Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.
Meet the African Designers Showcasing at NYFW SS 24
Holding from September 8 to 13, 2023, a lineup of African designers are set to make their debut or return, from runway shows to showroom exhibitions.
New York Fashion Week still stands as one of the world’s premier fashion events. A grand stage for displaying the best American designers and beyond, the bi-annual showcase (held in February and September), is also a hot pipeline into the U.S. market. At several points, African designers have popped on the NYFW radar, showing their collections on the catwalk.
Nigeria’s Maki Oh made her debut in 2012, likewise industry paragons David Tlale and Deola Sagoe from South Africa and Nigeria respectively, in 2014. But these designer debuts owe it to the watershed moment in the late aughts. In 2009, a contingent of African designers took a bite out of the Big Apple.
For the first time in NYFW’s history, African brands namely Stoned Cherrie (South Africa), Xuly Bet (Mali), Momo Couture (Nigeria), and Tiffany Amber (Nigeria) were received in the Bryant Park tents as part of the African Fashion Collective. Barack Obama had been sworn in as America’s first Black president a month before, and it was deemed by the fashion public as the “Obama Effect.”
These designers dispelled homogenous narratives about Africa through their presentations, shining a light on the creativity and craftsmanship the continent had to offer. NYFW will never be the same.
African designers have continued to make inroads since then. NYFW’s February schedule for Fall 2023 had included Nigeria’s Head of State and Tia Adeola. Both brands are returning this September, the latter in the lineup for the eighth outing of The Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showroom.
While Nigerian designer Victor Anate won’t showcase at NYFW with his edgy womenswear brand Vicnate, he has lent his creativity as a co-collaborator, designing Naomi Campbell’s first collection for Pretty Little Thing. Anate, alongside Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-based Edvin Thompson of Theophilio, are the two young designers recruited by the legendary supermodel to bring her collection for the fast fashion giant to life.
Heralding NYFW this week, it debuted as a runway show on September 5, featuring a 70-piece collection of outerwear, mesh dresses, sleek pantsuits, and more. With this already done, it goes into Anate’s impressive growing and promising portfolio.
The brainchild of Peter Oshobor, Oshobor was launched in 202o, marrying slow fashion, traditional craft, and cultural narratives. The brand scaled into the 2022 Green Access program, the talent discovery vehicle of Lagos Fashion Week. Presenting a minimal number of stunning looks from waste yarn and off cuts, it further underscored the brand’s zero-waste policy.
In partnership with Upscale Magazine, Art Meso, the art and fashion exhibition that spotlights emerging designers and creatives from around the globe, will bring Oshobor to New York for their Carnaval Couture NYFW event.
“Saying I’m excited wouldn’t quantify how I feel to be showing outside Nigeria, especially in the United States, New York!,” Oshobor said to OkayAfrica. “You know, I had dreams when starting off Oshobor, but I didn’t think they would start coming to reality in just 3 years after inception. It’s a stepping stone for me, and I can’t wait to see the opportunities it brings.”
After working for French designer Madame Sonia Rykiel in Paris, and spending two years working at Christain Lacroix, Omar Salam decided to launch Sukeina in 2012. Out of Parsons School of Design where he studied Fashion Design, the New York-based Senegalese designer has crafted his womenswear brand into a sartorial spectacle.
Sculptural dresses, intricate weaving, and dramatic silhouettes are just some of signature codes he’s incorporated into the brand. His collections have also been influenced by tribal motifs on the continent. For his Fall 2022 presentation, the garments embraced the lively patterns of Bantu attire, found in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa.
Sukeina made its NYFW debut in 2020, a careful construction of sheer looks, origami dresses, and flapper-style mesh pieces.
Head of State
When Taofeek Abijako created Head of State in 2016, it wasn’t yet a full-fledged brand. He had been a senior in secondary school in Nigeria, and his intention was to raise money for the installation of a water system in his hometown. Fast forward to 2017, he became the youngest debutant at NYFW with the brand’s spring/summer 2018 collection. He was only 19.
Now based in Brooklyn, New York, (his parents had won the lottery in 2010), Taofeek uses Head of State as a cultural bridge between Nigeria and America. Through clothes, the brand has been all about finding a balance between the two. Traditional elements of Nigerian style (whether silhouettes, embroidery, etc) are realized with a modern flair.“Nigeria is rough but I think we as people operate with a sense of joy and pride and it carries over in our style,” Abijako told OkayAfrica in a 2018 interview.
