An indispensable style guide for 2013 – check out the shops, designers, trends, style icons and covetable clothes of the moment.
WORDS Enyinne Owunwanne
2012 was the year that saw African fashion hit the world stage. Powerful brands like Burberry created collections bursting with kente and ankara wax prints, and a Herald Tribune luxury conference held in Rome in November attended by the likes of Fendi, Valentino, Gucci and Gaultier was entitled ‘The Promise of Africa.’
The continent’s penchant for fashion is legendary, and you don’t have to look to Burberry to figure that out. Here’s a look at the stylish engine set to rev up another year of African fashion.
ARISE MAGAZINE FASHION WEEK
Arise Magazine – an international glossy highlighting global African fashion, music, culture, and politics – organises one of the largest, not to mention most extravagant, fashion week events geared towards providing visibility to African and African Diaspora designers. Boasting over 70 designers, 50 models, and thousands of attendees, it’s no surprise that the week-long event takes place in one of Africa’s most esteemed fashion capitals, Lagos, Nigeria.
Model, Designer & Philanthropist
Georgie Badiel is the epitome of beauty, brains, and benevolence. Badiel has posed for leading industry clients including Elle Magazine, Essence Magazine, Marc Jacobs, Betsy Johnson, and more. Georgie remains dedicated to improving the quality of life for people in her home country of Burkina Faso. She launched Georgie’s Garden, an accessory line of scarves and hats hand-woven by female artisans in Ouagadougou, and also Models 4 Water, a charity organisation dedicated to providing clean drinking water to people in Burkina Faso.
Designer & Shop
Ghanaian designer Aisha Obuobi created Christie Brown in March of 2008 after being inspired by her grandmother who was a talented seamstress in Ghana. Christie Brown is now known globally for providing luxurious African-inspired womenswear with a contemporary twist. Taking full control of her brand, Aisha recently opened a Christie Brown shop in Ghana, in collaboration with Mo-Saïque Shoes and Joansu Accessories, in order to meet the growing demands of discerning Ghanaian consumers.
Meeting Of Minds
Design Africa is a series of trans-continental dialogues aimed at elevating the perception of design stemming from the African continent. Design Africa has brought together thought-leaders, designers, artists, influencers, and brands in order to share trade insights that can bring about transformative change on the continent. Already, discourse has taken place in NYC and London. Next stop… Art Basel, Miami.
ELLE AIME CREATIVE
Created by Ivorian designer Loza Maléombho, Elle Aime Creative is a visual journey documenting the various cultures that Loza finds herself traversing. From Ivory Coast to Brazil, Elle Aime Creative offers an alternative viewpoint towards beauty in our surroundings. Loza proudly states on her blog: “Let a problem be a blank canvas on which you can paint beauty with answers.”
Fashizblack is a Paris-based magazine celebrating African fashion, culture, and beauty. Launched online three years ago, Fashizblack used the power of crowdfunding to expand their online magazine to a bi-monthly print publication in January of 2012. Since inception, Fashizblack has worked with notables from Solange Knowles to Angela and Vanessa Simmons for their cover stories, while featuring both African and international designers in the editorials.
GHANA FASHION & DESIGN WEEK
Ghana Fashion And Design Week launched its inaugural event in October, playing host to designers, editors, and tastemakers from around the globe. Vogue Italia was GFDW’s acclaimed international media partner, providing daily insights and coverage of this four-day event, including runway shows, industry seminars, and shopping events.
Online Shop & Blogazine
Heritage1960 is part online retailer, part blogazine. As a multi-media platform dedicated to providing curated access to global African fashion, design and culture, Heritage1960 has been praised by American Express as one of the ‘Top 5 Curated Clicks’, and The Guardian as one of the ‘Top 10 African Fashion Blogs’.
I SEE A DIFFERENT YOU
I See A Different You is a photo- documentary blog launched by three South Africans in Soweto, conveying the beauty and diversity of Africa as they see it. Be prepared to go on a visual journey that’s not only inspiring, but one that truly captures the essence and pulse of Africa from a distinctive viewpoint.
JEWEL BY LISA
Jewel By Lisa is a Nigeria-based fashion label that has broken grounds globally. With stockists from New York City to Dubai, Jewel By Lisa has proven that fashion made in Africa is not just for us and by us, but can indeed be for anyone. Most recently, Anna Wintour (Editor-In-Chief of US Vogue) selected Jewel By Lisa as an emerging designer to watch in Vogue’s ‘Who’s On Next?’ emerging talent scout.
DJ, Singer, and Model, Solange Knowles is no stranger to Africa nor style. A lover of African Wax prints, Solange has also been spotted wearing designers such as Suno, Maki Oh and Boxing Kitten. Solange’s recent video, Losing You, was shot in Cape Town and featured a few of our very favourite tastemakers, Les Sapeurs. Check out Solange donning South Africa’s finest designers on the November cover of Elle South Africa.
LAGOS FASHION & DESIGN WEEK
Lagos Fashion And Design Week is one of the most relevant platforms for emerging designers of African descent. Not sidetracked by the superficial glamour of the industry, LFDW truly takes a business stance towards promoting and elevating African designers. In addition to their annual fashion week event, LFDW has sponsored African designers to participate in international trade shows and events in London and Italy in order to further gain notoriety and grow business globally.
