popular
Collage images via Instagram.

14 Ethical & Sustainable African Fashion Brands You Need To Know

These brands are doing the work to transform the fashion world's impact on the environment.

For years, the retail industry has grown exponentially without much care as to how this growth is impacting the environment. Some would argue it is one of the main perpetrators of climate change as fibers find their way into oceans and companies burn clothes so as not to discount them. More often than not the retail chain—manufacturing, sourcing, packaging and transportation—disregards its carbon footprint. Thus, the term "sustainable" serves as a buzzword that suggests the use of recyclable materials, ethical labor practices, and fair trade.

Brands in the industry, both large and small, are faced with a number of challenges, while trying to remain prominent. Where some have implemented the use of organic fabrics and ethically sourced packages as well as the education and empowerment of artisans through programs, others do not see the urgency in transforming.

Today, a number of consumers are opting for second-hand and eco-friendly clothing in an effort to fulfill their altruistic needs. In a number of African countries, unwanted and out-of-season clothes from the US and Europe find their way to merchants who stock them in bulk in markets.

The endeavors above are not cheap, but they are necessary in a world where extreme and unusual weather patterns continue to appear.

Below are the ethical and sustainable African fashion brands that are doing the work and caught our eye.


AHLUWALIA STUDIO

Priya Ahluwalia, the London born Indian-Nigerian designer behind the upcycled menswear brand, Ahluwalia Studio, went from a stint at Beyoncé's IVY Park to pursuing a masters in menswear from the University of Westminster. While there, she was challenged to alleviate fashion's problem with waste.

Trips to both Lagos, Nigeria and Panipat, India, where she was met with piles of surplus clothes, further ignited a flame in her to attempt to combat the issue. Her Spring/Summer 2019 graduate collection, made in collaboration with the Indian women's union SEWA Delhi, was her answer. The trench coats, oversized denim jackets, and vintage football jerseys were all produced using second hand clothing. She would go on to show at London Fashion Week, be featured in Vogue, win an H&M Design Award, and more recently, collaborate with Adidas Originals. Today, she continues to study the application of ethical methodologies to fashion.

BUKI AKOMOLAFE

Buki Akomolafe's eponymous Berlin-based contemporary women's clothing line prides itself on a hint of androgyny, meticulous tailoring and high quality eco materials like certified cotton, organic Hemp-Silk, and african wax prints. The line purposefully juxtaposes Europe and the African continent; an homage to Buki's two worlds.

MAYAMIKO

Mayamiko is an ethical and sustainable womenswear and lifestyle brand headed by Paola Masperi. The brand's clothes, accessories and homewares are made in Malawi by a team of artisans. Mayamiko aims to assist the most disadvantaged people in Malawi by nurturing their creative talents, while giving them the means to feed their families.

SOLEREBELS

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu started Ethiopian footwear brand, soleRebels, in 2005, as a means of empowering her community and country. Hailed as the world's first World Fair Trade Federation (WFTO) and FAIR TRADE certified footwear company, soleRebels products are handcrafted by Ethiopian artisans.

SUAVE KENYA

Suave Kenya creates eccentric leather goods, backpacks and accessories from materials like kitenge and denim. Founder Mohamed Awale has been turning waste into quintessential items for traveling around Nairobi since 2014. The sustainable brand, whose products are created with unwanted fabrics and leathers, offers a variety of bold or subtle prints and patterns.

LISA FOLAWIYO

Nigeria's own Lisa Folawiyo is regarded as one of the first African designers to use ankara. Her line has dominated her country's fashion scene since 2005 with fabrics that are locally sourced. She has also worked collaboratively with the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

STUDIO 189

Ghanaian designer Abrima Erwiah co-founded eco-friendly label Studio 189 with actress Rosario Dawson. Together they work with local artisans in Accra to produce garments. The craftsmen use plant based dye, hand-batik and kente weaving. The brand partners with the United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, NYU School of Business and has worked with LVMH and Net a Porter.

OSEI-DURO

Founded in 2011 by Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh, Osei-Duro creates textiles and turns them into clothes in Ghana. The products are hand-dyed using traditional techniques like West African batik, wood carving, botanical dyeing, block printing, hand painting, and more.

OLOOH CONCEPT

Kadar Diaby is the auditor who doubles as a photographer and the creator of Olooh Concept—an ode to Ivorian artisans. Where female workers in the commune of Treichville dye the eco-linen used for the clothing, the bronze buttons seen are made in the commune of Grand Bassam's artisanal center. The wide-brimmed wicker hats and leather sandals featured also hail from Abidjan. "Olooh" which signifies "Our" in the Senufo language is influenced by Ivory Coast, Morocco, and the creator's exposure to the West. It is a boundless passion project aimed at clothing both women and men.

REFORM STUDIO

Hazem and Hend Riad, the co-founders of Cairo based design studio, Reform Studio, have built a business around the invention of Plastex, a material made from discarded plastic bags. The studio's fashions and furnitures are helping to alleviate Egypt's problem with waste and employing women of impoverished backgrounds.

QUAZI DESIGN

Swaziland's Quazi Design began in 2009 to create much needed jobs. Since then, female artisans situated in a workshop in Sidwashini continue to create handmade jewelry.

