10 African fashion designers revolutionising the world of fashion

African fashion houses are finally getting the world wide recognition they have always deserved. We have carefully compiled a list of 10 of some of the most inspirational African fashion designers making waves across the globe for your enjoyment and inspiration. 

We hope you enjoy our collection.

1. Mataano (Somalia)

The Mohalim twins Ayaan and Idyl burst onto the fashion scene in 2009, launching their brand Mataano. In Somalia Mataano means twins.

Ayaan and Idyl showcased their first collection in spring 2009 and have been making history ever since.

The twins were born in the US, but spent their childhood in Somalia, when the civil wore broke out in Somalia they returned back to the US with their mother.

The twins continue to showcase Africa and participate in changing the perceptions of Africa around the world. 

Their designs and choice of fabric is strongly influenced by their Somali heritage, 90% of the fabric they use in their designs is silk and the design of long flowing dresses can be traced back to their childhood in Somalia. 

Ayaan and Idyl Mohalim founders of Mataano

2. Lisa Folawiwo (Nigeria)

Lisa Folawiyo is a Nigerian Fashion designer and founder of the label “Jewel by Lisa”.  Lisa has cemented her reputation in the fashion world with her innovative use of Ankara and traditional African fabrics. Lisa Folawiyo has courageously converted Ankara, from an everyday fabric, into one of luxurious opulent beauty.

Lisa’s patterns betray every bit of the compulsive attention to detail she shows in how she delicately combines sharp, modern tailoring with glamorous beaded embellishments to create something of immense beauty.

A quick look at her bio and the passion reveals itself; Lisa proudly proclaims: “Each Lisa Folawiyo garment boasts a handcrafted and unique history from inception to construction. Folawiyoʼs expert artisans hand embellish each Lisa Folawiyo piece, on average a 240 hour process that reflects the brandʼs focus on design integrity.”

You are left with in doubt when you take a look at her designs that this statement rings true.

Lisa Folawiyo founder Jewel by Lisa

3. David Tlale (South Africa)

David Tlale is a fashion pioneer across Africa and gaining well deserved global recognition too. David’s is work has been showcased at the Cape Town Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week and he has designed for major retailers like Edgars. His clothing line consists of high-end ready-to-wear, made-to-wear, and bridal wear. In 2016, David Tlale won two awards in the Abryanz and Fashion Awards (ASFAs); The Lifestyle/style and Fashion Icon Achievement Award and The Continental style & fashion influencer award (male).

David’s rise in fashion corresponded with the end of apartheid Post-1994, when South Africa became a democracy. David in an interview once described his fashion odyssey as: “I started working from home to do wedding dresses and prom dresses. In 2003 I took a leap of faith and decided to build my brand. It was around the same year that fashion started to become more of a business locally and there was growing support for local designers amongst South African retailers. In addition, our lifestyles started changing: South Africa’s middle class grew, people developed an appetite for local design, and wealthy locals felt the need to have a go-to fashion designer for their family”

David continues to be an in inspiration to young and upcoming designers through his mentorship program.

4. Ozwald Boateng (Ghana)

Ozwald Boateng’s parents emigrated from Ghana in the 1950s. 

Ozwald Boateng was influenced at a very early age by his dapper dad and his mother who had previously worked with fabric and became a seamstress.

Ozwald received his first suit aged five. With an interest in fashion, particularly tailoring, Ozwald obtained a summer job sewing linings into suits aged 14.

While studying computing, Boateng was introduced to designing by his girlfriend at the time. Using his mother’s old sewing machine, he started to design and create his own garments, which he sold to his peers. This led to him switching his course to fashion and design.

After helping a friend design clothes for a fashion show, Boateng received praise for his work.

Ozwald Boateng

This encouraged him to create his own collection, which he sold to a menswear shop in Covent Garden. With the finance raised from the sale, Ozwald opened his own studio in 1991.

Ozwald presented his first catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week in 1994, the first tailor to ever show there. With the show a success, Ozwald was encouraged to open his first boutique on Savile Row in 1995.

Ozwald offered a modern take on menswear design and tailoring and, in 2002, Boateng moved his whole business to Savile Row, he was the first black tailor to ever achieve this feat.

Having reinterpreted the British art of bespoke tailoring, Ozwald Boateng is known to combine excellence and luxury with a modern and fresh design philosophy. He has broken new grounds with his reinterpretation of tailoring. He has adorned celebrities such as Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Mick Jagger in his well-tailored designs.  He also won Lifetime Award at the ARISE Fashion Week.

5. Laz Yani (South Africa)

South Africa’s Laz Yani, hails from the Eastern Cape, and made it to the limelight after he won the 2013 South Africa Fashion Week Renault New Talent Search. Laz had entered several fashion competitions before winning the SAFW award.

He moved to Port Elizabeth to study fashion and pattern engineering. After his studies, he had been able to secure a bursary and a two-year internship at an acclaimed fashion brand which afforded him the chance to showcase in Vienna, Austria in 2011.

After his 2013 win with the Cutterier’s Spring Summer collection, which was inspired by the travelling woman, Laz expressed his vision of working with large retail outlets to push his elegant wrinkle-free, garments to all lovers of great all-season styles.

