In the vibrant tapestry of Africa’s fashion landscape, revolutionary game-changers are weaving threads of innovation and tradition, creating tailored pieces that not only adorn the body but also tell stories of identity, heritage, and empowerment.
These visionaries of African fashion, breaking barriers, redefining creativity, and setting trends that resonate far beyond the continent’s borders.
In a world where fashion has become a universal language, these African women designers have over the past decade been making waves in the global fashion community using their creativity and craftsmanship to redefine– not only what we wear but also how African culture and femininity are perceived.
Here are our top 7 African women designers in a general sequence.
Nelly Hagan-Deegbe (Duaba Serwa)
Nelly Hagan-Deegbe, the maestro behind the renowned fashion brand Duaba Serwa, has been turning heads with her exquisite designs since 2011. Duaba Serwa’s creations are not merely garments; they are intricate works of art.
The fashion brand has gained recognition for its exquisite craftsmanship, intricate contemporary garments, and attention to detail. However, what truly sets Duaba Serwa apart is her remarkable use of vibrant color palettes and the brand’s signature triangular origami pleats, which add a unique and captivating dimension to her creations.
From gracing the cover of Vanity Fair’s Annual Hollywood issue alongside luminaries like Michaela Coel to earning accolades from global media giants like CNN, BBC, and Deutsche Welle, Duaba Serwa’s meteoric rise in the fashion world is nothing short of extraordinary.
Her designs have transcended runways and magazines, finding a place among Hollywood’s elite, including the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Eva Omaghomi, Director of Community Engagement to King Charles III and Queen Camilla. But Duaba Serwa doesn’t stop at star-studded showcases and high-profile features.
The brand has left an indelible mark on the international fashion stage, gracing esteemed platforms like Alta Roma Alta Moda and Portugal Fashion Week S/S’ 2023, captivating audiences with its distinctive style and innovative garment dyeing techniques.
Since its inception, Duaba Serwa has been at the forefront of fashion innovation, celebrating the African Renaissance with every stitch.
Loza Maléombho, a creative talent born in Brazil and raised between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States, discovered her passion for design at a young age, beginning her journey at the age of 13. Her educational path led her to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation from the University of the Arts of Philadelphia in 2006. Following her studies, she embarked on a transformative internship with top fashion designers in New York City, ultimately fueling her ambition to establish her own brand.
In 2009, she founded her brand, Loza Maléombho, in the vibrant heart of New York City. However, her connection to her roots and the allure of Côte d’Ivoire led her to relocate her brand’s production to the African nation in 2012. Today, Loza Maléombho is a captivating blend of traditional African aesthetics and contemporary fashion, symbolizing a bridge between these worlds.
Loza Maléombho’s distinctive silhouettes elegantly celebrate the paradox of old and new, intertwining cultural elements with futuristic designs. Central to her creative process is a collaboration with local artisans, including shoemakers, weavers, and bronze workers, who have inherited their crafts through generations. These artisans play an integral role in shaping her collections, infusing authentic craftsmanship into each piece.
Loza’s remarkable journey has seen her showcase her collections at renowned fashion events, including Boston and New York fashion weeks, as well as similar occasions in Johannesburg and Lagos. Her artistic prowess has been widely recognized and celebrated in the entertainment sphere. Renowned figures from the world of entertainment, including Kelly Rowland, Teyana Taylor, Iman, and the iconic Beyoncé– who showcased Loza’s designs in her memorable musical film “Black is King,” have all elegantly graced her creations.
The ascent of Loza Maléombho in the fashion industry underscores her unique artistic vision and dedication to blending tradition with innovation, all while championing the rich heritage of Côte d’Ivoire.
In the ever-evolving world of fashion, where innovation and creativity set the stage for groundbreaking change, there are certain individuals whose names become synonymous with transformation. One such luminary is Folake Folarin-Coker, proudly hailing from Nigeria. When we delve into the realm of game changers in the fashion industry, her name shines bright, an unwavering beacon of creativity and innovation. As the founder and creative director of Tiffany Amber— one of Africa’s foremost fashion labels, her journey has been nothing short of remarkable, she has not only redefined fashion in Nigeria but has also left an indelible mark on the global stage.
Folake achieved a groundbreaking feat as the first African-based designer to showcase her designs for two consecutive seasons at the prestigious New York Fashion Week. This momentous achievement not only put Tiffany Amber on the international map but also highlighted the immense talent emanating from the African fashion scene.
The year 2009 marked a turning point when she was honored with the title of “Designer of the Year” at the prestigious African Fashion International event in Johannesburg. Her dedication and ingenuity also earned her the coveted “Fashion Brand of the Year” award at the Arise Fashion Week in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2011.
Folake’s creations are more than just garments; they are works of art that embody the essence of Nigerian beauty and elegance. It’s no wonder that influential Nigerian actresses like Rita Dominic, Genevieve Nnaji, and Joke Silva have chosen to adorn themselves in Tiffany Amber creations. Her brand has transcended borders, with Angolan supermodel Maria Borges gracing the world stage with her designs. While Folake Folarin-Coker may not frequently dominate the headlines in recent times, her enduring presence in the fashion industry cannot be overstated. With a career spanning nearly three decades, Folake Folarin-Coker’s journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment to redefining fashion. Her accomplishments are as diverse as they are impressive – from receiving the Enterprise Award at the Women, Inspiration & Enterprise Symposium to being recognized among Forbes’ “20 Young Power Africa Women” in 2013.
