo Bacar presented a collection during Milan Fashion Week, becoming the first African brand to participate in the bi-annual event. Then in 2012, the company was awarded the title Emerging Designer of the Year at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa, heralding the internationalization of the brand which is now sold in the United States, Nigeria, South Africa and Paris.
Lijon Gopinathan is the founder of World Wide Couture and some of the content posted here has been adapted from the World Wide Couture site.