The year's best streetwear, accessories, books and more from Africa and the Diaspora
Top Left to Right: 'Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara; STREETCHIEF; Modern Pharaoh; Mizizi. Bottom Left to Right: Caven Etomi; Fanm Djanm; Ikire Jones; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'We Should All Be Feminists.'
Throughout the year, we here at Okayafrica have spotlighted hundreds of small business owners and creatives making outstanding strides in fashion, film, art and beyond. With the holiday season upon us, what better time to delve deeper into these entrepreneurs' one-of-a-kind works than now?
We've rounded up the best and brightest brands and products guaranteed to eliminate any last-minute shopping crises and elevate one's gift-giving game. The creators behind these picks selection hail from all over; their signature styles as distinct as their home bases, representing cities like Monrovia, Brooklyn, London, Abidjan and Washington D.C. So, it's safe to say that there's something for just about everyone on your holiday gift list. Browse through our entire guide for some overall inspiration or head straight to a particular category by clicking below.
In 2014, Somali-born short story writer, essayist, critic and visual artist Diriye Osman became the first African to win a Polari First Book Prize (the UK prize awarded to a British author whose debut book explores the LGBT experience.) Osman’s Fairytales For Lost Children tell the stories of young, gay and lesbian Somalis as they navigate matters of family, identity and the immigrant experience in Kenya, Somalia and South London.
New York-based French-Caribbean illustrator and author Paul Louise-Julie’s African mythology comic series debuted earlier this year with an issue about a group of ancient Egyptian werewolves. Louise-Julie, who also has an African-inspired futuristic space opera in the works, says he plans to release part three of The Pack’s Egyptian saga soon.
Africa 39 brings together short stories from 39 writers under the age of 40 from sub-Saharan Africa and the Diaspora. The project was launched at the Port Harcourt Book Festival in October 2014. The anthology includes selections by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, Taiye Selasi, Lola Shoneyin and an introduction by Wole Soyinka.
Duval Timothy, Folayemi Brown and Fodio Todd are the longtime friends behind the South London-based food platform and supper club known as The Groundnut. This year, the trio shared over 60 of their favorite contemporary African recipes in a self-titled cookbook.
Set in a Nigerian town in the mid 1990’s, The Fishermen centers on a Cain and Abel-esque story of four brothers whose encounter with a volatile local madman leads to a mystic prophecy and a momentous, tragic event. “Awesome in the true sense of the word: crackling with life, freighted with death, vertiginous both in its style and in the elemental power of its story,” Man Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton writes about the book. “Few novels deserve to be called 'mythic,' but Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut."
Chances are you’ve heard the clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie advocating feminism on Beyonce’s track "Flawless." But have you heard the entire speech? Well, the award-winning novelist’s personal essay, which was adapted from her celebrated TEDx talk, is now available in a pocket-sized book. Whether you’ve never heard the speech or you’ve watched it more times than you can count, We Should All Be Feminists deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf. In fact, Sweden recently made headlines after giving a copy of the manifesto to every 16-year-old student in the country.
Highly acclaimed by both critics and readers alike, Nigerian-born British author Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird presents readers with an unexpected twist on the classic fairy tale Snow White. This intricate story of family secrets lives at the tricky intersection of race, beauty and vanity.
Encourage your younger loved ones to sharpen their reading skills with this illustrated book written by Cameroonian writer Nkiacha Atemnkeng.
Nigerian writer Ozi Okaro wanted to provide children from her homeland with an engaging introduction to the vivid cultural experience that is a traditional Nigerian wedding. So, she pulled double duty penning and illustrating The Big Ceremony to help readers learn more about the customs of their ancestors and their heritage.
Sahara Rocks! is the culmination of French author, filmmaker and photographer Arnaud Contreras’ work documenting the Sahara’s dynamic music scene and its tech-savvy youth while traveling alongside artists such as Tinariwen, Bombino and Tamikrest over the course of 15 years. “I want to portray the modernity of young Tuaregs, Arabs, Songhaï, and Moors who share both good and bad news through their social medias accounts and their cell phones,” writes Contreras. “Today’s Saharan music – rock, blues, guitar – is the soundtrack to their wanderings, their parties, their struggles, and the only visa that can permit their culture to cross frontiers." After launching a crowdfunding campaign in 2014, the photobook officially hit shelves in September.
Source: Llulo's Facebook Page
Love, strength and peace: those are the core values of the fashion and lifestyle brand Llulo, according to the company's website. Sweatshirt lovers will gravitate towards their Africa Love and Leather Mother Land hoodies and crewnecks, while those repping Naija or Liberia can snag ones showcasing their national colors. The online shop also offers everything from Ankara leggings to a variety of unconventional pillows.
