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10 African Wedding Dress Designers To Know

Beri Gebrehiwot highlights ten of the buzziest African wedding dress designers.

Below, Beri Gebrehiwot, co-founder of Her Big Day, highlights ten of the buzziest wedding designers on the African continent and in the diaspora.


Amsale Aberra

Amsale Aberra Fall 2016. Source: amsale.com

After recognizing the need for a simpler wedding dress, Ethiopian-American designer Amsale Aberra started her own bridal company and began to sell her gowns in high-end boutiques and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus in the 1980s. In 1996, Aberra opened her flagship store on New York City’s Madison Avenue. Amsale continues to be one of the leading bridal designers in the industry.

Brides by NoNA

Courtesy of Brides by NoNA

Atlanta-based Nigerian designer Nneka C. Alexander, creative director at Brides by NoNA, is making a name for herself as a bespoke bridal designer of custom-made gowns. And Alexander's skill in elaborate design spills over to other dress categories as well, including evening wear, bridesmaid gowns and traditional gowns for the cultural bride.

David Tlale

David Tlale Bridal Collection 15/16. Source: davidtlale.com

David Tlale and his eponymous brand have graced just about every premium fashion week platform in the world. Not surprisingly, the South African designer’s bridal line is equally show-stopping. Black wedding gowns and African print wedding gowns are just a few examples of Tlale’s unconventional take on the wedding dress.

Farida Deglel

Courtesy of Farida Deglel

Initially working in the nonprofit sector, the now Abu Dhabi-based Farida Deglel put on her first fashion show in Eritrea. A fundamental of her brand is the use of historic fabrics, such as organic Eritrea-grown cotton, fused with traditional and modern designs. Her company, Farida Style, readily portrays Eritrean, Middle Eastern and Western influences.

Gbemi Okunlola

AloNuko founder and designer Gbemi Okunlola. Courtesy of AloNuko

At the age of eleven, Gbemi Okunlola was named London's youngest fashion designer. At fifteen she won the 2009 Young Avant Garde Designer of the Year award. Okunlola became a British household name in 2011 when she appeared on the BBC's Young Apprentice show at the age of 16. And now, at 20, she’s the youngest bespoke bridal designer in the UK as the boss lady behind AloNuko. After completing her studies and several apprenticeships, Okunlola went on to launch her own luxury bespoke bridal collection in July 2015.

Halima Gidado

Brides & Babies Inc. Credit: Ademola Olaniran Photography

Halima Gidado is the founder and creative director behind the Abuja-based Brides & Babies Inc., known for everything from the classic ball gown to the sultry mermaid dress. And just in case you were wondering, yes, they do custom design clothing for babies.

Mai Atafo

Mai Atafo Inspired Le' Festoon Collection. Source: maiatafoinspired.com

It's no wonder that Mai Atafo, winner of Allure Style Icon 2011 (Nigeria), would have a niche for bridal design. The Nigerian designer’s brand, Mai Atafo Inspired, launched a bridal line in 2011 after establishing a successful line of men's suits and evening wear. His bridal line, Weddings By MAI, is a collection of timeless and graceful gowns for the classic bride.

Martial Tapolo

Martial Tapolo at Black Fashion Week Paris 2013

Gracing major fashion shows such as Black Fashion Week Paris, Cameroonian haute couture fashion designer Alain Martial Tapolo has been compared to iconic designers such as Alexander McQueen and Givenchy. His passion for African art and design comes across in garments that demonstrate deep ties to his roots, like this 'Tribute to African Queens'.

Shukri Hashi

Courtesy of Shukri Hashi Bridal

Headed by Somali-Brit designer Shukri Hashi, Shukri Hashi Bridal has done the unthinkable: taking the traditional red and gold silk Somali print known as "Haadiyo Daaghan," and transforming it into a colorful bridal gown.

Yemi Osunkoya

Credit: NEK VERDIKOS

UK-based Nigerian designer Yemi Osunkoya is an award-winning fashion designer widely acknowledged for his avant garde approach to wedding and evening gowns created for Nigerian and British royalty and celebrities alike. His company, Kosibah, is a household name in both Nigeria and the UK.

Beri Gebrehiwot is the co-founder of Her Big Day. In 2012, she successfully planned her own 1,500 guest, Eritrean-American wedding and has since been inspired to help other women do the same through cultural wedding shows.

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Photo by Kola Oshalusi.

The 10 Best Moments from Lagos Fashion Week 2018

A recap of the memorable designs and raw talent showcased at this year's Lagos Fashion Week.

What is Lagos without the energy?

In Africa's most populated city, vigor and vibrancy are what cultivate the energy that keeps the city bustling and thriving, despite the efforts of NEPA. That very same energy was definitely present throughout this season's fashion week shows. Afromodernism, theatrical showmanship, and celebrity appearances were some of the themes in many of the presentations, but never in lieu of genuine and raw design talent.

This curated collection of Africa's finest designers managed to keep the audience attention on a rollercoaster ride of discerning moments throughout the ongoing parade of models and garments. To help digest these moments, I've put together my top 10 from the fashion rollercoaster that was Lagos Fashion Week 2018.

Take a look below.

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Inside South African Menswear Week Day 4

The boldest looks from inside and outside of South African Menswear Week SS16/17 shot by Botswana-based photographer Uyapo Ketogetswe.

