Founded by Frank Aghuno, a self taught designer who was mentored by his fashion designer mother, Fruché is one of the African fashion brands that has amassed a following worldwide.

Founded by Frank Aghuno, a self taught designer who was mentored by his fashion designer mother, Fruché is one of the African fashion brands that has amassed a following worldwide.

Photo courtesy Fruché.

The African Fashion Brands You Should Know

From Nigeria to Senegal, Kenya to South Africa, fashion brands across the continent have been drawing acclaim across the globe, with their innovative designs and homegrown approach to the making and wearing of clothes.

Across Africa, fashion scenes are bustling, ideas are evolving and the need to deconstruct and reinvent conventional fashion trends is very much in vogue. The global perception of African fashion has always relied on the incredible stories coming from the continent – one only has to think of Thebe Magugu’s cultural phenomenon or the current exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum that shines a light on African fashion. Though this perception is often reduced to a few brands who have managed to insert themselves within the global fashion market, it’s vital that Africa’s fashion industry creates room for new and emerging talent on the continent.

Seemingly almost every day, there’s a new designer rising to the fore, introducing a new ethos, design concept or unexplored philosophy: from Algueye Dakar giving Senegalese women a fresh sense of elegance, to TJWHO letting upcoming designers know that it’s okay to look beyond their background and comfort zone for inspiration.

OkayAfrica rounded up a list of the top brands you should know right now – brands who have what it takes to stay valuable and relevant, whether it’s in principle, story, textile, or art; they are reconstructing old ways of fashion and leading the evolution of Africa’s industry.

Fruché (Nigeria)

There's just something about Fruché that makes it remarkable: whether it’s bold cutoffs or an experimental construction of tulle in a way that seems both orchestrated and accidental. Founded by Frank Aghuno, a self-taught designer who was mentored by his fashion designer mother, Fruché is built on an explorative notion of finding the perfect balance between the old, the new and the future.

It’s a brand that circles around rich cultural and artisanal tailoring techniques in order to find the perfect glamor where the contemporary Nigerian woman can feel like they’ve been stitched in luxury. What makes the brand noteworthy is its unique tailoring: each piece is a bold statement, a fabric amalgamation that just makes sense. Above all, it seems Aghuno is big on improvisation, always on his toes to fix the unfixable – and make it fetching at the same time.

Algueye Dakar (Senegal)

At Lagos Fashion Week last year, the audience was treated to an unexpected wow moment courtesy of the beautiful patterned collection of Algueye Dakar. The outfits were beyond elegant, well-accentuated and perfectly constructed. Founded by Abdou Lahad Gueye in 2012, the brand basks in the ethos of weaving Senegalese stories and culture with perfected sartorial techniques; in turn creating charming silhouettes from a modernist viewpoint. Ever-flowing gowns and signature prints are what make the brand notable but also the conscious aim to create designs that women will be comfortable in.

Awa Meite (Mali)

Founded by Awa Meite, a fashion designer, filmmaker and painter, this eponymous Malian brand was a stand-out of 2022, and leads in one of the most relevant aspects of the global fashion industry – sustainability. The brand recontextualizes Afrominimalism, and spotlights the striking works of Mali’s local artisans, paying homage to their rich craftsmanship and designs. But there is something even grander about the brand than its rise culturally; it’s the careful and considered thought put into each garment that makes it so well-crafted. From attached knitted strands to knotted fabrics within a dress, Awa Meite can be ambiguous at times, but that’s part of its charm.

KikoRomeo (Kenya)

Founded in 1996 and led by Iona McCreath, KikoRomeo has been revolutionizing the Kenyan design scene, transcending into the contemporary, and creating an intersection between fashion, art and music. The brand prides itself on being sustainable and ethical, and is notable for hand-painting and patchworks. While the longevity of the brand has offered it the ability to expand its focus, it's very intentional about absorbing influences from bygone eras.