Arieta Mujay is not only a world-renowned stylist, having worked with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Oluchi, Tyson Beckford, and Kelly Rowland, but she is also a champion for the visibility and growth of African designers. The Nigerian stylist and PR maven has worked with Deola Sagoe, Maki Oh, Christie Brown, Tiffany Amber and has styled over 50 shows for Arise Magazine Fashion Week and Africa Fashion International collectively. Fresh off of an eight-country African journey, Arieta Mujay is a force to be reckoned with on the continent, and in the Diaspora.
Model & Activist
Kenyan model Ajuma Nasenyana is proof that beauty is not only skin deep. The Victoria’s Secret runway model has been on a campaign to change prevailing perceptions of European standards of beauty. “I have never attempted to change my skin. I am natural. People in Europe and America love my dark skin. But here in Kenya, in my home country, some consider it not attractive.” Not all talk, either, Ajuma is planning on launching a natural cosmetics and skincare line for black women in order to further promote healthy standards of beauty.
Nigerian editor Nikki Ogunnaike has made a formidable mark for herself within the US publishing industry. Currently the style editor for Glamour.com, Nikki has also previously worked for InStyle Magazine, Vanity Fair, Elle Magazine and Harpers Bazaar. Younger sister to leading journalist Lola Ogunnaike, Nikki has proven that brains, beauty, and brawn is truly an Ogunnaike signature.
PPQ, the internationally acclaimed London-based design house which is co-helmed by South African designer Amy Molyneaux, returned to its roots this year with a journey back to Africa. As one of the headline designers for Arise Magazine Fashion Week in Lagos, PPQ was a crowd pleasure with its statement-making monochromatic palette and heavy-hitting hand bags.
Custom digital prints are gracing African catwalks with almost the same prevalence as our beloved wax prints. Jewel By Lisa and Tiffany Amber both developed custom prints inspired by the pulse of a beating drum for their AW12 and SS13 collections respectively. Bridget Awosika’s AW12 custom prints paid homage to the Impressionist art movement of the 19th century. Meanwhile, Mimi Plange’s SS13 collection boasted custom prints inspired by an English tea setting.
Nigerian-based womenswear brand Republic Of Foreigner recently opened a new concept store in Ikoyi, Lagos. Part-boutique, part-design workshop, part-graphic studio, ROFHAUS dubs itself as an “Afropolitan iteration of minimalist design, combining ideas of simplicity and functionality”. And simple and functional it is, too. The open space designed by SparkCreative resembles a NYC Soho loft, with a laid-back San Francisco sensibility.
Les Sapeurs, a society of men originating in the Brazzaville region of Congo, continue to influence leading designers and tastemakers worldwide. An evolution of Le SAPE, which stands for ‘Society des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes’, Les Sapeurs are characterised by sartorial elegance, vivid choice of color combinations, and affinity for tailoring.
Temple Muse, Lagos’ premiere high-end retailer, recently welcomed internationally acclaimed designer Matthew Williamson to its well-curated speciality shop. Joining homegrown brands such as Lanre Da Silva and Tiffany Amber, as well as International superstars such as Missoni and YSL, the Victoria Island based store has solidified itself as Lagos’ style destination.
UNHCR X ALEK WEK’S JOURNEY HOME
Sudanese Supermodel Alek Wek teamed up with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to document her epic journey home to celebrate South Sudan’s very first anniversary in July 2012. The Dinka model fled from Sudan in 1991, and soon became one of the first African models to appear on international catwalks. Alek Wek is committed to helping rebuild her country, specifically starting with youths.
London-based brand Virgos Lounge started off as an online vintage purveyor, and has since morphed into an accessible and on-trend fashion label stocked by UK fashion-fashion retailer, Topshop. Created by three Nigerian pals, who happen to all be Virgos, Virgos Lounge is a testament to vision, persistence, and execution!
WAX ON, WAX OFF
African Wax Print has been gracing international catwalks for seasons now. From Womenswear to Menswear and Shoes to Interior Accessories, wax prints are becoming as ubiquitous as herringbone, except steeped with history to boot. African designers such as Jewel By Lisa, Ozwald Boateng, and Mo-Saïque have each used African Wax Print to convey a contemporary and universal design aesthetic. International designers such as Burberry and Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B have also embraced it.
Xüly Bet, created by Malian-born designer Lamine Badian Kouyate, is one of the earliest pioneers of African fashion going global. Wolof for ‘keep an open mind’, Xüly Bet has been heralded by the NY Times and the French Ministry Of Culture, exhibited at the V&A in London, worked with Puma, and graced catwalks across five continents, including New York Fashion Week and Arise Magazine Fashion Week. Fashionistas can get their fix at the Xüly Bet Funkin’ Fashion Factory in Paris.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
Algerian born and Parisian bred, Yves Saint Laurent is one of fashion’s most significant designers. The Africa Collection in 1967 – made from rafia, shells, and wooden beads – remains one of YSL’s most successful collections. Although he’s passed on, his legacy will forever leave a dutiful impression within global fashion.
Zippers have been making a statement both on and off the runway. Bold heavy-weight zippers accentuated and created contrast in Tsemaye Binitie’s SS13 collection. African-Inspired collection Altazurra also used exposed zippers to add detail to his SS13 collection. This summer, consider yourself a-okay to be exposed.
Enyinne Owunwanne is Founder and Creative Director of online retail destination, Heritage1960.