8 Bold African Fashion Designers You Should Know

8 Bold African Fashion Designers You Should Know
Historically, the relationship between African fashion and the global fashion industry has been problematic. The African fashion story has been riddled with cultural exploitation and appropriation, but this is quickly changing as African fashion designers continue to challenge a once over-simplified narrative.
In recent year, emerging talents across the African continent have garnered international attention with bold ideas and new techniques. They no longer seek global approval, and their revolutionary works preserve the African identity while breaking stereotypes. In many ways, these designers have built a sustainable fashion business infrastructure in Africa.
Continue reading to learn about 8 bold African fashion designers you should know!

Sindiso Khumalo, South Africa

Sindiso Khumalo is one of South Africa’s well known black female designers. She is famous for her sustainable fashion creations and renowned for using her clothes to tell stories of iconic black women across the African diaspora. Sindiso studied architecture at the University of Capetown before she moved to London.
Sindiso Khumalo focuses on contemporary and sustainable textiles. Her designs primarily draw inspiration from her rich Ndebele and Zulu heritage. Although her studio is based in London, she works closely with South African artisans to make clothes from ethically sourced natural materials such as hemp. Her designs have been recognized internationally, but her work creates employment opportunities in South Africa. 
Sindiso Khumalo, South Africa
“I believe fashion can become an empowering agent by creating a positive economic activity in otherwise marginalized parts of the world.” ~ Sindiso Khumalo

Doreen Mashika, Tanzania

Doreen Mashika embraces her Tanzanian heritage in her beach ready designs. Her designs are crafted using light fabric and most feature the East African Kanga prints. These breezy designs are Mashika’s creative way of showcasing Tanzania’s creativity to the world. 
Although Mashika lived and worked in Switzerland, she moved back to Tanzania and let her dreams unfold in Zanzibar, where her roots are from. Zanzibar is a melting pot of cultures, and her keen eye for high-end fashion allowed her to create elegant pieces filled with cultural heritage.
Doreen Mashika, Tanzania
“I never wanted to have my dream made in Europe; I wanted it to happen where my roots are from; to bring change in so many ways to the perception of fashion in Africa, by Africans.”  ~ Doreen Mashika

Matthew Rugamba, Rwanda

Mathew Rugamba is the founder of House of Tayo. In the beginning of his career, he did not have any experience in fashion or design, all he had was a few bow ties that represented a dignified African man to him. The desire to showcase African sophistication, style, and flavor in a unique way inspires Mathew to create breathtaking clothes and accessories. His designs combine elegance with rich African heritage and iconography. 
House of Tayo uses African textiles and employs Rwandan tailors and artisans. Matthew’s trademark bow ties are exclusively made by a women’s cooperative based in Kigali, Rwanda. He continues to influence change in the African fashion story, with the belief that African designs should not be simplified.
Teta Isibo, RwandaTeta Isibo, Rwanda
"Some of the patterns and colors have great significance in different African cultures, so it is condescending to reduce some of these designs to a single phrase."  ~ Matthew Rugamba

Teta Isibo, Rwanda

Teta Isibo is the creative genius behind Inzuki designs. Her brand specializes in jewelry, accessories, and interior décor, which are entirely local and ethical. Teta uses local craft skill and materials, partnering with numerous women’s cooperatives to create vibrant and outstanding pieces. 
Inzuki means ‘bees’ in Teta’s local language. It represents the sweetness of a bee’s honey and the fierceness in a bee’s sting. Inzuki creates bold, authentic, and colorful designs that combine traditional craft and contemporary style. Handmade traditional pieces have global appeal, but using local organic materials and empowering women around Rwanda is the heartbeat of Teta’s brand.
Teta Isibo, Rwanda
“I think that Rwandan women have a lot of opportunities. We achieve that through our collaboration with numerous local cooperatives that use their skills to translate our authentic designs into vibrant quality pieces that are African inspired and globally loved” ~ Teta Isibo

Lisa Folawiyo, Nigeria

Lisa Folawiyo’s designs utilize heavily patterned fabrics and combine clashing prints to create timeless artisanal clothing for her brand. Her garments have an innate sophistication and her designs use modern tailoring techniques that are rooted in Nigerian artisanal practice. Her beaded embellishments add to the exquisite pieces with ease, elevating traditional African prints. 
Originally, Lisa studied law and came into fashion without formal training. Her colorful collections are exclusively created using the famous Ankara textiles that characterize West African fashion, but the modern flare in her designs gives them international appeal.
Lisa Folawiyo, NigeriaLisa Folawiyo, Nigeria
“Our mothers, grandmothers and probably great-grandmothers have worn this fabric [Ankara]” ~ Lisa Folawiyo

Akudo Iheakanwa, Nigeria

Akudo Iheakanwa is the founder of Shekudo, a Nigerian footwear brand that has been making waves since 2018.  Shekudo’s pieces are creatively created using locally sourced materials and artisans. Shekudo is entirely local, made in Nigeria, by Nigeria. Akudo’s pieces merge contemporary style with Nigerian traditional and artistry. She aims to keep the tradition of weaving alive through her designs.
Although she spent most of her life in Australia, moving to Nigeria enabled her to create more employment locally and encourage the use of local resources. 
Akudo Iheakanwa, Nigeria
“I wanted to have a point of difference and figure out ways that I could use local skills, traditional material and craftsmanship to create a unique identity.”  ~ Akudo Iheakanwa

Jermaine Asiedu, Ghana

Jermaine Asiedu, the creative designer for the Jermaine Bleu label, might be young, but he exemplifies the forward thinking approach to African design. He creates with a clear intention of recognizing his history and where he lies in the fabric of African culture. Jermaine’s mum used to be a seamstress, and growing up around clothes and design, he fell in love with the craft. He, however, took an interest when he went on to study textiles.
Although he is relatively new to the world of high fashion, Jermaine’s focus is on rewriting African stories without giving other people the space to tell these stories on our behalf, because they may not tell them the right way.
Jermaine Asiedu, GhanaJermaine Asiedu, Ghana
“I wasn’t there for the Yaa Asantewaa story, I never experienced these things myself, but they are things my mother and grandmother talk about very often.” ~ Jermaine Asiedu

Larry Jafaru Mohammed, Ghana

Larry Jafaru Mohammed, the head designer of the brand Larry Jay, was born and raised in Accra. He started his career with an accessories line in 2012, and in 2016, he delved into fashion design. When he started designing garments, he wanted to empower local artisans and local craftsmanship. 
Larry creates ethically made unisex pieces that draw inspiration from African nature, textiles, and culture. He adds a modern touch in the designs by using modern, streamlined silhouettes. 
“When I started my brand, I wanted to work with people in my community, and empower local artisans and craftsmanship.” ~ Larry Jafaru Mohammed
Overall, Africa is home to dramatic designs, vibrant colors, amazing textiles, and endless talent. With a combination of all these elements and global interaction, bold and brave African fashion designers continue to influence historical change. Contemporary African fashion continues to garner attention in commercial and academic realms. The African designers at the helm of this incredible shift enrich distinctly African styles by drawing from diverse international sources and embracing African authenticity.

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