theGrio Style Guide: An insight into Africa’s robust fashion industry

Guess what? African fashion is more than just dashikis and kente. While both hold significant and historical significance in West Africa, hundreds of designers from across the continent showcase the beauty of the homeland through other forms of fashion. But as Ghanaian writer and creative producer Ekow Barnes pointed out in his panel at the Business of Fashion Voices 2022 conference, Africa is often left out of discussions of inclusion.

“Whenever the West tells our story, it’s always a little one-sided,” Barnes said.

African Fashion Designers, African Fashion Brands,
Andrea Iyamah’s designer space at the REVOLVE Gallery NYFW presentation at Hudson Yards on September 8, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Today, there are plenty of designers, authors, photographers and entrepreneurs who are actively involved in telling the rich stories of African countries. There is actually a robust African fashion scene. With a modern twist on traditional silhouettes and patterns, African fashion ranges from luxury to streetwear with an emphasis on sustainability. So the next time you’re in a heated fashion debate or just want to splurge, consider these brands and designers.

African Fashion, Tongoro,
Tongoro runway show at ESSENCE Fashion House for New York Fashion Week at Affirmation Arts on September 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

Designed and manufactured in Dakar, Senegal, Tongoro brings playful and unique designs to the forefront of fashion. Founded by Sarah Diouf, the brand has gained international recognition and is worn by Beyonce, Burna Boy, Naomi Campbell and more.

Founder and designer Titi Adesanya speaks on stage during the 35th Annual Footwear News Achievement Awards on November 30, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Footwear News)

This Nigerian luxury footwear brand believes that “there is a diamond within every woman – unique, durable and imperfectly perfect”. Titi Adesa The collections balance understated elegance and modern femininity through redefined minimal silhouettes.

Founded in 2018 by Travis Obeng-Casper, contemporary Ghanaian unisex label Ajabeng boasts an Afro-minimalist aesthetic that combines bold colors with more relaxed patterns and silhouettes. The brand’s range of linen tunics, shorts and trousers make a statement on their own, but can easily be dressed up when needed.

African Fashion, Andrea Iyamah,
Andrea Dumebi Iyamah attends the REVOLVE Gallery NYFW presentation at Hudson Yards on September 8, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for REVOLVE)

Andrea Dumebi Iyamah’s eponymous label, inspired by her African heritage and natural elements, was founded in 2011. The bold colors, retro classic silhouettes and contemporary edges of her pieces are designed to awaken the adventurer in everyone.

Launched in 2017 by Aristide Loua, Kente Gentlemen is a clothing brand based in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, that emphasizes handcrafted, high quality ethically sourced blazers, trousers, skirts and dresses. The brand’s own atelier designs and tailors contemporary clothing and accessories alongside local artisans and men.

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Fruché is a modern luxury fashion brand based in Lagos, Nigeria, founded by self-taught designer Frank Aghuno in 2014. With its unique silhouettes, quality 3D designs and mixed materials, the brand offers an elegant Afrofuturistic style.

Danyl Howard is seen in Imad Eduso at NYFW at Spring Studios on September 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Sophisticated, vibrant and functional, Imad Eduso is a womenswear brand based in Lagos, Nigeria. Founded in 2015, the brand creates timeless pieces using current trends and colors.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: BLOKE

Founded by Faith Oluwaji in 2015, Bloke is a Nigerian brand that questions the relationship between art, culture and fashion. By combining contemporary design with handwork and traditional patterns, Bloke offers its own unique concept of luxury for men and women.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: Margaux Wong

Burundi-based jewelry designer Margaux Rusita’s Margaux Wong brand rescues East African materials from a waste-bound fate. Unique pieces within the range of fine jewelery are made in collaboration with local artisans and crafted from ethically sourced cow horns, brass and other materials.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: NDA

Designed by Nigerians for the world, NBDA is a footwear brand influenced by multi-dimensional fashion. With a mission to promote originality, self-discovery and self-expression, the brand’s designs showcase the intersection between fashion, architecture and human experience.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: Seta The Label

Add a touch of sex appeal to your everyday wardrobe with a piece from Seta the Label. With every product made in Lagos, the brand offers effortless, simple yet trendy styles for the modern woman.

Models walk the runway for Onalaja/Dayverse during DC Miami Swim Week: The Shows powered by DCSW at SLS South Beach on July 15, 2022 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Thomas Concordia/Getty Images for DC Miami Swim Week)

Demi-couture women’s brand Onalaja is the result of creative director Kanyinsola Onalaja’s Nigerian heritage and Italian design influence. The brand’s motifs include mixing textures, sensual silhouettes and intricate prints.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: Salt and sunscreen

Sometimes all you need is some time in the sun and this Nigerian brand has the gear you need for your next vacation. Salt and Sunscreen manufactures quality, fashionable swimwear for both men and women.

Models walk the runway during the Orange Culture Runway Show – Style360 NYFW on September 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Cynthia Edorh/Wireimage)

Orange Culture, a Nigerian brand that is not just a clothing line but also a movement, is in its twelfth year of production since its launch in 2011 by Adebayo Oke-Lawal. While OC has a strong focus on menswear through the brand’s website, Lawal says his garments are for anyone interested in telling a story with their style.

Cape Town-based womenswear brand Selfi, founded by Celeste Arendse, specializes in ethically sourced bespoke products for the modern woman. The pieces are structured, strappy and often in neutral colors, making them an instant wardrobe staple.

Are you looking for luxury from the entire diaspora on one convenient platform? Ditto Africa is the best online marketplace for consumers worldwide to shop directly from African brands across the continent.

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