South African Menswear Week SS16/17 came to a close over the weekend. All week we've been highlighting the boldest looks from inside and outside of Cape Town Stadium shot by Botswana-based photographer Uyapo Ketogetswe. Today we present the styles of day 4.

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6 Things We Learned About African Migration to Europe in 2019 From a New UN Report

UNDP representatives presented their "Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe" report last night at Okay Space. Here's what we found out.

Yesterday, Okay Space hosted a discussion between UN luminaries Ahunna Eziakonwa, Mohamed Yahya and OkayAfrica CEO, Abiola Oke about the new UNDP report, Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe. The report examines young Africans who are leaving their homes to make the dangerous journey to Europe for economic opportunities—not solely for asylum or to escape persecution. The evening was both enlightening and sobering, and the main findings may be a little different than what you might expect.

Immigration to Europe from Africa is roughly 90 percent lower than what it was in 2015.

In 2015, slightly over 1 million Africans left for Europe. In 2018, it was just over 100,000. However, the percentage of those who drown on the journey has increased. In 2015, it was 1.6 percent of that million, while it grew to 2 percent in 2018. Meaning just over 2,000 people died enroute in 2018 alone. It is a disturbing factor that, four years on, more people are dying proportionately than when the large migrations began.

Even though most of Africa is rural, most of the youth leaving the continent for economic reasons are from the urban areas.


85 percent of those who the report identified came from urban cities or towns, though only 45 percent of Africans overall live in those urban areas. This means that most of them are coming from regions with "relatively low levels of deprivation." Analysts believe the rapid urbanization of many African cities could be a contributing factor. Benin City, Nigeria, for instance, has urbanized 122 percent in only ten years. These cities cannot actually support the people—and their ambitions and talents—who live there. It plateaus and does not allow for further upward mobility.

Only 2 percent of those who left say knowing the dangers would have deterred them.

This means 98 percent would do it again, despite the knowledge of fatalities and difficulties in crossing. The appeal of elsewhere is greater than death. This realization is crucial for all nations to better comprehend the true elements belying migration, particularly for those that this report is concerned with. Of the 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries interviewed for the report, almost all of them are willing to face death for economic opportunities abroad than stay home. As most of the migrants had relatively comfortable lives at home, they are not migrating to flee death or persecution as with asylum seekers. This prompts great questions and led the report to look at the issue from four angles: home life in Africa, motivations for leaving, life in Europe, motivations for returning.

58 percent of those who left were employed or in school in their home country.

Not only that, in almost every demographic and country, those who left had a considerably higher amount of education than their peers. From Malu, those leaving had an average of five years of education, compared to one year with peers in their age group and two years for the national average. In Cameroon, those leaving had an average 12 years, their peers had seven and the national average of six. Even when broken down by gender, both men and women who leave have about nine years of education while the national average is five and three, respectively.

Though the average African family size is five, most of those who leave have an average family size of 10.

When asked, migrants said their main motivation to leave is to send money home. This information is important as it may impact the motivations for needing to leave. The report reasons that an increase in population may also be playing a role in the motivations to leave. It was also reported that those who go abroad and find work send an average 90 percent of their earnings to their families. Essentially, they are leaving existing jobs to live on 10 percent of their new wage, highlighting that working below minimum wage in Europe is more prosperous.

Though 70 percent of those in Europe said they wanted to stay permanently, those who were working were more likely to want to return to their home country.

Conversely, the majority of those who did want to stay in Europe were not earning anything, 64 percent of them, and 67 percent did not have a legal right to work. Over half of those who did want to return home had a legal right to work. Analysts reason that those who did want to stay would likely change their mind once they had an income. This correlation speaks to a significant relationship between work and migration permanence. It also underlines the claim that migration for this group is focused solely on economic results as opposed to social factors.


***

What was most striking about the event, however, was the strong feeling communicated in the space about exchanges between Africans regarding what needs to be done. The discussion did not only surround the facts and figures alone, but also the humanity behind understanding why people migrate. At one point, when addressing the crowd of various influential people on the continent and in the diaspora, Eziakonwa said "What are we missing here? What are we doing by leaving young Africans out of the development discussion? Our programs are clearly failing our African youth."

Later, Yahya responded to a question by stating there was certainly a cultural barrier in which Africans do not often address, listen to or respect the youth. "I can say by looking at you that no one in this room would be given a true say," he said. "This is clearly part of the issue." When asked what can be done by others, the response was to work to change the narrative, to focus on prosperity rather than charity and to provide better access and platforms for African youth to share their stories so that the idea of who migrants are shifts. And so we, as Africans, can better know ourselves.

Check out some photos from last night below with photos from Polly Irungu. Follow and share in the changing of that narrative via #ScalingFencesUNDP and #MyJourney.

Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu


Photo by Polly Irungu

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Anjel Boris, Question Mark, 2019, Acrylic and posca on canvas, 133 by 7cm. Image courtesy of Out Of Africa and @artxlagos

What You Need to Know About ArtXLagos 2019

We talked to artistic director of ArtXLagos, Tayo Ogunbiyi, about Lagos's unique art scene and what's to expect from West Africa's biggest art party.

OkayAfrica is a media partner of ArtXLagos 2019.

In three years, ArtXLagos has successfully established itself as West Africa's premier art fair, cementing its reputation as a center of culture for the entire region. Since its founding by Tokoni Peterside in 2016, the art fair has attracted exhibitors, art buyers and members of the West African art scene and beyond—providing a platform for both emerging and established artists and playing a notable role in the global art ecosystem.

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