As a men’s fashion blogger, one would think it’d be easy for me to compile a top 10 list of African fashion designers who specialize in menswear. In putting this list together, we did not consider sales, profits, publicity, or how many celebrities are wearing a specific designer’s collection. Instead, we looked at the following criteria: 1) Is the designer or brand from Africa? 2) Are they producing clothes people would be interested in wearing? 3) Does their collection resemble their identity? Basically, if we answered ‘yes’ to all three of the above, we were happy to list them in the top 10.
Without further ado, here is our Top 10 African Fashion Designers of Menswear and Menswear Brands List for 2012 in no particular order:
1. Stiaan Louw
Stiaan Louw is a Cape Town-based menswear brand by a fashion creative of the same name. He started out with womenswear and was soon drawn to menswear, which allowed subtle nuances and legroom for experimentation. Stiaan Louw is one of South Africa’s most progressive menswear designers with a portfolio of work that establishes his credibility, locally and internationally.
2. Adriaan Kuiters
Adriaan Kuiters is the sublime menswear brand by Cape Town-based designer, Keith Henning. The brand is inspired by Keith’s globetrotting grandfather, Adriaan Kuiters. The collections follow a global footprint from a uniquely African perspective. The brand produces clothing meant to fit into any lifestyle without compromising individuality in their designs. It has nostalgic influences from the 1950s and includes meticulous attention to detail. It’s about cut, fit, and understated elegance. Classically modern.
3. MaXhosa Knitwear
MaXhosa Knitwear is a South African knitwear label for men. In essence, it’s a brand designed to cater to the immediate fashion needs of men who have transitioned into manhood through traditional ceremony. Laduma Ngxokolo, the creative director behind the brand, sees MaXhosa as a lifestyle brand that will soon extend its reach into home design and décor desires throughout the globe.
*Photos by Buki Akib, Animation by Renaissance Men
4. Buki Akib
Buki Akib is a she. And she is an African designer who makes knitwear for men. Inspired by African rock-n-roll legend, Fela Kuti, she translates an indigenous sound into fabric into garment into fashion into style. Born in Nigeria, and a graduate of Central Saint Martin’s in London, Buki Akib is a fashion spear, piercing through language and culture barriers through her interpretation of her heritage in a modern day perspective. Her capsule graduate collection is by far some of the most exciting knitwear to come out of Africa.
With a small Paris-based headquarters for the menswear label, one would be forgiven for not knowing that designer Laurence Chauvin Buthaud, hails from Ivory Coast. The name for the label, Laurenceairline, stems from his travels in early childhood, and how he always seemed to find himself in an aeroplane, flying from one location to another. The brand presents an African-inspired range of clothing that plays with African prints. The collections are sophisticated in a very casual, easy going manner.
6. Ohema Ohene
Queen and King: that’s what Ohema Ohene means in Twi. Abenaa Pokuaa took a simple relationship and translated it into a brand that represents both genders as a union and as individuals with specific tastes. The menswear line of the brand, Ohene, is subtle in its Afrocentricity. Introducing small doses of print to the boldly coloured pieces, Ohema Ohene gives the general man something casual, made of high-quality fabric, and that has also some character.
7. Mina Evans
Mina Evans is a womenswear label that produces amazing dress shirts for men. They make this list because not only did they get a ‘yes’ for each of the criteria, they also happen to specialize in the next best thing to a suit- the dress shirt. Choosing bold colours, Mina Evans adds detailed notes in prints to create a signature look that is definitely unique from other brands or retailers. The look is trendy, casual, and easy to digest with some added fun.
8. Orange Culture
So there’s some bias when it comes to Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s clothing brand, Orange Culture. There’s just something incredible about this Nigerian clothing brand. Maybe it’s the culture of its heritage, the colours in the menswear collection, or the fact that the collection rocks. Bold colour choices coupled with symbolic print motifs, Orange Culture presents an offering for men who are cool beyond their generation and have no intention of backing down- classy and in-trend, all at the same time.
9. MTK Brand Mark
Mateke (MTK) Brand Mark is a new label that has recently popped up in the fashion scene in Africa. Having recently showcased at both Colour In The Desert Fashion 2012 and Gaborone Fashion Weekend 2012, the young brand is clearly putting up a fight and people are noticing. Fatima Charmaine Mekgwe is the brainchild behind this new brand. Because fresh talent is hard to come by especially that focuses on menswear, they had to make the list.
*Photos by House of Tayo
10. House of Tayo
We like to think that you can’t really accessorize too much. With a blend of popular culture and heritage through fabrics, House of Tayo presents a collection of men’s accessories destined for longevity purely on quality and aesthetics. House of Tayo is the product of Rwandan creative Matthew Rugamba. The collection of well designed and produced add-ons is a fantastic way of adding small doses of fab to spice up your wardrobe.
So that’s our list of African Fashion Designers who specialize in menswear for 2012. Let’s work together to make sure next year’s list is difficult- not because there are no potential candidates, but because there are so many we have to whittle it down to the best of the best. Africa is a continent filled with opportunities, resources, imagination and life. Best we dress up for the occasion.
Story by OKA Contributor Monde Mtsi