Source: Dpiper Twins Beanie via Zuvaa
An online global marketplace for African Design. According to founder Kelechi Anyadiegwu, Zuvaa is not just an online store, but also a community, a movement. “We are fashion lovers worldwide who not only seek to support ethically manufactured and produced pieces, but look to make a statement,” Anyadiegwu states in her about page. “We are all about making Bold Statements in Bold Prints. Zuvaa, inspired by the Shona language of Zimbabwe word ‘Zuva’ meaning sunshine, represents the vibrancy and radiance of African culture and how our customers’ personal light shines through African aesthetics.”
Caven Etomi's Wax Print beauty tee for Spring 2015. Courtesy of Caven Etomi.
Bootstrapped by Doreen Caven, Joan Caven and Oseyi Etomi, Caven Etomi was born out of a perceived need for modern casual wear inspired by both historic and current day contemporary African art. Shoppers can peruse everything from gorgeous, lush floral headbands to statement-making graphic T-shirts and wall art.
STREETCHIEF'S 'Nima Girls' collection. Photo: William Ukoh. Model: Jessica Bentu. Courtesy of STREETCHIEF.
Ghanaian fashion designer Jesse Frimpong created the streetwear brand STREETCHIEF in 2013 to bridge an identified gap he noticed within himself and among his peers. The brand is a reflection of many African youth in the diaspora who are [torn] between traditional principles of the African culture and the hip hop influenced urban culture of Western world,” the Canadian-based designer told Okayafrica.
Loza Maléombho's 'Zaouli' SS16 Collection. Courtesy of Loza Maléombho.
Brazilian-born, U.S.-raised fashion designer Loza Maléombho runs her eponymous brand out of Côte d’Ivoire, where she works closely with local artisans on stunning products crafted from Indigo dye fabrics, natural burlap, cotton Batik and 100-percent women Kente. Her mission to empower Ivorians also extends to the brand’s small workshop where local young women produce the Loza Maléombho collection.
BLKKANGAROO's Spring/Summer 2015 'BLKKMARKET' Capsule Collection. Courtesy of BLKKANGAROO.
According to their brand statement, BLKKANGAROO “fuses an African sensibility with a dose of pop culture.” The Toronto-based streetwear label traces its launch to the 2012 Afropunk Fest, when Nigerian designer Seye Ogunlesi began selling his If found return to the Motherland t-shirts out of his backpack. Since then, the operation has expanded into a team of three, with Ogunlesi joined by Emmanuel Obayemi as art director and Nick Bahizi as fashion director. According to Ogunlesi, their latest collection, titled The BLKKMARKET, has to do with his 2014 trip to Lagos and Accra.
“I noticed that people were almost always transporting something to be sold – on their heads, on the back of an Okada, in a jerry can, in the ubiquitous BAGCO super sac or the iconic tartan print ‘Ghana must go’ bags,” the designer says. “Africans are the world’s most resourceful people. We are always on the go, commerce is always on our minds, and BLKKMARKET is our hommage to that.”
AfriTribe's 'The New Diaspora' Collection. Courtesy of AfriTribe.
Nigerian-born designer Ayo Omolewa says he founded his Maryland-based streetwear label with the intent of bridging the gap between Africa and the Diaspora. Afritribe’s latest collection–titled The New Diaspora–features an assortment of socks, hats, shirts (including the Chale tee) and tank tops inspired by “a certain lack of options of showing ownership of being African by those living in the Diaspora, ‘forgetting where you came from’ in a sense,” Omolewa tells Okayafrica.
Mizizi's All-Star Roster Lookbook. Photo: Andrew Hodges. Courtesy of Mizizi.
University of South Florida students Paakow Essandoh and George Kariuki founded their streetwear line in 2014 as a way of showcasing African culture throughout their home state. After officially debuting earlier this year with a collection of street-ready jerseys for Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt, the Florida-based label will soon expand their All-Star Roster to include Morocco, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and both Congos.
Modern Pharao's Ethiopia Winter Cap. Courtesy of Modern Pharaoh.
Liberian-born creative Adam Smarte’s apparel and lifestyle brand Modern Pharaoh launched a series of winter caps for Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia just in time for the holidays.
Ikire Jones SS16 '...& Other Stories By Our Stolen Children'. Photo: Rog Walker. Courtesy of Ikire Jones.
Walé Oyéjidé and Sam Hubler are the brains behind Ikiré Jones, a Philadelphia-based menswear brand dedicated to making carefully tailored West African-inspired clothing with a focus on storytelling and political context. Their Spring/Summer 2016 collection, …& Other Stories By Our Stolen Children, showcases a striking mix of high-end tailoring and casual streetwear with intricate patterns, artful textiles and colorful scarves.
Courtesy of Bantu Wax.
In 2014, the surf and beachwear brand Bantu Wax expanded into streetwear with the launch of their first t-shirt line. This year they opened up their flagship retail location in Dakar. Of course, their signature swimsuits are still available for purchase online along with their Logomania tees.
SHOES, ACCESSORIES & BEAUTY ITEMS
Fanm Djanm Fall 2015 Lookbook. Photographer: Joey Rosado. Creative Director: Paola Mathe. Makeup artists: Lanea Singleton, Nori Rane.
