Friday, June 9, 2023

#Tuesday10: Africans Who’ve Made Real Waves in Fashion

Since we at SPICE are talking ‘Movement’ this month on the site, it’s a great time to considering the game-changers of the African fashion industry – those who’ve made notable moves in African fashion and helped bring attention to the continent with their contributions, creations and craft.

Below is our edit of some of the smartest and most accomplished influencers in the game – the top names you should already know…

1. Deola Sagoe


Described as an African fashion designer who is ‘’best placed to interpret our cultural diversity and artistry, our earthiness and mystery, our colours warmth and passion of the African woman in her simplicity and elegance,” the internationally acclaimed talent that is Deola Sagoe has helped place Nigeria on the world map with her numerous awards and promotion of the continent via her covetable collections.

With the deeply-rooted African fabrics that she uses, including her self-developed Komole, Deola has been crafting haute couture pieces and gorgeous ready-to-wear designs for over 25 years, winning awards like the ‘Africa Designs’ and the ‘MNET Anglo Gold’ awards in 2000, for which she was nominated by former US Vogue editor, Andre Leon Tally.

Deola Sagoe with her daughters at their joint showcase in New York last September
Deola Sagoe with her daughters at their joint showcase in New York last September

Ms Sagoe has even been featured in The Financial Times, CNN, Vogue and Elle Magazine (see the latest feature, here), and was recently appointed to represent Nigeria in a new international campaign organised by the United Nations World Food Program – proof that Deola, her designs (and surely soon, her daughters – the designers behind new label Clan) have really made waves via creativity and bares a name well worth noting.  

2. Folake Folarin-Coker


Nigeria’s Folake Folarin-Coker – the brain behind the popular contemporary brand, Tiffany Amber – made history as the first African-based fashion designer to stage a show twice at the New York Fashion Week, and has been a huge influence on the African fashion industry.

Also the first recipient of the ‘Designer of the Year’ award at the African Fashion Week in Johannesburg, the ‘Enterprise Award’ at the 2013 Women, Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Symposium, and one of the few African women to make the Forbes “Power Women” list, there is no doubt Ms Coker is an overachiever and constantly moving on and upward.

A look from Tiffany Amber’s Spring/Summer’15 collection, recently unveiled on the brand’s new website

With a mixed-influence that’s both foreign and local in orientation, having been born in Lagos and schooled in England, Switzerland and Scotland, Folarin-Coker is able to bring the best of many cultures to her ingenious designs, striking the balance between local flavour and international appeal with wears that are clearly crafted by a girl who’s well-versed in making all the right moves.


3. David Tlale


Celebrated South African designer, David Tlale has certainly helped revolutionise fashion in Africa with his movements to date – first emerging as a semi-finalist at the South African Fashion Week ‘Elle New Talent Competition’ in 2003, and proving ever since that he is indeed a force to behold.

With creations that go far beyond expectations (did you see his metallic man skirt at recently-concluded Cape Town Fashion Week, here?), Tlale’s daring and bold brand is one that defies convention and employs unpredictable use and understanding of craftsmanship, fabric, colour and texture – and, with unique vision, he has taken his work around the world. 

David Tlale's Spring/Summer'15 showcase featuring Tyson Beckford, held in New York
David Tlale’s Spring/Summer’15 showcase featuring Tyson Beckford, held in New York

Hailed the “King of Fashion in SA,” and having partnered with a number of influential brands in South Africa, Tlale has also been voted ‘Most Stylish Designer’ at the South African Style Awards, as well as Mzansi’s ‘South Africa’s Star Designer of the Year,’ and nominated for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion and Art Awards to name a few accolades.

His next move? Another collection we hope, but he’s also been chosen to be an ambassador for the Change-4-Ever campaign that aims to alleviate poverty in Southern Africa, seeing the talent walking into an activist’s role, too.

