Women-Owned Fashion Brands Your Closet Needs Right Now
Historically, Africa’s contribution to fashion has been showcased through vibrant and colourful embellishments. Opulent designs and colours are well-known characteristics through which the richly diverse continent communicates with the world. These are rooted in tradition and harness original native techniques in their curation. It may have been a slow burn, but the fashion world’s ever-watchful eyes have finally started to turn toward Africa and its emerging crop of fashion superstars.
To celebrate African women in the fashion industry, we take a look at women fashion designers setting trends on the continent and beyond with brands that are pushing contemporary boundaries.
With never-seen-before whimsical designs, South African luxury fashion brand MUNKUS offers ready-to-wear collections which can be layered into multiple looks for every occasion. The collections create an entire experience with youthful attire that tells a story through colours and prints. Founded by fashion designer Thando Ntuli, MUNKUS is a sustainable brand committed to promoting environmental consciousness through fashion. The brand boasts classic silhouettes influenced by 80s and 90s South African fashion, creating an intergenerational modern style.
Lisa Folawiyo Studio
Nigerian fashion designer, Lisa Folawiyo’s intricate, embellished designs have extended far beyond her home country. Having perfected the art of wearing “Ankara” (local West African cloth) through the use of ornate embellishment, the designer has transformed the textile to create a highly covetable print. The renowned fashion designer pays homage to her love for Ankara textiles in her pieces, crafted by a team of local expert artisans. As a result, Lisa Folawiyo’s pieces have appeared on the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Thandie Newton, and Solange Knowles, as well as on the pages of some of the world’s leading publications. Moreover, Lisa Folawiyo has accomplished international runaway success at New York Fashion Week.
Born in Brazil and raised between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States, Loza Maleombho started designing clothes at a very young age. After completing her fashion degree, she interned with Jill Stuart, Yigal Azrouël, and Cynthia Rowley, before launching her own brand in 2009. The brand was first established in New York before relocating to the Ivory Coast three years later. Bridging an African aesthetic with contemporary fashion, Maleombho’s designs fuse Ivorian tribal aesthetics with New York’s urban fashion – think tribal prints and futuristic cuts.
South African jewellery powerhouse, Kirsten Goss, has become synonymous with contemporary African fashion. With standards of craftsmanship rooted in integrity, every piece of Kirsten Goss jewellery is entirely hand finished. This includes the most seemingly insignificant aspects of every piece meticulously laboured until perfect. Goss studied jewellery design in Stellenbosch and worked for Erickson Beamon in the UK before starting her eponymous label in London in 2002. She returned to South Africa and opened stores across the country in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, the most recent is a flagship store in Cape Town’s newest hub for art and culture, the trendy Silo District.
Johannesburg’s very own Mantsho clothing brand has become a household name thanks to the bonafide designs of its founder and creative director, Palesa Mokubung. Designing both ready-to-wear and red-carpet creations for her clients, Mokubung has been honing her craft as a designer since creating her label in 2004. Meaning “Black is Beautiful ” in Mokubung’s native language Sesotho, Mantsho is best known for its vibrant fabrics, as well as bold and edgy designs with distinct silhouettes. Her collections have been showcased on runways in Senegal, Greece, New York, India, and Nigeria. However, her collaboration with Swedish retailer H&M marked her biggest industry breakthrough.
Founded by Nigerian fashion designer Iretidayo Zacchaeus, STREET SOUK is an urban brand that celebrates Nigeria’s vibrant streetwear culture. Determined to empower her peers, Iretidayo Zacchaeus created the platform to bring Africa’s upcoming and established streetwear brands together for the purpose of creating new opportunities and reaching passionate fashion enthusiasts. The brand creates a space for young people to express themselves freely, enhance their creativity, and network. Street Souk merges fashion, music, and culture, building a community of like-minded individuals across the African diaspora.