When it comes to the world of Fashion and Design in Africa, it is still very much evolving. Although, the exponential growth and improvement over the past few years have been very impressive and ground-breaking, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. As an African, part of the reasons why i started blogging about fashion was simply because of the love and interest i had for all things fashion and style and also, the constant zeal to inspire people and improve the African Fashion Scenes around me. If you dont know more about your immediate environment and the things that could influence its growth and improvement, it will never grow or excel. Even if you have a limited knowledge of things, its growth will still be stunted and one-sided. Fashion, beauty and Art is the world i have chosen to embrace and in order to influence its growth, i need to shine more light on it. So without wasting any more time expressing my inner-most thoughts, join me as i explore the world of African Fashion at large. Firstly, let me introduce you to some designers you probably dont but absolutely should know.
1. CHARLENE DUNBAR OF SUKAKO BETTY
Charlene Dunbar is the creative brain, owner and designer behind Sukako Betty Line (pronounced SWAH KO-KO). Born in Liberia, Africa, Charlene credits her inspiration solely to being proudly African. She describes her inspiration saying "I'm really glad was born African. Africa is that cool, sophisticated friend who tells the best jokes, has the best food at her house, and out-hustles everyone. I started Suakoko betty to show off that friend, with all her wit, confidence and genius." Although, she moved to Atlanta when she was 11, she took away style lessons from studying her mother and the church ladies in Liberia. Since then, Sukako Betty has risen to success and fame. She was selected as a 2014 Belk Southern Designer Showcase winner, Suakoko betty's authentic African wax print dress collection was sold in select Belk stores and received rave reviews from longstanding and new customers.
Charlene's success didnt stop there. Last year, she was featured in ESSENCE Magazine after working with ESSENCE and Chevy to create a capsule collection that was revealed at the ESSENCE Street Style Block Party on September 13, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. You can read her ESSENCE feature here. Charlene's designs include Dresses, Jumpsuits, skirts and accessories and you can go ahead and shop them here.
2. TAIBO BACAR
Mozambican-born Designer Taibo Bacar, is undeniably one of the most creative and most successful designers in Africa. Born the son of a seamstress, Bacar grew up around the sounds of sewing machines, fabrics and the design sketches he drew for some of his mother’s clients. One day, he decided to take a chance and follow his childhood passion, leaving the world of business and heading to Spain to take a course in design and pattern cutting. Today, Taibo Bacar has succeeded in carving his name on the African Wall of Fame. With numerous awards, recognitions and accomplishments through out Africa and the rest of the world. Taibo Bacar is more than a force to reckon with in the African Fashion Scenes. Named the emerging designer of the year by the African International Fashion Society, featured in Vogue Italy (check it out here), ELLE South Africa (check it out here) Taibo Bacar and his designs have graced several runways and top fashion shows like Milan Fashion Week, Arise Magazine Fashion Week in Nigeria, Mercedes Africa Fashion Week, Labo Ethnic in Paris, Cite de La Mode et du Design in Paris...the list goes on an on.
Taibo Bacar describes his designs as the "Essence of Womanhood". When interviewed by Australian Journalist Jason MacNamara who asked about his designs he said "I make clothing for women. By that I mean the feminine woman, the one who knows how to express her femininity in all contexts, who knows how to walk, talk and act like a woman. Imagine even a woman in the military, I'll do it for her". Confident words from a multi-talented man. Taibo Bacar's dresses have also been spotted on famous African celebrities like Lira and just recently Bonang Matheba at the Oliver Awards in South Africa.
Sadly, Taibo's clothes are not available for purchase online, at least not yet...but you can go ahead and contact his shop via his Social media platform. Click here to do that.
3. PAAKOW ESSANDOH & GEORGGE KARIUKI OF MIZIZI INTERNATIONAL
MIZIZI International, LLC is a Street-wear line founded in 2014 by two African (One Ghanaian, and the other Kenyan) University of South Florida students, who were sitting in the dining hall discussing the scarce amount of Africans and African pride that was shown in Florida. After spending hours of discussion, they compared & contrasted the ways in which Caribbean’s display their culture throughout the state and what Africans could do to do the same. This unknowingly lead to the birth of Mizizi; meaning “roots” in Swahili, the purpose of the line was to stylishly show off the African culture and revive the pride that lies dormant in many of our hearts. After further discussion, the students were insistent in bringing their idea to life. With the help of the USF Research department they were able to research the amount of African immigrants/2nd generation born in the USA, to find the demographic countries in which the collection would target.