4. Mustafa Hassanali


Pan-African designer and Tanzania’s most celebrated talent, Mustafa Hassanali is a fashion guru whose work reflects a deeply-embedded, cultural cosmopolitan heritage, through clean couture and contemporary styles.

Mr Hassanali has showcased in over 15 countries globally,  including Italy, and also has just been selected by the minister of youth information, culture and sports as a steering committee member for the selection of Tanzania’s national attire.

The designer with Naomi Campbell, at her Fashion For Relief charity event
The designer with Naomi Campbell, at her Fashion For Relief charity event

With an A-list clientele, Mustafa’s work has been highly appreciated at international levels, his work having been featured in several magazines, including The East African, New African WomanKenyan Cosmopolitan, and Bang Magazine, as well as featured on CNBC Europe, MNET’s Studio 53, SABC Africa and East Africa TV – proof that this creative genius has made waves almost everywhere.


5. Lucilla Booyzen


Director of South African Fashion Week (SAFW) – a biannual event which hosts 20 shows over 5 days – Lucilla Booyzen is a key player in the African fashion industry.

Born and raised in Pretoria and with a high-acheiving educational background, Ms Booyzen began producing shows in the late ’80s, a move which opened doors to every corner of the world and positioned her as a force behind live shows and events, such as Chloe and Versace’s showcase in South Africa, and the Miss World Tourism pageant. She later started the SAFW in 1997, launching it as the only fashion hub of its kind on the continent, with a focus on elevating fashion into an industry able to play a meaningful role in the South African economy.

A great name to know, Lucilla also initiated an agency called The Fashion Agent – a wholesale platform that connects South African designer collections to boutiques – and opened an online store, Runway Online, so is well-embedded on the pulse of fashion from this part of the continent.

And though you might not have already had her on your radar, Booyzen’s mark on the fashion industry has not gone unnoticed; she has received various awards and accolades, including the Shoprite ‘Checkers Woman of the Year Award’ and recognition as the most ‘Influential Woman in Business’ by CEO Magazine. We suggest fashion fans and followers keep watch on Lucille’s upcoming movements.


6. Amaka Osakwe


Another designer on our list of African fashion game-changers is 28-year-old Nigerian designer and creator of the African-based label, Maki Oh; Amaka Osakwe.

As one of the few Nigerian-based designers that are globally acknowledged, Ms Osakwe is an advocate for all things truly African, using true traditional textiles like Adire, Aso-oke, Akwa Ocha, Oja and more to continue to demonstrate the beauty and quality of locally-made textiles.

Lupita Nyong'o in Maki Oh recently during her 2015 'homecoming' tour in Kenya
Lupita Nyong’o in Maki Oh recently during her 2015 ‘homecoming’ tour in Kenya

Osakwe’s label was discovered by the US fashion scene in 2012, when she presented her designs at the New York Fashion Week. Since then, her work has been worn by a number of international celebrities including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lupita Nyong’o, Kerry Washington and even the First Lady, Michelle Obama – a mover in Africa’s fashion scene that truly rubs shoulders with the very best (take her visit to The White House here, as evidence).

7. Reni Folawiyo


Reni Folawiyo is the founder and CEO of Alara – a new luxury lifestyle store opened in Lagos, which offers customers the best in fashion and interior design from all over Africa and the world.

A reflection of Reni’s passion for luxury design, Alara is a brand that allows Africa’s vast heritage of creativity to be celebrated alongside other marvels and luxury goods from all over the world, the store revolutionising the African fashion industry by connecting the local audience with world class lifestyle experiences, while also introducing an international audience to the ‘new’ and changing Africa.

The Alara store
The Alara store

The pioneering store carries a wide range of fashion brands, including Maki Oh, Alexander McQueen, Tiffany Amber, Marni, Peter Pilotto and more, and Ms Folawiyo herself – a stylish business mind that kills it whenever she steps out – was even credited by for her personal wardrobe, making it into their streetstyle editorial focused on Lagos (see it here) where she also spoke about Alara.

