4 Emerging African Fashion Designers to Watch in 2023
As African fashion continues to blossom, these are some of the names to keep a close eye on in the months to come.
Much of the buzz around African fashion today isn’t accidental. Africa’s design talent has been on the rise, as seen across the continent's staging of various fashion weeks. At the Spring/Summer ‘22 shows for South African Fashion Week, a new talent search had young designers like Mikhile du Plessis and Sanelisiwe Gcabashe showcasing worthy-of-note collections.
Lagos Fashion Week, too, with its talent discovery platform, Green Access, presented a roster of new designers to watch: from Ghana’s Meta Kay to Nigeria’s Oshobor and Pettre Taylor, and South Africa’s SVL Designs. These next-gen labels appear to have distinct philosophies towards the design process.
Whether it is experimenting with textures and prints, reviving traditional crafts and textiles, or operating within ethical techniques like upcycling, these new designers are charting their own path in the industry. While there are names that caught our attention in 2022, others have equally shown promise with off-calendar presentations or modest campaigns. In 2023, here are a handful of the designers we are excited to watch.
Last year, Thando Ntuli’s Munkus won the talent search competition at SA Fashion Week, after entering for the second time. As one of South Africa’s on-the-rise talents, the young designer founded her ready-to-wear label in 2019, inspired by the styling choices of the women in her family - her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.
This intergenerational mashup has resulted in a whimsical play on vibrant colors, volume, and prints. Her winning collection titled “Sisendleleni” puts this on display, offering layered looks that can be assembled in different ways or worn alone. In the same year she won, the designer dedicated her Autumn/Winter ‘23 collection to her mother.Along with shifting silhouettes to demonstrate the different roles women play in society, she sent a belted dress on the runway of Lagos Fashion Week bearing a bold print of her mother’s face. At the core of the Munkus brand is a storytelling informed by Ntuli's South African heritage, mixing contemporary approaches to define the adventurous woman.
Victor Anate was still a teenager when he founded Vicnate, his womenswear brand based in Lagos. In no time, his sentimental attachment towards dressing women charmed a knitted circle of Nigerian stylists, fashion editors and commentators.
His early emphasis on butterfly bows, balloon dresses, pussy bows, slimming skirts, and cocktail dresses indicated the young designer was taking notes from classical Parisian style, and the forebearers that defined that era: Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli.
And with each season’s collection, he updates his proposal around romance and sex, courting the clientele who dare to wear his designs. While his industry peers place femininity in a safer tunnel vision, Anate has his brand perched on riskier horizons.
Archetypal suiting and formalwear is broken down - think Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking - and built up into something slightly transgressive. In some instances, it’s just carnal, high-stakes glamour. One can’t help but think what the brand will look like for menswear, if it ever decides to go there.
With Ghana’s environmental crisis resulting from garment landfills, the country has birthed an eco-conscious mindset towards designing. One is emerging brand Boyedoe. Established in 2020, its creative director David Boye-Doe has an intentional stance against garment waste. Denim as an integral fabric in the brand’s DNA, sourced from discarded stock and repurposed into practical wear.
The Boyedoe aesthetic is at the intersection of sustainability, modern construction, and Afrocentric chic. The brand’s latest SS’23 collection – with a recurring theme in denim – offers utilitarian pieces, bold colors, and lush textures.
Graduating in 2019 from Ghana’s Joyce Ababio College of Creative Design as “Most Outstanding Student” and “Most Creative Student,” Boye-Doe has enjoyed domestic recognition. He was one of the winners of the Merck Fashion Award in 2019, and named first runner up in both the 2019 Vlisco Fashion Fund Ghana and the 2020 Accra Mall Future Fashion Fund. He also emerged as a one of the 30 finalists at the 2020 debut of the Arise 30 Under 30 New Stars.
In the age of social media, Africa’s fashion accessory sector is picking up. And while shoes, handbags and jewelry are arguably often in the shadow of the main garment industry, more and more players are entering the market. This is where we introduce Oba Style, a handbag brand founded by Faoziyath Koza in 2019, and offers wardrobe versatility.
Based in Paris, Koza is Franco-Gabonese of Beninese origin, overseeing leather sourcing in African countries like Senegal. Handmade, Oba handbags come in clean geometric designs, rendered in mostly neutrals and subdued hues.
These purses shape-shift in size patterns, and textures. From dramatic colorways and ankara sheaths to clasps made from crystal and bronze beads, this emerging handbag brand is on our radar this year.
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