6 Contemporary African Fashion Brands to Know
May is Africa Month, during which we celebrate creativity across the continent. It’s not just about showcasing the brilliant work of African artists, artisans and designers – though we’ll certainly be doing this – but about exploring the cultural and symbolic significance of their work too. In this list, we highlight six of our favourite contemporary African fashion brands bridging past and present, and leading the way in style.
Ebuka Omaliko is the creative director and founder of luxury shoe and accessory brand Maliko, based in Nigeria’s buzzing city of Lagos. As one of the winners of the 2018 Lagos Fashion Week Green Access competition, Maliko makes thoughtful use of locally procured leather. In addition to its socially responsible and ethical foundation, the brand also has an educational element through upskilling leather craftspeople and empowering young talent. Maliko’s style comes through in architectural silhouettes, echoing the bold energy and authenticity of its wearers. Drawing inspiration from the founder’s own past, each prototype begins with a free hand sketch by Omaliko. With a sensibility both antique yet contemporary, Omaliko keys youthful energy into every Maliko piece, playing with deconstructed and experimental shapes, overstated proportions and an often muted color palette… all with the promise to leave you ‘shoe-filled.’
Follow @malikostudios on IG.
Storytelling is at the core of Ghanaian fashion brand Jermaine Bleu. Having participated in both the Lagos and Milan Fashion Weeks, the brand’s 25-year-old founder Jermaine Asiedu is a rising star. He describes his SS21 range as elegant, sexy and chic. Needless to say he draws from Ghanaian history and religious references, adding to these a contemporary twist. “When you look closely at the symbols in the prints that we used, it shows two swords crossing each other – the Akofena. This represents the authority which the Ashanti Empire is known for. They really believe in monarchy, so it was very important that I found a way to infuse this into the collection. The symbol also represents strength, bravery and the law. It was very exciting to work with with a symbol that spoke volumes,” Asiedu says.
Follow @jermainebleu on IG.
Based in Kampala, Uganda, Gwavah’s founder Gloria Wavamunno is also the founder and art director of Kampala Fashion Week. Her namesake non-binary label was established in 2009 and her pieces are constructed from sounds, cultures and the unexplainable. She says, “Finding yourself will find your art and find others”. Through her work at Kampala Fashion Week, Wavamunno supports the talent of local designers stepping out into the global market.
The contemporary artistic scene in Côte d’Ivoire is one of many African countries blooming with cultural expression. Kaalag is the label of Ivorian sisters Anta and Asna whose hybrid jewellery and apparel creations are textural, flamboyant, and subtle as a second-skin to the wearer. Kalaag means amulet n Wolof, and evokes the sense of a precious treasure. Largely inspired by their multi-cultural upbringing, the duo draws on the heritage of their Senegalese parents and their travels to study – Anta to France and Asna to Morocco.
Kusi Kubi (of Manju Journal) is leading the new wave of African tailoring, which speaks to Ghanaian history and weaves together second-hand style into a new-age brand.
With a conscious effort to reduce waste, his label Palmwine Icecream’s (PWIC) the new range is called Borga. “The Ashanti Borga were known for their immaculate style. Their attention to detail, colour coordination, excessive gold jewellery, gold teeth and slick jerry curls – oh how l admired them! That feel good energy has always lived with me. Times have changed; style has evolved. This collection is a celebration of that movement,” Kubi explains. “In collaboration with jewellery designer Gogo Philip, the gold brings to life the flair of Borga style. I’ve aimed to construct clothes out of the confines of the past in order to cheekily nod to a liberated future for myself and my brothers living on the continent,” Kubi concludes. “PWIC is for men living within and beyond the continent who have Africa in their hearts and minds.”
Lagos Space Programme
Founded by Adeju Thompson, Lagos Space Programme crosses disciplines – hosting performances, films and interviews on their Instagram page alone. Their latest project, titled Aṣọ Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn means “We Greet Dress before We Greet its Wearer”. Project 5 was shown at Milano Fashion Week and explores the inseparability of dress, performance and time in Yoruba culture. Thompson shared, “Project 5 looks through the lens of queer archetypes and deconstructing common myths of gender roles within it. By highlighting the masquerade ceremonies of the Gẹlẹdẹ, Ifa [Yoruba religion] divination typologies are also explored within the ‘Post-Adire canon – an ongoing exploration of storytelling via traditional textiles.” Lagos Space Programme take an Afro-futuristic spin on fashion, weaving together photography, filmmaking and design to set the scene for new-age African storytelling.
Follow @lagosspaceprogramme on IG.