Mowalola Ogunlesi's 'Psychedelic' collection.

11 Women-Led African Fashion Brands Making a Global Impact

From Sarah Diouf's Tongoro to Loza Maléombho and Sindiso Khumalo's eponymous labels, here are 11 trailblazing African brands owned by women designers.

While in Nigeria for Arise Fashion Week in 2018, British supermodel, Naomi Campbell, told the international press about the need for the Vogue magazine franchise to have an African title.

The proposal of a Vogue Africa is an obvious wink at the immense creativity from the African fashion industry; a wave of designers rethinking the paradigms of African fashion. And a handful of them are women, pushing creative innovations and engaging with local communities in preserving age-old methods of textile production. Their collaboration with artisans in honing traditional craft skills has provided employment, especially economic empowerment for rural women.

As fast fashion continues to overproduce garments, with countries like Ghana since becoming a huge receptacle for these garments to arrive as second-hand desirables, some designers are bringing awareness to this crisis of waste, the filling up of landfills and degradation of the environment in the process.

Because the global fashion landscape is dominated by white gatekeepers sustaining narrow beauty aesthetics, predominantly giving platform and access to white designers and operating on excess, it's important to recognise the work of African labels helmed by women especially in the area of environmental justice and making strides in innovation.

Below are 11 impactful African brands with women at the helm. The list is in no particular order.

1. Sindiso Khumalo​

Earning a master's degree in textile futures at Central Saint Martins, South African sustainable fashion and textile designer, Sindiso Khumalo, launched her eponymous brand in 2015. Adopting an empowerment-led, community-driven approach by working with artisans and making garments from naturally sourced materials like cotton and hemp, Khumalo's design milieu tells stories about historic women from her country and across the Black diaspora.

She's also decorated with international fashion laurels: Independent Designer of the Year at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards 2020, recognising her contributions to sustainability and a 2020 LVMH Prize finalist.

2. Tongoro

After carrying out intensive market research and wanting to amplify the image of African women in the fashion industry, stylist and entrepreneur, Sarah Diouf, launched Tongoro in 2016 in Dakar, Senegal. The brand is unequivocally African and subverts concepts of luxury by being affordable and having a model that empowers local communities and promotes Senegalese craftsmanship. Diouf did this by training a team of local artisans in her home country to make quality garments to international standards. The Tongoro aesthetic is unwaveringly bold but also playfully feminine–billowing dresses and vivacious prints–and doesn't compromise in promoting the Made-in-Africa label.

3. Hanifa 

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic presented new challenges for the global fashion industry to navigate. And while it saw many brands pivoting towards digital mediums to showcase collections, womenswear label Hanifa unveiled a virtual 3D fashion show that became a viral sensation, reverberating through the corridors of fashion in the process. US-based Congolese designer, Anifa Mvuemba, was behind this technological feat. Her first runway show since establishing the brand in 2012, she turned the limitations imposed by the pandemic into a resounding success. With bold colors and precise tailoring, Mvuemba is unequivocally concerned with dressing Black women, especially fuller, curvier Black women who often are underrepresented in the fashion industry.

4. Selly Raby Kane

Born and raised in Dakar, Selly Raby Kane is one of Senegal's most renowned designers pioneering a booming creative movement in her home country, a multidisciplinary artist whose creative footprint overlaps beyond fashion and into the realms of art, film, sculpture, etc. After quitting law school in Paris, she returned to Senegal and launched her brand in 2008, her garments marked by the seamless juxtaposition of traditional West African textiles and futuristic elements drawn from watching American science fiction, horror, fantasy, supernatural movies as a child.

In 2018, Swedish furniture brand IKEA collaborated with her and other African creatives to design a collection for their homeware range. For the collection, Kane made a basket out of braided hair, referencing the culture of hair braiding in West Africa.

5. Nkwo

After years of cultivating an Afro-bohemian chic aesthetic since 2007, founder and creative director, Nkwo Onwuka, relaunched her eponymous brand in 2012 with a new ethos: environmental consciousness. Turning to traditional textile handcrafts and preserving the artisanal legacies and skills in local communities, the Dakala fabric was the innovation that emerged from exploring weaving techniques using leftover denim. Today, the brand is at the forefront of the sustainability movement in Nigeria, operating on the ''philosophy of less'' mantra as a way to address fashion's waste problem and its negative impact on the environment.

6. Deola Sagoe

As one of Nigeria's enduring fashion brands with international acclaim, Deola Sagoe brought opulence and romanticism with its innovative use of aso-oke, a handwoven cloth worn by the Yorubas in South-Western Nigeria. Tinkering with the textile overtime produced functional bespoke pieces known as Komole, skewed towards the high-end market with its laser-cut intricacy, patterns, colour range, and modern silhouettes. At the brand's creative helm is Deola, who is not just dressing different generations of women, but is also staying true to her cultural heritage.