As of 2015, Mizizi has a collection of 7 pieces showcasing the most populous immigrants in the United States. One of my personal favorites from their latest collection, would be the "Black Lives Matter" Jersey which was created earlier on before things got heated in the US. I am truly inspired by this Brand and its founders originality and passion. I read an interview once of Paakow Esandoh, where he was asked to share a message with anyone who he could and he said "Once you find your personal legend, your calling in life; run with it. It may mean putting yourself in uncomfortable positions or doing so by unconventional means, but it’ll be fulfilling regardless the entire way through. You’re blessed with your life, why not do what makes you happy"? Can you beat that. You can go ahead and shop the brand here and keep up with Mizizi on the social media streets here.
4. ADAMA NDIAYE OF ADAMA PARIS
Amanda Ndiaye is a Senegalese fashion designer. She also goes by the name Adama Paris, which is the name of the label she owns and operates. Born in 1976 in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Republic of Zaire) where she spent her first three years as a child before moving to Paris, because she was the daughter of a diplomat. Adama spent her growing up years in several cities and countries around the world. As a result, she became a true cosmopolitan. She left a banking career in Europe to pursue fashion design in her native country.
Africa had a long history of design but struggled for mainstream acceptance, and raising capital for her business was difficult. In order to expand the visibility of African design, Ndiaye returned to her native Senegal from Europe and set up the Dakar Fashion Week exhibition at just 21 years of age.
By 2012, the tenth year of the show, it attracted thirty designers from nine countries in Africa and Asia, with audience members coming from around the world, and had an operating budget of more than CFA 80 million (about US$150,000). She has also organized Black Fashion Week events in Prague, Czech Republic, and Bahia, Brazil.
Her designs are inspired by cities and globalism. In an interview with Vogue Italia, she stated, "Much of my inspiration come from the big cities... My aim was and still is sharing with all modern women one fashion without borders. Adama Paris was born from my desire to share my passion for fashion as well as fulfilling my will for displaying diversity''. From being known worldwide for creating Fashion-Week in Dakur to being on the pages of Vogue Italia to being interviewed by CNN and on BBC, Adama is a worldwide phenomenon that has positively influenced the growth and success of Africa through her love for Fashion.
You can go ahead and shop her collection here, or you can keep up with this Icon via her social media platform here.
5. AISHIA OBUOBI OF CHRISTIE BROWN
Aisha Obuobi is the Ghanaian behind the label Christie Brown. The label was founded in March 2008 with the launch of the brand’s first run way show in Accra. Creative Director, Aisha Obuobi began her love affair with fashion at an early age. However, the real motivation came from watching her grandmother Christie Brown, a seamstress, create rich and vibrant garments. Today, Christie Brown stands uniquely as a women’s apparel and accessories manufacturer and retailer with pieces ranging from beautiful bespoke gowns, practical yet statement pieces to innovative accessories all inspired by the African culture and art. Her clothes and accessories have made a bold statement, painting the runways with a fuse of color and culture, fit for the contemporary African woman.
To date, the label has demonstrated international success. Besides winning The Emerging Designer of the Year Award in 2009 at the inaugural Arise Africa Fashion Week in Johannesburg, South Africa, Christie Brown was also the only Ghanaian label chosen to showcase in the Arise L’Afrique- a- Porter, in Paris as part of Paris Fashion Week in March 2010. At the 2010 Africa Economic Forum hosted by Columbia University, Aisha was invited to sit on the panel for “African Fashion Going Global”; a discourse on making African Fashion a recognizable global industry. The brand has also captured the attention of global magazines including Harpers Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Arise (UK), Canoe 53 Sails, Black Hair (UK), Destiny (SA), and Glamour Magazine to mention a few.
Go ahead and shop the Christie Brown collection here, you can also keep up with the designer via Instagram by clicking here.
I dont know what your measure of Success might be, but for me these 5 African Fashion Designers have broken ground and contributed in their various ways to the success and growth of Africa. They have used their hard-work, talent and creativity to bring positive recognition to Africa and that's what success should be all about. After all, they say "success is not measured by what you accomplish in life, but by what you inspire others to do". Thanks to this phenomenal designers for being a constant source of Inspiration to me and hopefully you, after reading this.
This are just 5 in a fountain of so many...Until the next time (which would be really soon) i shine more light on Africa and it's magic, dont forget to watch this space and come back for more.