African Fashion Designers - My Favorites So Far
I have an extremely stylish friend from Nigeria, and every time I see her I admire her clothes, accessories, and everything else that she is carrying with her. It always pulls you in when someone knows exactly who they are stylistically, because nothing seems forced. What they are wearing is just a natural extension of their being. So this friend once wore this gorgeous tunic dress in her apartment, and so I asked her if she could bring me one from her next trip to Nigeria, which she did. I'm talking about this one:
This was when I started to research what's happening in regards to fashion in Africa. Of course every country has its own style, and I have just started to scratch the surface of what is available. But I wanted to share my findings with you as long as summer is still around, since most of the pieces I found (not the jewelry) are best worn while the temperatures are still at least moderate.
I found Mawufemor on Instagram (@mawufemorapparel). Daniela, the owner, had put a photo of this skirt on her feed and I thought the print was amazing, so I immediately bought it (she only had enough fabric for one skirt). Since her skirts have a lining you can easily wear them into fall. I always pair these statement pieces with a simple tee or tank to keep the outfit grounded. Daniela comes from Ghana and lives with her family in Mississippi.
Oludan is May Olusola's online store (this is the link to her etsy store). Her skirts have a slightly thinner material, so they are more airy and flow more than the ones from Mawufemor. The waistbands of her skirts are wide (3 inches), which adds some drama to the outfit. It almost looks a bit like a corset - really amazing! May lives in Dallas but her mother is from Ghana and Nigeria. Her passion for African prints like Ankara, George, and Adire lead her to open her store in 2016.
3. Kiki Clothing
Come to think of it, I actually knew about Kiki Clothing before my friend Ruth brought me the dress from Nigeria. What caught my attention was that Titi Ademola's brand was featured in Vogue, Lupida Nyong'o was wearing one of her pieces in an editorial. She is known for her beautifully tailored dresses, all in boldly bright patterns. However, I felt drawn to her shoes, which she just added recently I believe. They are all sandals, there are three or four different styles, and I liked the simplicity of them. What I especially appreciate about these beauties is how soft they are. My feet are somewhat blister-prone, so I usually end up wearing a couple of shoes all season because the others leave painful memories. But theses from Kiki are so soft, I was able to wear them all day immediately. Highly recommend this style!
4. Tafari Tribe
The first time I encountered waistbeads was on my bellydance teacher. Then they popped up in conversations, and I started doing some research on them, for example where exactly to you wear them? At the waist or just below (both is ok I found). There is an endless selection in colors, and there are two types you can usually get: ones that you cut to the desired length and then tie a knot (you can get them off by pulling them over your head), or elastics (which I haven't tried). They're obviously great for the beach, but I think it's really nice to wear them underneath clothes as well, just for yourself. I bought these at Tafari Tribe, a shop close to where I live in New York. It's a family run business that focuses on fashion and accessories influenced by Caribbean, African, and South American cultures. I also listed a great Etsy shop from Ghana below that had an extensive collection and I would have bought from had I not found this local shop.
5. Cosmic Norbu
Fulani hoops are classics, and I've admired them for quite a while. I cannot pull off the larger sizes unfortunately, so was extremely happy when I found these small ones at Karin's store Cosmic Norbu (this is her etsy store). Karin is Swiss, and she collects antique jewelry from different regions - Tibet, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, and also Africa. She has a lot of statement pieces! For a larger selection on Fulani earrings, I listed a store below that sells them in different sizes in gold and silver, take a look.
Please, if you have any African designers you like, leave a comment or email me or dm me on my Insta or Facebook. Would love to expand my knowledge!
These are some other brands/designers/stores that I found and think are interesting, but haven't purchased anything from. This is their information below. If you buy anything from them, let me know how you like it!
Aaks: This brand founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi has beautiful woven bags that use traditional weaving techniques from Ghana. Her shapes are very modern, I particularly like her small cross body bags.
TandHDesigns Ethiopia: The Ethiopian twin sisters Tigist and Haimanot Damtew design jewelry using the traditional methods of their homecountry. A lot of the pieces are one of a kind. They are helping disadvantaged women by training them in jewelry making.
Rozzy African Shop: Store owner Rosalyne lives in Kenya, and is using traditional beading techniques from the Maasai tribe for her sandals and jewelry. I love her sandals and will order a pair before the next summer season.
Fulaba: This store has a great selection of Fulani earrings in silver and gold. Founder Haby Barry, a Guinean American of Fulani descent, works with artisans in Guinea, which has the highest percentage of Fulani people.
The Afrophile: This is the store I mentioned above where I almost ordered my waistbeads from. Ni Owuso is located in Ghana and has an endless selection of colors.
Alama Project: This project is focused on supporting the women of the Maasai and Meru tribes of Tanzania, who are famous for their beadwork. Co-founder Nini Golong is an established prop designer and has worked with all major fashion publications. The jewelry is glorious - very editorial. Definitely worth taking a look at these intricate pieces.