theGrio Style Guide: a look into Africa’s powerful fashion industry

Guess what? African fashion is not just about dashikis and kente fabrics. Although both have significant and historical meanings in West Africa, hundreds of designers from across the continent showcase the beauty of the homeland through other forms of fashion. However, as Ghanaian writer and creative producer Ekow Barnes pointed out on his panel at the Business of Fashion Voices 2022 conference, Africa is often left out when inclusion is discussed.

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

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

Today, there are many designers, authors, photographers and entrepreneurs who actively participate in telling the rich stories of African countries. In fact, there is a strong African fashion scene. Taking a modern twist on traditional silhouettes and designs, African fashion ranges from luxury to streetwear with a focus 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 for New York Fashion Week at Affirmation Arts on September 5, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlašić/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 has been 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-owned luxury footwear brand believes that “within every woman lies a diamond – unique, resilient and imperfectly perfect.” Titi Adesa The collections balance understated elegance and modern femininity through redefined minimalist silhouettes.

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

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

Inspired by her African heritage and elements of nature, Andrea Dumebi Iyamah’s eponymous brand was founded in 2011. The bold colors, retro classic silhouettes and contemporary edge of her pieces are designed to inspire the adventurer in everyone.

Launched in 2017 by Aristide Lou, Kente Gentlemen is a clothing brand based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire that emphasizes ethically handcrafted high quality jackets, pants, skirts and dresses. The brand’s in-house atelier designs and tailors contemporary clothing and fashion accessories together with local craftsmen 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, 3D quality designs and mixed media materials, the brand offers an elegant Afrofuturistic style.

Danyl Howard is seen wearing 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 contemporary trends and colors.

African Fashion, African Diaspora, Africa Amplified
Photo: BLOKE

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

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

Jewelry designer Margaux Rusita’s Margaux Wong brand, based in Burundi, saves East African materials from a waste-related fate. The unique striking pieces within the fine jewelry line are created in collaboration with local artisans and are made from ethical 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. On a mission to promote originality, self-discovery and self-expression, the brand’s designs showcase the intersectionality between fashion, architecture and human experience.

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

Add a touch of sexiness to your everyday wardrobe with a piece from Set the Label. With every product made in Lagos, the brand offers light, 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 womenswear brand Onalaja is the result of founder creative director Kanyinsola Onalaja’s Nigerian heritage and Italian design influence. The brand’s motifs include mixing textures, sultry silhouettes and complex prints.

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

Sometimes all you need is some time in the sun, and this Nigerian-based brand has the gear you need for your next vacation. Salt and Sunscreen manufactures quality, fashionable swimwear for 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 a movement, is in its twelfth year of production since it was launched in 2011 by Adebayo Oke-Lawal. While OC focuses heavily on menswear, via the brand’s website, Lawal says his garments are for anyone who wants to tell a story with their own style.

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

Looking for luxury from the entire diaspora on one convenient platform? Ditto Africa is the ultimate online marketplace for consumers worldwide to buy directly from African brands from across the continent.

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