African Fashion has been making headlines all over the world in recent years, and it’s not because of the Afro-fusion elements found as the go-to-source for flair in garment making, but rather the unique understanding about garment construction and colour combinations, which is a rare aesthetic only understood from an african perspective. Local resources, traditional techniques and sustainability are a few factors that drive the fashion design leaders in Africa, and in return create collections that are making their European and American peers sit up and pay attention. African Fashion International (AFI) was established to create a platform for talented designers and are today pioneers in fast-forwarding talent’s success in the industry. AFI hosts Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Joburg and Cape Town and will also be hosting African Fashion Week in October 2016.
Fashion Designers Ines Cuatrecasas and Marc Oliver took a trip to Rwanda in 2008 and was introduced to local dressmaker Antoinette, which led to Marc and Ines moving to Kigali, where they developed their first collection in partnership with Antoinette. Mille Collines was born and today, it is fully owned and operated by the Kigali team that helped build the brand. The brand has a unique narration in all their collections, with a keen eye for detail. Their ability the visually bring a collection together is artistic and bold, rooted in tradition.
A leading name in African fashion, Tlale’s unique aesthetic is translated into his earthy originality in all his collections. Often inspired by mystical and spiritual elements, the garments embody African artistry unique to his design principles. Textures and raw materials are seen in his collections and have been seen around international runways. Tlale’s brainchild; The Intern collection showcases up and coming designers, who have trained with the legend. The image above was taken at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Joburg 16 during Thlale’s The Intern collection.
Known for dressing Solange Knowles, Lisa’s designs are known for their custom prints and impeccable attention to detail. Each and every hand-embellished piece requires around 240 hours of work, so the collections are truly unique with the perseverance and patience of an visual artist that goes in to every piece. She has shown her collections on international platforms; from Johannesburg and London to Paris and New York Fashion Week.
Sober is one of my favourite designers in South Africa. Mafokwane has the ability to create feminine pieces that are inspired by movement and its ability to create a breeze where there was only dry heat. Mafokwane says Sober Design House was born out of her inability to conform. Nothing is ordinary in her collections, with a strong sense of femininity grounded in confidence.
Liz Ogumbo is known for her modern take on traditional pieces that create collections that are elegant and eccentric. Ogumbo was born in Kenya and currently resides in South Africa where she is actively pursuing a career based on music in fashion. Ogumbo is also a stylist and hosts Fashion Lab on Cliff Central along with other influential people in the fashion industry.
When Valentino has credited your work, then you must be doing something right. Mozambique designer Taibo Bacar was the first designer to show in Milan and is truly in a league of his own. His design aesthetic is all about celebrating Africanism with aspired technicality and the unique use of beautiful materials.
Creative Director and granddaughter of seamstress, Christie Brown, Aisha Obuobi knew from a young age that she wanted to work in fashion. In 2008 she had her first runway show in Accra and that is also the show that launched the brand. Christie Brown is a Ghanaian based luxury women’s fashion label that aims to satisfy the need for a neo-African culture in style and fashion. All of the designs and accesories are inspired by African culture and art.
Self-taught fashion designer Papy Kaluw hand-makes his garments, which are all constructed in Joburg with locally sourced materials. I fell in love with his design identity when I saw his Autumn/Winter 16 collection at SA Fashion Week in 2015. The brand carries a strong urban feel that Kaluw says connects with the fast-paced lifestyle of modern living, whilst maintaining a strong sense of Africanism.
Gert-Johan’s designs are known for their glamourous touch of elegance on every garment created. He has been designing from a young age and has created a solid future in fashion design. He has dressed numerous celebs that include stars such as Kelly Rowland, Kristen Cavallari and Kourtney Kardashian. Yet to be invited to one of his shows, I hope seeing one could give me a more personal affiliation and true understanding of the opulent brand we as South African’s can be so proud of.