Laz Yani

6. Tiffany Amber (Nigeria)

Folake Folarin-Coker is the founder of Tiffany Amber. Tiffany Amber remains an iconic fashion house both locally in Nigeria and internationally.

Born in Lagos Nigeria, and educated in Switzerland, England, and Scotland, Folake graduated with a Masters in Petroleum Law. But, drawn as much to fashion as to legal work, Folake decided to focus on fashion.

Folake’s fashion house Tiffany Amber was established in 1998 in Lagos Nigeria.

Tiffany Amber designs combine classic cuts and bold colours brilliantly. They were the first African fashion design house  to feature at the New York Mercedes Fashion Week two years in a row.

Folake  has also featured widely on many international media houses.

Folake has also received an Enterprise Award at WIE (Women, Inspiration and Enterprise) Symposium in 2013 and has also made it onto the Forbes Power Women in Africa list.

Folake Folarin-Coker founder of Tiffany Amber

7. Sindiso Khumalo (South Africa)

Sindiso Khumalo born in Botswana and raised in Durban, South Africa studied architecture at the university of Cape Town before moving to London.

Once Sindiso arrived in London she had a change of heart and decided to take a plunge into fashion, she then went on to study for a Masters in Design for Textile Futures at Central Saint Martins in London.

Having launched her Sindiso Khumalo label in 2012, she showcased her SS13 collection at the Elle competition awards. Sindiso’s Aretha Dress was nominated for ‘Most Beautiful Object in South Africa’ by Design Indaba Cape Town in February 2013.

The Sindiso Khumalo label focuses on sustainable contemporary textiles. 

Over the years, Sindiso has developed a uniquely colorful visual voice that draws upon her Zulu and Ndebele’s heritage.

Sindiso Khumalo

Sindiso’s studio is based in London, but her collections are made in South Africa. She has also been working closely with NGOs in South Africa to impact. “I believe fashion can become an empowering agent by creating a positive economic activity in otherwise marginalized parts of the world.” She also said; “It?s important to me that the clothes have integrity. That the workers are paid a decent wage, and I work closely with the people who make the clothes.

Sindiso Khumalo has won Vogue Italia “Who’s On Next Dubai” in 2015. Her works have been published in “Africa: Architecture, Culture and Identity”, Vogue Italia, Vogue UK, Elle Magazine and Marie Claire Magazine. Her craft displays an incredible mixture of fashion and architecture.

8. Maki Osakwe (Nigeria)

Maki Oh was founded by Amaka Osakwe in 2010 it is a Lagos based women ready to wear label which has enjoyed flourishing success since it’s establishment. Amaka obtained a BA in fashion studies from Arts University Bournemouth in the UK, before returning to Lagos Nigeria the sity in which she was raised, to launch her fashion label Maki Oh. The fashion brand’s first collection, Autumn/Winter 2010, drew inspiration from rural Ghana’s Dipo rites-of-passage ceremony, and set the tone for the label’s signature of fusing African indigenous textiles and western concepts.

In 2012, Maki Oh debuted at New York Fashion Week, but the label’s real breakthrough in the US came in 2013, when US First Lady Michelle Obama wore it during a trip to Johannesburg, and later invited Osakwe to join her at the “Celebration of Design” event at the White House.

A finalist for the LVMH Prize in 2014, Osakwe has since garnered significant interest from international fashion press and attracted an enviable celebrity clientele that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles and Leelee Sobieski.

Amaka 'Maki' founder of Maki Oh

9. Shunnoz Fiel and Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga (Angola)

Shunnoz Fiel and Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga are the duo behind Angola’s Projecto Mental Fashion House.

Fiel’s designs are influenced by his love for poetry, writing and music. Fiel studied theology and psychology and previously worked in the telecoms industry before before finally pursuing his passion and love for fashion.

Nzinga, the other half of the crew was born in Angola but raised in London, England. It was during his sojourn abroad that he discovered his gift of self-expression through fashion designing. So after studying anthropology and African studies, Nzinga returned to Angola and followed through with his passion for fashion.

The duo’s work and determination to showcase Angola to the world with their designs has won them international acclaim globally, British Vogue, Women’s Wear Daily, GQ Style, GQ Brazil and i-D Magazine are some of the publications where they have been featured.

Shunnoz Fiel and Tekasala Ma’at Nzinga founders of Projecto Mental Fashion House

Projecto Mental won Moda Luanda’s Designer of the Year award in Angola in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, the duo was awarded by Belas Fashion Week in Angola for promoting Angolan fashion nationally and internationally.

10. Nkechi Harry Ngonadi (Nigeria)

Nkechi Ngonadi is the proprietress of the NHN Couture. NHN Couture is a fashion house which passionately preserves it’s African roots. Their designs effortlessly emanate a blend of class, elegance and enduring fashion. NHN Couture is the one stop shop for clientele of discerning taste with its select ranges of fabrics, as well as ready-to-wear apparels and accessories.

The ready-to-wear range covers a rich variety of choices  lace tops, skirts, dresses to chiffon/lace gowns are just some of the options available to you.

Nkechi has also been instrumental in bringing back the traditional African Aso Ebi style to the forefront of contemporary African fashion.

NHN Couture is strictly African traditional style with a blend of modernism. 

Nkechi Ngonadi founder NHN Couture

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