7. Mowalola 

While some became aware of Mowalola Ogunlesi in 2020, when she was hired by Kanye West to design for the Yeezy-Gap collaboration, the Nigerian-British designer had already enraptured the fashion crowd with her brand's neon punkish leather, cut skimpily in skirts, tanks, crop tops, halter dresses, and other bizarrely sleek pieces.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Mowalola went to Central Saint Martins and channels her Nigerian roots in her work. Her BA collection was an ode to Lagos petrolheads and Nigeria's '70s and '80s psych-rock scene in a way that challenged the current mores around African masculinity. Not afraid to incorporate profanity and religious motifs into her designs, Mowalola has fashioned a brand now synonymous with sex and youth.

8. Chloe Asaam

Born in Ghana, Chloe Asaam's fledgling brand came about as an alternative to Kantamanto, where Ghana's biggest secondhand clothing trade takes place, a fast-fashion economy receiving 15 million secondhand garments per week from the Global North which consequently leads to overwhelming waste. The Accra-based womenswear designer repurposes fabrics from the market like cotton and linens, combining them with traditional Ghanaian textiles in refreshing, innovative ways. She also incorporates QR codes into garments to supply details on how they are made.

With sustainability thrown around in the fashion industry as a buzzword, Asaam is providing traceability. In a photo series, her brand was recently spotlighted by Mercedes Benz Fashion Week last November, zooming in as one of the emerging talents in Ghana.

9. Loza Maléombho

Beyoncé in the music video for 'Already' featuring Shatta Wale & Major Lazer.

Still taken from YouTube.

Making clothes rooted in the rich cultural spectrum of Cote d'Ivoire, where Loza Maléombho is from, has always been foundational to her brand's make-up. Founded in 2009, her namesake womenswear label has been flipping these references to accommodate the wide-angled facets of Maléombho's upbringing–Brazil, Abidjan, the US–with also a lean towards West African royalty. Her collections over the years have seen deconstruction and juxtapositions, traditional textiles that flatter the feminine form through modern cuts and styling. In synergy with local artisans and craftspeople, the brand has produced ethnic jewelry and footwear with tribal touches.

Celebrities like Iman, Kelly Rowland and Solange Knowles have been seen in her pieces. And perhaps the biggest moment for the brand to date was Beyoncé in a custom shoulder-padded blazer in the Black Is King film.

10. Deepa Dosaja

Deepa Dosaja is one of Kenya's top fashion brands founded in 1991, and known for its signature hand-embroidery and appliqué. Over the years, the brand has focused on working with local communities in Kenya to create employment such as tailors, beaders, cutters and training them as well. In 2015, the label dressed Lupita Nyong'o for her Kenyan homecoming. In 2018, the label participated in the inaugural Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace, London, an initiative for emerging and established fashion talents from across the Commonwealth's 53 countries to showcase the power and potential of artisanal fashion skills.

Exchanging with artisans from Zambia, Deepa Dosaja created a hand-painted, hand-embroidered bespoke piece made from organic silk locally produced in Kenya. Behind the label is Deepa Dosaja herself, who is also concerned with reducing waste and encouraging recycling.

11. Doreen Mashika

After working and studying in Switzerland, Doreen Mashika returned to her home country of Tanzania to pursue fashion, setting her eponymous label in the cosmopolitan environment of Zanzibar. Inspired by the textiles of her Tanzanian heritage and Zanzibar's breezy, Island aura, Doreen Mashika's collections feature East African wax print Kitenge done in frocks and beach-ready dresses. The brand has also shifted towards accessories from bags to jewellery; combining materials in an interesting way.

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Watch the Trailer for 'Gangs of Lagos,' Amazon's First African Movie

Amazon's Gangs of Lagos will premiere on April 7th.

Nollywood is coming to Prime Video.

On Monday, the conglomerate announced that it would be releasing Gangs of Lagos, its first original African movie, on April 7th. The project, which is directed by renowned filmmaker Jáde Osiberu, features Nigerian stars like Tobi Bakare, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Chike Osebuka, Chioma Chukwuka, and Iyabo Ojo.

The movie will follow the lives of a group of friends as they navigate the bustling streets of Lagos.

In a press release, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, head of Nigerian Originals at Prime Video, described the movie as a story that highlights the importance of friendship and family.

"Gangs of Lagos is a unique story about family and friendship, against the action-packed backdrop and striking set pieces of the streets of Lagos,” Mba-Uzoukwu said. “As the first Nigerian Original to launch on Prime Video, Gangs of Lagos sets the tone and standard, with the authentically Nigerian storyline in a genre that is so popular around the globe, making it a movie for our audiences at home and abroad.”

Gangs of Lagos - Official Teaser | Prime Video Naijawww.youtube.com

Located on the country's southwest coast, Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria. Over the years, the vibrant city has become known for its bustling economy, eclectic culture, and rich history. The crime drama promises to showcase the nitty gritty rumble and tumble of Lagos, as well as the authentic elements that make it one of the most renowned cities in the world.

Ned Mitchell, head of African and Middle East Originals, Prime Video said that with the roll out, Prime Video was hoping to connect with original voices.