Folake Folarin-Coker’s journey is a symphony of creativity, passion, and innovation. Her designs are not just garments; they are reflections of a rich heritage and a vision that has touched hearts and set standards.
Sarah Diouf is the creative force behind the Senegalese ready-to-wear fashion label, Tongoro. Sarah embarked on this extraordinary adventure, launching Tongoro in 2016.
Tongoro has not only graced the runways but has also been adorned by global icons such as Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Alicia Keys, and more. Sarah’s driving passion is to elevate West African craftsmanship and culture to a global platform. She’s a self-identified “child of Africa,” born in Paris but raised in Abidjan, with a rich blend of Senegalese, Congolese, and Central African heritage. This blend of culture has become the wellspring of her creative energy, infusing every thread of Tongoro’s essence.
When Sarah created Tongoro, her vision was clear: it had to be 100% made in Africa. This wasn’t just about fashion; it was a statement, a commitment to fostering the economic and social development of artisans in Western Africa. It was about building a new narrative for Africa-based manufacturing.
Sarah draws inspiration from the essence of Senegalese fashion, characterized by regal, airy, and bold styles. Her creations elegantly merge these aesthetics with a global appeal, making them accessible to diverse audiences. The result? Fashion that celebrates cultural diversity and resonates with people worldwide.
One striking aspect of Tongoro’s aesthetic is its graphic black-and-white prints, reminiscent of the iconic works of Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta, two legendary Malian portrait photographers. These prints have become the brand’s signature, capturing the essence of African heritage and style.
Sarah Diouf is telling a powerful story of Africa’s past, present, and future, one stitch at a time.
Palesa Mokubung, a trailblazing figure in the world of African fashion, made history as the first African designer to collaborate with the renowned Swedish global giant, H&M. Her influence in the fashion industry earned her the title of ‘the African trend dictator’ by True Love magazine in 2019, a testament to her impact on shaping fashion trends on the continent.
Palesa’s remarkable contributions have not gone unnoticed. She was honored with a prestigious ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Free State Fashion Week and was recognized with a GQ Best Dressed award. Her disruptive innovation was further acknowledged with the Haig Club Clubman Disruptor Award. In 2014, Palesa Mokubung received the esteemed Carol Bouwer Mbokodo Award for her exceptional and invaluable contributions to the field of Arts and Culture in South Africa. Her brand, Mantsho, founded in 2014, has graced the stages of prestigious fashion weeks both locally and internationally, including a standout showcase at the BRICS show in 2018.
Mantsho has become synonymous with African-inspired prints and contemporary silhouettes, garnering admiration from fashion enthusiasts around the globe. Notably, her designs have been adorned by prominent public figures such as Lira, Simphiwe Dana, and Thandiswa Mazwai.
Palesa Mokubung’s journey through the fashion world is a testament to her pioneering spirit and dedication to promoting African fashion on the global stage.
Lisa Folawiyo is a fashion designer based in Nigeria. Her designs beautifully blend African prints with modern silhouettes, resulting in a fusion of cultures and styles that has graced runways around the world.
In 2005, with unwavering determination and a vision in her heart, she founded her label, Lisa Folawiyo, previously known as Jewel by Lisa. Her brand’s essence lies in crafting exclusive collections from the vivid and wax-resistant dyed fabrics indigenous to West Africa.
Lisa’s influence stretches far and wide. Her brand has graced international platforms in fashion capitals like Lagos, Johannesburg, London, Paris, Milan, and New York. In these global arenas, her designs have left an indelible mark, garnering acclaim from publications such as Vogue, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle.
What makes Lisa Folawiyo a true maestro is her unique aesthetic, born from the fusion of traditional African fabrics and modern tailoring. She breathes life into her designs, infusing them with the spirit of West Africa. Each piece tells a story of heritage, culture, and innovation.
2008 marked the genesis of the Christie Brown brand—- a brand that harmonizes tradition with innovation. Two-time recipient of the African Designer of the Year award, Aisha Ayensu established the Ghana-based fashion label.
Aisha’s deep-rooted connection to her heritage stems from her grandmother’s legacy as a skilled seamstress. This heritage is the beating heart of Christie Brown, infusing every design and print with a profound cultural significance and personal artistic expression.
Beyond fashion, this is a dynamic narrative woven into each piece a celebration of the African woman’s unique journey. Christie Brown transcends clothing; it is an embodiment of design, storytelling, and a commitment to honoring the essence of every individual who wears its creations.
The label’s signature lies in traditional prints, adorning everything from bespoke gowns to striking ready-to-wear pieces and innovative accessories. Each creation is an ode to the West African culture, a living mural of heritage.
Aisha’s vision has graced icons like Danai Gurira, Gabrielle Union-Wade in her latest Netflix movie The Perfect Find, and American singer Beyonce’s mother, Tina Lawson, a legacy that firmly cements her place among Forbes’ Most Promising Entrepreneurs of 2016.
In addition to being a creative writer and content creator, Sefakor Humade is a true creative at heart. Believing in the transformative power of kindness, She envisions a world where everyone’s genuine compassion can make it a better place.