Seems that Reni’s influence in the industry includes both her great business mind and sense of style too…

8. Omoyemi Akerele 


Listed as one of the “global gatekeepers” of fashion by Business of Fashion, Omoyemi Akerele is the founder and artistic director of creative development agency, Style House Files and the brain behind the Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW) – a name fashion fans should already be quite familiar with.

Omoyemi Akerele is widely regarded as a driving force behind the burgeoning African fashion industry, with her pioneering agency in image consultancy and creative direction within the Nigeria working with indigenous labels on brand positioning and retail strategies; her fashion week helping brands gain international exposure through showcases at Pitti Immagine in Italy and the event’s partnership with the British Fashion Council drawing international attention from journalists like Suzy Menkes and Cristina Manfredi, as well as a host of international buyers.

Orange Culture on the catwalk at LFDW's Autumn/Winter'15 showcase
Orange Culture on the catwalk at LFDW’s Autumn/Winter’15 showcase

Impeccably chic but most importantly, in-tune with the wider fashion world and business needs of designers, Omoyemi Akerele is the name to call on when you’re in need of expertise or that important connection to the global fashion industry – she’s a real game-changer in terms of the continent’s growth internationally.

9. Lisa Folawiyo


Designer Lisa Folawiyo is regarded as one of the key movers of the African fashion industry, with her self-titled brand (formerly known as Jewel by Lisa) being a multi-faceted global womenswear and accessories label that most fashion lovers are well familiar with.

Having shown collections on international platforms – from Johannesburg, London and Paris, to New York and Lagos – Lisa’s work is remembered for her signature use of Ankara; her way with using ornately-embellished West African fabrics turning the world’s head and her label into a coveted luxury brand. 

Models backstage at Lisa's New York Fashion Week showcase for Spring/Summer'15
Models backstage at Lisa’s New York Fashion Week showcase for Spring/Summer’15

Her staple bedazzled texture has been the key to Lisa Folawiyo ʼs success and leading to brand being worn by the likes of British actress, Thandie Newton and singer, Solange Knowles, as well as being featured in top publications like The New York Times, Vogue, Harpersbazaar, Glamour Magazine and many more.

But the most importantly, with growth still occurring (did you see her recent partnership with Pandora, here?) the Lisa Folawiyo name is set to be been a feature in the thoughts of many, for years to come – so one should get to know it now.

10. Duro Olowu


Jamaican-Nigerian designer, Duro Olowu was born in Lagos then travelled the world before launching his eponymous label in 2004 in London.

An instant hit with the most important people in fashion – editors and buyers – Duro’s first collection was an international sell out in its worldwide stockists, which at the time included Barneys in New York, Harrods in London and Maria Luisa in Paris; all the most revered stores one might chose to shop in.

A look from Duro's 2007 catwalk showcase
A look from Duro’s 2007 catwalk showcase

Accolades have came in a steady flow for Mr Olowu, from the ‘New Designer of the Year Award’ at the 2005 British Fashion Awards, to being awarded TopShop’s ‘NEWGEN’ sponsorship for his first three catwalk shows in 2007 and the 2010 ‘Best International Designer’ award at the African Fashion Awards in South Africa.

And, obviously, there have been nods and features from all the top publications, including Vogue and top style authorities, ranging from supermodel Iman, icon Iris Apfel and the new fashion love, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

A look from Duro Olowu’s Spring/Summer’15 collection lookbook

With stunning collection after stunning collection (see his Autumn/Winter’15 range here), plus personal projects like the pop up he curated in New York last year (more on that, here), Duro Olowu is making continuous brilliant moves in the industry and making waves throughout the African fashion industry and beyond – a name history will not easily forget.

But how does our list of African fashion industry influencers compare to yours? Is there another name to add to our edit? Tell us which Africans you think have made the most waves in the industry in the comments box or online @SPICETVAFRICA.

Image source:,,,,,,, @MustafaHassanali,,

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