For a continent that isn’t exactly renowned for its glamour or excess of money, Africa sure has a fantastic fashion sense. Even in the more impoverished areas women can be seen transporting water from well to home wearing the most elegant and functional of dresses all popping with colour. Whereas the men are traditionally adorned with bright coloured shirts, elaborate from collar to seam once more with the most vibrant of palettes. In fact, against the red sands, the African people literally burst out of their monotone background, and have done for centuries. This is why today much of the style and sensibilities that come with the natural flair of Africa’s clothing as well as their carvings, furniture and general design are all being celebrated in the media. The following are several now well-accomplished designers who have used traditional African imagery to bolster a career in the art industry.
Often called one of Africa’s most influential fashion designers, Aisha was born in Ghana where she actually studied psychology first, eventually enrolling in the Vogue Style school of Fashion she is now one of the top African fashionistas. Founding her own label in 2008 Christie Brown is a luxury brand that still has many of the trappings of cultural African design. Just by looking at their latest range of dresses it is clear that even though many of the shapes can be more form fitting or elaborate than what African women may commonly wear on the streets, the vibrant patterns and repeated prints present themselves on hems, cutaways or all over. Aisha’s work has appeared on catwalks, magazine features and her designs now make up part of the clothes rack in popular clothes stores such as Elle.
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi
Based in the Nigerian city of Lagos, this unique designer shows a fantastic mind for concept blending as can be seen by the elaborate wearables she creates. Her self-titled fashion label has been running since 2005 and since then Lanre has create an impressive catalogue of pieces that include dresses, shirts skirts and headpieces. What’s most recognisable about her work is that the canvas she works upon is often slathered in artistic design, her dresses are coated with flowing patterns, often with an eye-catching texture that makes the entire piece seem abstract. Using metallics, and a collage of varied styles, Lanre’s clothes look as fitting on a body as they would in a gallery.
With his roots in Ghana, Kofi worked from London to create his clearly African inspired clothing. Clearly an advocate for art and for his people he founded the Federation Of African Designers helping collect and nurture the talent from here. His catwalk designs clearly illustrate his native influence as they show the alluringly simple geometry commonly used. He was known to turn down the colours on his designs, which allowed the shapes and lines to really draw focus and make for a more silhouette style aesthetic. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014, but his work and message help train and inspire designers today.