Africa has been getting a lot of attention lately in the fashion world, and for good reason. From Nigeria to South Africa and everywhere in between, big talent is entering the international style game with something totally unique. And it’s not just the impeccable designs inspired by the colors, sounds and heritage of the continent that have garnered the attention of some of the biggest players in the industry. These designers are doing fashion on their own terms by putting local resources, artisanal skills and sustainable production at the forefront of their business models. While current fashion might be dominated by American and European designers and brands, these 11 designers are proving that it’s Africa’s time to shine.
1. IntisaarM: Zimbabwe-born designer Intisaar Mukadam looks to Africa’s rich cultural diversity and tribal traditions for inspiration when designing for her eponymous line of knitwear. Her eye-catching hues and statement-making prints are anything but subtle, but the out-of-the-box designs are perfect for infusing any wardrobe with new energy and life. (via IntisaarM)
2. AAKS: With her designs having earned her a place of prestige on Vogue Italia‘s shortlist of emerging designers, and graced the pages of Vogue UK and Le Matin Dimanche in Switzerland, Ghana native Akosua Afriyie-Kumi is making quite the name for herself. Her line of handcrafted handbags is made using organically sourced leather and raffia, and is produced by weavers in the village of Bolgatanga, Ghana. Characterized by bright colors and unique styles, each of Afriyie-Kumi’s collections is inspired by the spirit of her ancestors and has a unique story to tell. The line of vibrant bags has been picked up by Anthropologie, making them easily accessible with just a click of a button. (via AAKS)
3. Sindiso Khumalo: With their bright colors, bold prints and modern silhouettes, Sindiso Khumalo’s pieces are made for the woman who wants to stand out. Her architectural background and Zulu and Ndebele heritage lend a unique visual voice to every design, while sustainable production means her line is both aesthetically and ethically ahead of the curve. (via Sindiso Khumalo)
4. LemLem: Founded by model Liya Kebede, LemLem is a socially conscious clothing and accessories brand based in Ethiopia. The line was created as a way to preserve traditional Ethiopian hand-weaving techniques and empower local artisans, while creating African-inspired designs that feel fresh and modern. The line of versatile dresses, tops, bottoms, scarves and accessories are all hand woven in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and exhibit ethnic-inspired embroidery in vibrant colors. A perfect pick-me-up for any warm-weather wardrobe, these artisanal designs can be found on Net-a-Porter, Shopbop, The Outnet and LemLem’s own site. (via LemLem)
5. Lisa Folawiyo: Lisa Folawiyo’s designs are seriously stunning. Her custom prints and impeccable attention to detail — each hand-embellished piece requires around 240 hours of work — have won over the hearts and sartorial sensibilities of women across the globe, including one of our favorite style goddesses: Solange Knowles. One look at her line and we guarantee you’ll be totally smitten. (via Lisa Folawiyo)
6. Woodin: This Ivory-Coast-based fast-fashion brand has been around for the last 25 years and is known for its bright African prints and cool, contemporary styles. The label looks to Africa’s heritage, symbols and colors for inspiration and keeps the operation on the home turf for every part of the production process. Locally sourced materials are high on the company’s priority list and they recently began working with Cotton Made in Africa, an organization geared toward improving the livelihood of the smallholder cotton farmers across sub-Saharan Africa through fair trade. (via Woodin)
7. millecollines: The Rwanda-based label is the beautiful brainchild of Spanish designers Marc Oliver and Inés Cuatrecasas and a team of talented seamstresses in Kigali, Rwanda. Looking to East African artisans for their skilled traditional techniques, millecollines prides itself on fusing international trends with African influence to create incredibly chic and versatile clothing. Traditional fabrics and custom-designed prints are just part of millecollines major appeal, but what really makes the company stand out is its dedication to bringing their killer designs to the African market first. (via millecollines)
8. Lanre Da Silva Ajayi: Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, the Nigerian designer who founded the LDA brand in 2005, fuses throwback (think mid-century) design aesthetics, modern trends and colorful African prints to create a unique line of fun, feminine and timeless clothing with an undeniably luxe vibe. (via Lanre Da Silva Ajayi)
9. Sole Rebels: Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu’s footwear company Sole Rebels started out with a desire to not only inspire her community in Zenabwork, Ethiopia, but to create jobs and opportunities that would both strengthen the local economy and allow community members to tap into their creativity. Inspired by the traditional Ethiopian “selate” and “barabasso” shoes (with car tire soles), the brand uses locally sourced, recycled, organic and bio-based materials and low-impact production to create contemporary footwear that fuses local and global flavors. (via Sole Rebels)
10. Taibo Bacar: A regular fixture at Africa International Fashion Week and African Fashion Week Johannesburg, Mozambique designer Taibo Bacar has earned a place of prestige in the world of fashion, winning numerous international awards and becoming the first African designer to show in Milan. His high fashion and ready-to-wear designs pay tribute to the female form with specialized cutting techniques, flattering silhouettes and high-end materials. There isn’t much not to love. And with fans like Valentino himself, you know this stuff is the real deal. (via Taibo Bacar)
11. Bantu Wax: Showcasing the Africa she knows — one that is urban, strong and globally minded — is what Yodit Eklund’s beach and surf lifestyle brand is all about. Each Bantu piece is made in Africa by local artisans in a way that is both sustainable and fair. Traditional processes are key in their production, as are the local vendors with whom the label works exclusively. While Eklund recently decided to cut ties with her wholesale accounts to focus on the African market, you can still pick up the covetable designs, which fuse Africa’s surf culture and long, rich history of art and textiles. (via Bantu Wax)
Is there a designer you love and think we should know about? Tell us in the comments!