In their SS23 collection ‘ILLE,’ McCreath used color to create a surrealist portraiture; each outfit was hand-dyed, creating patterns of illusion. It’s this kind of approach that sets the brand apart, along with its minimalistic concept of design, and the way it tries to interweave different practices into each piece it makes.

ÀSÒ (Nigeria)

For a newly-emerged fashion brand, ÀSÒ has the design aesthetic of a brand that has been around for a decade, with a surprisingly assured sense of elegance. Worn by the likes of reality TV’s Miracle OP and Allysyn Audu, it’s founded by designer and beauty curator Aanuoluwa Ajide-Daniels. ÀSÒ boldly labels itself as “a documentation of futuristic creative exploration.” While androgyny has become a hot conversation topic within Africa’s fashion industry, ÀSÒ seems to be intent on furthering the discussion, blurring the thick line between the conventional masculine and feminine representation of fashion. With their most recent collection, ‘The Emergence,’ ÀSÒ brings the classic to the fore; craft-focused, brilliant construction and fabulous embellishments.

The BAM Collective (South Africa)

At first glance, Jacques Bam’s vision of The BAM Collective instantly mesmerizes, showing off the unabashed appetite of someone who’s been designing since the age of 9. Bam founded The BAM Collective in 2019, as a finalist at the SA Fashion Week New Talent Search, and has since secured his place within the South African fashion market and beyond. During 2021, the brand was selected to form part of the ‘Fashion Bridges - I Ponti Della Moda’ project, in Milan, where it showcased a collaborative collection with Julian Cerron from Florence.

And yet, no matter how far the brand travels, it always returns to its prime aim, encapsulating the liveliness of South Africans and using graphic prints, fabulous silhouettes and experimental details to explore a spirited approach to luxury.

TJWHO (Nigeria)

TJWHO is all about the deconstruction of old trends while reimagining new ones as they arise. Anyone who wonders how that’s possible only needs to look at how the brand, in just a short space of time, has shown that there is no limit to what it’s inspired by. TJWHO operates from a trans-cultural and trans-continental viewpoint, drawing on ideas and concepts from around Africa, Asia and Europe.

Describing itself as a ‘minimalist menswear brand who offer a refreshed interpretation of native and urban basics,’ the Nigerian label has ensured it stands out thanks to its founder, Taju Ibrahim’s architecture background, which lends itself perfectly to the detail-oriented garments TJWHO is fast becoming known for.

Sonia Mugabo (Rwanda)

Fashion entrepreneur Sonia Mugabo has made a name in dressing Africa’s First Ladies, but she’s also created designs that are for every African woman who wants to be, and feel, seen. Mugabo returned from New York to Rwanda to build her own fashion brand, and since 2013, she’s embraced her personal passion for textiles and colors.

Focusing on “versatility, detail and fabric,” this brand brings a fierce elegance to timeless creations. Offering both bespoke and ready-to-wear designs, Sonia Mugabo is considered a pioneer of the Rwandan fashion industry and has a loyal following that is eager to support whatever she does next.

Manell (Nigeria)

Founded by Esoghene Egbelefiyo in 2020, Manell is a brand that lets you know instantly, upon first look, what it’s all about. Manell is for the adventurous at heart; those willing to take on bold pieces and cause a little bit of a stir. Inspired by nature, this Nigerian brand is dedicated to being eco-friendly and sustainable without sacrificing the desire to be exquisite, too. Manell believes in the body as a canvas, and goes against society’s often conservative depictions of masculine and feminine.

Mokodu Fall (Senegal)

Mokodu Fall is synonymous with finding the perfect balance between art and fashion. Founded in 2000 by Mokodu Fall, an artist-turned fashion designer, the brand embeds ancestral stories within textiles, in turn creating elegant outfits with vibrant colors that go beyond just eye-catching designs. The brand also leaves space for Western ideas within its clothing, trying to create a kind of inclusivity for two separate perspectives with the potential for mutual benefit. What makes the brand an essential on this list is the stories it’s keen to tell through fabric, and the many energetic splashes of color in its designs.