Fanm Djanm, which means “strong woman” in Haitian Kreyol, is an appropriate name for Paola Mathe’s headwrap and lifestyle company. The young designer founded the company as a means of inspiring women everywhere around the world to live boldly.
As a winner of the 2015 CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund, designer Aurora James has made quite the impression on the fashion world with her Brooklyn-based brand Brother Vellies. Footwear fanatics will totally dig these boots, shoes and sandals, all of which are individually handcrafted by artisans in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco.
Burgundy Wine Zuzu Ori. Source: HairbySusy.
Protect your own strands from the harsh elements of winter with a Zuzu Crochet wig custom made by celebrity hairstylist Susy Oludele. Or, perhaps a set of box braids, faux locs or Marley twists are more up your alley. At only 24-years-old, the cosmetologist’s impressive portfolio already includes Beyonce, Solange, Zoe Kravitz, Brandy and many more A-list celebrities. But as the owner of the NYC-based salon HairbySusy, Oludele also lends her unique behind-the-chair styling skills to everyday women.
Heat Free Hair's Royalty Wig Collection. Source: Heat Free Hair.
For your loved ones who are natural hair chameleons, look no further than Ngozi Opara’s hair extension company Heat Free Hair. “Ultimately, I just don’t sell hair,” the Washington D.C.-based entrepreneur told Black Enterprise. “I manufacture it and I can vouch for the integrity of my product.”
Curl Sistas' Chima Extensions. Source: Curl Sistas.
Another young company offering curly and kinky hair extensions for daring naturalistas is Curl Sistas. Run by wife-and-husband duo Joy Adaeze and Obi Okere, Curl Sistas caters to hair aficionados seeking a one-stop-shop by providing not only clip-ins, wefts and closures, but also natural hair essential kits and a DIY hair products book. “We are giving women options that are true to who they are,” Joy said in an interview with Cocotique.
Jessica Wig and UShape Jessica. Source: Catherine Marion.
Inspired by their experiences transitioning to natural hair, Nigerian sisters Abby and Ivie Omoruyi teamed up to launch Catherine Marion a few years back. The online shop has grown to include quality weaves, wigs and natural hair products catering to African American hair of all textures.
Photo: J. Quazi King. Courtesy of An African City Bags.
An African City Bag is an excellent gift choice for those friends or family members who go hard for their city.
Mawusi FW '15: Sane Momo. Photo: Jane Odartey. Courtesy of Mawusi.
The winter holiday season calls for knitwear, and if you’re on the hunt for more quirky designs, head to Mawusi. For design ideas, founder Jane Odartey looks to her fellow Ghanaians’ sense of fashion, which she describes as “incredibly colorful, festive, and wonderfully eclectic.”
Photo: Dex R. Jones. Courtesy of The Wrap Life.
The dynamic young company Wrap Life has become a quick favorite among fashion lovers eager for vibrant headwraps, handmade jewelry and carefully curated incense bundles. Founder Nnenna Stella started the company after her online quest for modern day headwraps proved futile. “I Googled for three days and I was so upset,” the African-American entrepreneur tells Madam Noire. “I was like, ‘Really? Nobody’s selling head wraps?’ I imagined that there were other women who wanted to start wearing them, as well, and they couldn’t find fabrics and prints that they liked, so I decided to start.”
Source: @nubianskin on Instagram.
In October 2014, British-born former financier Ade Hassan took on the task of providing women of color with realistic nude lingerie options with the launch of Nubian Skin. In July, the London-based brand made its official debut at the American retailer Nordstroms.
ART & HOME DECOR
Source: Reflektion Design
Founded by Anita Terrell, Reflektion Design offers home decor products for culturally inspired people who love unique, vibrant pieces that reflect their eclectic personalities. Throw pillows, floor/meditation pillows, curtains, wall art and bedding are just a few of the items included in the Los Angeles-based company's product line, which specifically incorporates globally-sourced Ankara fabric as the primary textile.
Source: OT&O Home Interiors
When launching OT&O Home Interiors, Nigerian mother-daughter duo Enitan and Tosin envisioned a “one-stop shop for iconic African-inspired home accessories” guaranteed to transform their clients’ homes in an instant. Make sure to check out their scene stealer headwrap rugs, colorful cushions and Gele wall art.
Source: Pottery by Osa on Etsy
New Orleans-based, Nigerian-American artisan Osa makes functional, durable and creative terracotta ware that would make great presents for any decor lover in your life, especially those with a penchant for indoor plants.
Source: AdamaMakesArt on Etsy
In her 2008 exhibition Cornrows, Afro Puffs & Joy, photographer Adama Delphine celebrates the magic of young, carefree Black girls enjoying each other’s company. Note cards featuring the endearing images and the exhibition poster are now available for purchase in Delphine’s Etsy store.
Any art collectors on your list would certainly appreciate a stunning print snapped by Egyptian photographer Laura El-Tantawy. Inspired by questions on her identity, El-Tantawy’s photography explores social and environmental issues relating to her global upbringing in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.