“At Prime Video, we are looking to work with original voices to create spectacular stories and events that audiences can connect with wherever they may be,”

Mitchell said. "Gangs of Lagos launching will truly be a global cultural moment that marks the beginning of a new era in storytelling, where audiences everywhere can see the full power of Nigerian and African voices and the depths of our continued commitment to the local TV and film industry.”
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Photo by Cindy Ord for Getty

Trevor Noah Wins Prestigious Erasmus Prize

Trevor Noah is the first comic to win the prestigious Erasmus Prize since Charlie Chaplin in 1965.

Famous South African comic Trevor Noah has won the prestigious Erasmus Prize from The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation. The award is named after Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus' most famous piece of work.

According to a statement from The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, Noah was receiving the prize “for his inspired contribution to the theme ‘In Praise of Folly,’ named after Erasmus’s most famous book, which is filled with humor, social criticism, and political satire.” (Desiderius Erasmus was an influential Dutch philosopher from the northern Renaissance era.)

Noah is the first comic since 1965 who has been awarded the honor. The last comic to win the prize was Charlie Chaplin, who received the recognition in 1965. Since 1958, The Erasmus Prize has been awarded to recipients recognized for many achievements, including literature, music, philosophy, and social activism. Some notable recipients who have received the award in the past include Jorge Luis Borges, Isaiah Berlin, Ingmar Bergman, and Amartya Sen.

The panel that selects awardees for the prize includes a committee of scholars and cultural experts who review nominations and recommend to the board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation after weighing in on the strength of each candidate. After the recommendation, it is up to the board to make the final decision on the award recipient. The prize is typically awarded in the fall during a ceremony in the Dutch royal palace in Amsterdam.

Beyond his work as a comic, the former Daily Show host has been vocal about his social justice advocacy and has been a strong advocate for human rights issues on a broad scale. While a host on The Daily Show, he consistently used his voice to highlight other prominent Africans. It is safe to say that the 39-year-old has indeed made South Africa proud.

Photo by Alex Wong via Getty

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Paul Rusesabagina to Be Released From Prison

Paul Rusesabagina, who became renowned for his heroic portrayal in ‘Hotel Rwanda’, has received a presidential-ordered prison commute and will be released.

Paul Rusesabagina, the former hotel manager who saved over 1,200 Rwandans during the 1994 genocide and who was the inspiration behind the 2004 Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from prison on Saturday (March 25th). Following a request for clemency, Rwanda’s government commuted the prison sentence of Paul Rusesabagina, who is now 68.

In 2020, the Rwandan government arrested Rusesabagina in Dubai and later transferred him to Rwanda, where he faced charges of terrorism related to his alleged involvement in a rebel group. Following the charges, the Rwandan court sentenced him to 25 years in prison. His sentencing triggered controversy, with some supporters alleging he had been unfairly targeted. In 2022, Rusesabagina’s family sued the government of Rwanda for $400 million, stating that they had "abducted" and illegally imprisoned him. Following Rusesabagina’s conviction, several people speculated that he had been detained because he had previously criticized Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame’s politics.

During Rwanda’s genocide, Rusesabagina worked as a hotel manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Despite the violence and chaos surrounding him, Rusesabagina used his influence and resources to protect and shelter over 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees from the Hutu extremists carrying out the genocide. Hotel Rwanda was based on Rusesabagina’s experiences during the genocide, and the film's release catapulted him to fame. In the movie, Rusesabagina was portrayed by Hollywood actor Don Cheadle.

According to spokesperson Yolande Makolo, the sentences of 19 others convicted alongside Rusesabagina will also be released.

"Under Rwandan law, commutation of the sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction," Makolo told Reuters. “Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilitation provided by the State of Qatar."

As reported by Reuters, Rwanda’s ministry of justice also stated that the commutation could be revoked if any released prisoners repeated the offenses.

"If any individual benefiting from early release repeats offenses of a similar nature, the commutation can be revoked, and the remainder of the prison sentence will be served," Rwanda's justice ministry said.
Photo by Matt Crossick

Davido Is Bringing ‘Timeless’ to These Cities

The Nigerian superstar has announced ‘A Timeless Night with Davido’ in Lagos, London and New York.

Davido has shared on social media that he will be bringing his Timelessalbum to New York, London, and Lagos, dubbing the mini-tour “A Timeless Night With Davido.”

In the post, the singer wrote:The support for Timeless over the last few days has been incredible! Thank you for the love. I'm so excited to bring this album to life and share it with you in person. London, New York City, Lagos join me for ‘A Timeless Night,' a special live event, where we'll make memories that will last forever!”

The DMW boss shared dates for the events; noting that in the first week of April, he will take the stage in New York and London, at Irving Plaza and Koko London, respectively, before returning to Lagos to perform at Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Lagos later that month.

In a viral social media post on Tuesday, the Nigerian singer announced that he will be releasing his latest studio album Timeless on March 31. The announcement spurred a lot of excitement and expectation from fans, who had been curious about the singer’s well-being after the extended hiatus that followed the tragic loss of his son, three year old Ifeanyi Adeleke.

Throughout Davido's 11-year career, he has become a staple in Afrobeats and has contributed significantly to pushing the sound, helping it resonate with fans globally. The singer has released several studio albums throughout his career, including Omo Baba Olowo (2012), A Good Time (2019), and A Better Time (2020).

Timeless will be his fourth studio album.

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