8 Times African Fashion Ruled in 2022
Photo: Chanel

8 Times African Fashion Ruled in 2022

From BritishVogue’s blockbuster cover featuring African models to African designers receiving recognition for international prizes, these moments defined the African fashion industry in 2022.

In 2018, Naomi Campbell advocated for a “Vogue Africa,"wondering why no magazine of a similar stature existed on the continent in spite of the rising generation of African designers and promise of the continent’s growing market. Though the need for an African Vogue title is a much more nuanced conversation, the supermodel’s comments about recognizing how much the continent contributes to the global fashion industry remain true now, years after she first made them.

Fashion weeks have really taken off. This year, South African Fashion Week (SAFW) returned for its 41st season, while Accra Fashion week marked its 6th year. We saw creative team-ups between African designers and international brands. South Africa’s Rich Mnisi, back in January, collaborated with Adidas to create a collection of performance pieces and streetwear that reflects the designer’s native roots.

It was also the year of the metaverse, focusing on under-the-radar creatives like fashion illustrators and digital artists, and the possibilities the digital world holds for the African fashion industry. With 2023 on the horizon, we recap this year’s biggest moments in African fashion.

British Vogue’s audacious cover with African models

When British Vogue revealed its February cover featuring nine African models, it stunned the fashion world. On social media, it went viral. The editorial shoot – photographed by Rafael Pavarotti and styled by Edward Enninful – received praise for shattering fashion’s glass ceiling on redefining what it means to be a model today.

Celebrating the rise of the African model, the cover was graced by Adut Akech, Anok Yai, Majesty Ruea, Nyagua Ruea, Amar Akway, Janet Jumbo, Maty Fall, Abény Nhial, and Akon Changkou. While the cover drew backlash for darkening the skin tones of the models involved, it nonetheless made an attempt towards challenging the status quo.

The V&A Museum's first ever African fashion exhibition

Back in June, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum opened its African fashion exhibition, marking the first of its kind in the museum's 170-year history. The landmark exhibition featured art, textiles, photographs, sketches, films, and music in a way that charts the growing influence of the African fashion scene.

A highlight of the exhibition, which runs until mid-April next year, is how it excavates the rich history of African fashion, showing a selection of garments from old-era African designers like Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi. It also celebrates the works of contemporary designers like Sindiso Khumalo, Moshions, Imane Ayissi, and IAMISIGO.

20 years of Dakar Fashion Week

As one of the enduring fashion events in Africa, Dakar Fashion Week celebrated 20 years this month with curated shows on the historic island of Gorée. Founder and organizer Adama Ndiaye is a Senegalese fashion industry leader saw an opportunity to showcase the promising talents of designers both locally and from across the continent, and continues to do so.

In 2022, Dakar Fashion Week presented the collections of 20 designers such as couture heavyweight Oumou Sy (Senegal), Awa Meite (Mali), Rama Diaw (Senegal), Mantsho (South Africa), Moyo by Bibi (Kenya), Tina Lobondi (Congo), and Emmy Kasbit (Nigeria). It closed out with an all-white afterparty at the Phare des Mamelles.

Lagos Space Programme nominated for the 2023 Woolmark Prize

In November, Australia's Woolmark Company, organizers of the International Woolmark Prize, unveiled eight finalists for the 2023 edition of its coveted prize. Nigeria’s gender-fluid brand Lagos Space Programme is among them. The brand now has the opportunity to win the Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, as well as the grand prize, both of which come with sizable cash rewards. The winners will be announced in April next year.

Creative director Adeju Thompson has rigorously built a complex relationship with adire textiles and dyeing techniques as a way to preserve Yoruba heritage and memory. LSP isn’t the only African label to be nominated for this international award; Nigeria’s Kenneth Ize and South Africa’s Thebe Magugu were both finalists in 2021, and in 2018, Orange Culture became the first African brand to score a nomination.

Offsite shows at Lagos Fashion Week

Lagos Fashion Week has been around for a little over a decade, cementing itself as a fashion power player to reckon with. The Balmoral tents at the Federal Palace Hotel on Victoria Island, which make up the main venue, have seen collection after collection, with all their highs and lows.

Last year, for the first time, a handful of Lagos-based designers like Orange Culture and Sisiano splintered from the tents to host their own shows, and in 2022, there was a major double down of offsite shows. From the off-beat, intimate set up of Lagos Space Programme to Imad Eduso’s outdoor props, offsite presentations are here to stay. Overall, it points to the growth of the LFW platform.

Outside the traditional LagosFW schedule, Mai Atafo (now Atafo) made its standalone debut. Legacy womenswear brands like Lisa Folawiyo, Lanre Dasilva Ajayi and Tiffany Amber wrapped up the fashion season, extending their sartorial universe to cater to a younger crowd.

Tokyo James as a 2022 LVMH Prize finalist

Since 2013, the LVMH Prize has been given to young, outstanding and innovative fashion designers from all over the world, with a prize money of 300,000 euros and a year-long mentorship from the LVMH group. In 2022, Tokyo James with his eponymous brand, became the third Nigerian to be shortlisted as a semi-finalist for the prize, alongside 20 other designers. And although he didn’t win, it proved how African designers are continue to show up on fashion’s global radar.

The Thebe Magugu and Valentino collaboration

Since winning the 2018 LVMH Prize, Thebe Magugu has been on the rise. While the designer has been superb working alone, digging into his South African roots for inspiration, he’s also produced impressive work while collaborating with other brands. Aside from teaming up with Adidas and Dior this year, he also entered a creative collaboration with Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccoli to rework a garment from each other’s collections. It was the second entry in Vogue’s dress swap project, aimed at fostering collaborations within the fashion community

Dakar hosting Chanel’s Métier d’art show

Photo: Chanel

Having shown in places like Monte Carlo, Tokyo, Shanghai, and London, the Senegalese capital was the next destination for Chanel’s Métiers d’art show. It marked the first time a European luxury house would stage a fashion event in Africa. While Chanel had long nurtured plans to come to the continent, Dakar won out on the sole strength of the capital being a thriving artistic hub.

Annually, the Métiers d’art celebrates exceptional craftwork from Chanel’s specialist houses like Montex and Lemarié. In Dakar, though, it shaped up as a three-day cultural festival. As much as the clothes demanded attention, the exclusive event also put a spotlight on local creatives across film, art, and music. On the whole, it has launched a promising cultural exchange between the West African country and the esteemed French maison.