In 2019, OkayAfricawas at Studio189’s debut runway show for Spring at NYFW, which had many guests in attendance like Quincy Brown, Fantasia, Justin Skye, Naturi Naughton, and Ayo Tometi (formerly Opal Tometi). And our takeaway was how the brand’s design codes melds West African traditional techniques (indigo-dyeing, hand-batik, hand-weaving, etc) with fashion-forward tailoring.
Founded in 2013 by Abrima Erwiah and actress Rosario Dawson, the sustainable brand is driven by an artisanal pulse, working with local craftspeople in a way that promotes their skills and empowers them through employment. Currently operating from Accra and the U.S., Studio 189 is more than just a brand. It’s also a social enterprise, supporting various community-led projects on the continent and in the U.S.
Founded by Michelle Adepoju in 2019, Kílèntár is a Nigeria contemporary womenswear brand with an aesthetic that’s playful and flatteringly feminine. Adepoju had initially started out by buying clothes to sell online. She would find pieces like crop tops and blouses from her local charity shop or thrift store and tastefully embellish them.
The brand also has an infusion of African sartorial elements like cowries, indigo-dyeing (adire), and hand-weaving. Kílèntár is one of the youngest brands in the NYFW’s African designer lineup, and will present under the banner of The Black in Fashion Council Discovery Showroom, including Korlekie, Onalaja, Fumi the Label, and Tia Adeola.
With a BA in Fashion Design from De Montfort University in Leicester, Beatrice Korlekie Newman launched Korlekie in 2013 right from her bedroom in Peckham, London. The British-Ghanaian designer was making one-off pieces in African textiles for the women in her local church. Known for its chic, elevated knitwear and crochet, the brand has attracted A-list clients like Rita Ora, Anna Freil, Ellie Goulding, and Alesha Dixon.
Further, Korlekie takes inspiration from traditional craft from Ghana, combining lush materials with sensuality for the modern woman.
Onalaja belongs to a cache of modern Nigerian brands placing luxury and wearability at the forefront of their design sensibility. Founded in 2014 by Kanyinsola Onalaja, the Nigerian-born designer received her foundational fashion education from London’s Istituto Marangoni, where she received a BA in Fashion Design.
She then went to the Academia di Costume E Moda in Rome to learn 3D Pattern Cutting. Onalaja makes clothes for women that are intricately crafted, using luxe materials to create contrasting textures and patterns. These designs are like works of art, especially the coral red and intricate beadwork that reflects the designer’s Bini heritage.
The brand is also size-inclusive, with its bodycon dresses made to fit over a wide range of body sizes. It’s why the brand’s Zusi dress has been a bestseller, embracing the feminine form in all its diversity. Love Island alum Indiyah Polack and Kandi are some of the celebrities that have been spotted wearing it.
Tia Adeola’s eponymous brand has shown at NYFW before. The first was the brand’s debut – Autumn/Winter 2020 collection that sent models down the runway in its signature sheer and ruffles. They were sexy, quite provocative, and took inspiration from sartorial codes from the Renaissance period.
Born in New York and raised in London, Tia Adeola is a 2019 graduate of the Parsons School of Design and has become an exciting new designer, drawing a cult following that includes Gigi Hadid, Flo Milli, SZA, and more.
Fumi the Label
Toronto-based designer Fumi Egbon is the founder of Fumi the Label, a ready-to-wear womenswear brand that prioritizes comfort, elegance, and sophistication. Launched in 2016, the brand deals in bright hues, breathable garments, and the potential for wardrobe-building styling.
Case in point, its Naomi dress, versatile enough to be worn with thigh-high boots, denim, or pants. Showing at NYFW will be a milestone for the brand.
This article has been updated to include the Nigerian brand, Oshobor.
From Your Site Articles
- Prêt-À-Poundo: Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week 2013 NYC Preliminary Line Up ›
- Interview: William Okpo At New York Fashion Week ›
- Prêt-À-Poundo: Top 10 Black Models at New York Fashion Week ›
Related Articles Around the Web