ARTESAN

For the past few months, Anne-Lise Fotso has been working collaboratively with female artisans from the Fondation Jean-Félicien Gacha in Cameroon to build the brand, ARTESAN. ARTESAN is a handmade clothing brand that incorporates African traditional beadwork and delivers both high-fashion and culture fusion. It aims to bridge the gap between African makers and consumers, through authentic stories. The first capsule collection is comprised of a repurposed army jacket and workwear clothing with embroidered beading.

ALLËDJO

Founded in 2018 by Beninese designer, Kassim Lassissi, ALLËDJO is a menswear clothing line designed and produced by artisans in Dakar, Senegal. The brand is the merger of the designer's love of travel and exquisite apparel. The print-heavy color palette and free flowing materials used celebrate the renaissance man on the move.

LA FALAISE DION

Cowry shells are one of the most recognizable symbols in African culture—utilized as a form of currency and even as a religious and cultural symbol. In the 17th century, cowry shells were used as a means of embellishing hats and headdresses dawned by titleholders in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kuba Kingdom. In western Ivory Coast, the Dan ethnic group also dawn these shells for rituals.

Today, creative La Falaise Dion has repurposed them for fashion. Her headpieces made with sustainably farmed shells are both powerful and mystical.

*

Audrey Lang is a Boson-based writer and merchandiser. Keep up with her on Instagram.

News
Still from YouTube

Watch the Retro Music Video for Dyo's 'Go All the Way' Featuring Mr Eazi

The video, directed by Mahaneela, is a tribute to the vintage photography of Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso.

Mr Eazi teams up with budding Nigerian artist Dyo, for her latest single "Go All the Way."

The duo share a memorable music video, inspired by the work of vintage African studio photographers like Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso. The music video features cameos from several young African creatives including Congolese artist Miles from Kinshasa, who are all photographed in stylish clothes before staged backdrops.

The video was directed by multi-hyphenated creator Mahaneela, who also appears in the video,

The Mirza-produced song sees both artists singing suggestively about their lovers. "Go go, go all the way," Dyo sings smoothly on the track's chorus.

Still from YouTube

Keep reading... Show less
Events

Join Us For an Everyday Afrique Party This Labor Day In NYC!

Featuring music by DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

Everyday People, OkayAfrica and Electrafrique are back with the best Labor Day weekend party around with Everyday Afrique.

Come hang with us for another installment of the party that brings out the New York City's finest.

This September 2 we're taking Everyday Afrique back to The Well in Brooklyn, where you can dance and drink the day & night away across the venue's outdoor and indoor spaces.

Grab Your Tickets to Everyday Afrique's Labor Day Party Here

Music will be handled by a top-shelf line-up of selectors including DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

The party will be hosted by Young Prince, Saada, Roble, Sinat, Giselle, Shernita and Maine.

Make sure to grab your tickets here and we'll see you on the dance floor!

Keep reading... Show less
Interview
Courtesy of Sibu Mpanza.

INFLUENCED: Meet Sibu Mpanza—the YouTuber Who's Making a Killing from Just Having Fun

'I am the person I needed when and even before I started my YouTube channel,' the prolific YouTuber says.

OkayAfrica brings you the 2019 INFLUENCED Series. In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring the online communities being fostered by young South Africans who are doing more than just influencing. From make-up gurus and hair naturalistas to socially-conscious thought leaders, get ready to be influenced. Read the rest of the series here.

Years ago, Sibu Mpanza found himself experiencing two realities Black South African students are still battling with even today: crippling financial woes at university and debilitating depression.

An aspiring musician who ended up studying psychology instead at the University of Cape Town, Mpanza began skipping as many classes as he possibly could. He would spend copious amounts of time at a computer hidden away in the corner, passing the hours watching funny videos on YouTube. In fact, he says he spent so much time on YouTube that he was literally one of the very first people to view Beyoncé's epic "711" music video—something Mpanza recalls in stitches.

He was searching for something, although admittedly, he didn't quite know back then what it was exactly. It eventually got so bad that in his second year of university, he packed up his things, dropped out and moved to Johannesburg to see if he could become what he'd always imagined he could eventually be.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the name Sibu Mpanza is not only an undeniable success story but an entire brand.

Mpanza is a full-time YouTuber who has been able to capitalise on creating hilarious content about his life and pretty much anything that interests him. While he initially "blew up" because of a YouTube video he put out, a video which called out White students at the University of the Free State who were recorded beating up protesting Black students at a rugby game, he's since moved onto a second channel, More Mpanza, where he makes content that's a lot more fun, apolitical and doesn't take a toll on his mental health. As if two successful channels weren't enough, he's also got a third channel, Arcade, where he and his business partner talk about things they enjoy in the technology space.

For anyone looking to just let off some steam, watch a YouTuber who's willing to poke fun at himself or find some really quality content in an era where everyone seems to have a YouTube channel about something or the other, Mpanza is definitely your guy.

We caught up with him to talk about what inspired his various YouTube channels, the fame that comes with being a household name and what's really important to the young South African creative.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading... Show less
Audio
Sho Madjozi "John Cena"

The 19 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sho Madjozi, Odunsi, Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, Fuse ODG, Santi and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.