20 African Fashion Brands You Should Know About

As editorial assistants for The Folklore, we have come to learn that African fashion is just as diverse as the continent itself. The Folklore, an online concept store founded by Amira Rasool in 2018, has become a hub for discerning shoppers looking for high-end and emerging African fashion and design brands. Created with the aim of reflecting the diversity of Africa's contemporary urban landscapes and unique design aesthetic, The Folklore enhances the visibility of the continent's thriving fashion industry, and we couldn't be more elated to be a part of all the action.

Over the past few months, we have had the opportunity to write about influential figures and incredible collections from a host of artists and designers known around the world. The Folklore gives representation to designers and artists from Nigeria to Senegal as well as Black-owned businesses in North America, South America, and Europe, creating a stage so much wider for African fashion than we had originally thought before joining the team. Whether these brands draw inspiration from their culture and tradition or utilize the abundant textile resources that the African continent provides, The Folklore offers a platform to showcase incredible designs through careful curation of apparel, shoes, bags, accessories, and homeware that can be used anywhere in the world. Some of these brands have been previously unavailable to shop online or outside of Africa—until now. Below, we've highlighted some of the brands that we have come to know and love in our time at The Folklore. Read about their founders and their inspirations, and take a look at some key pieces from their collections.

 

Designer Nicola West revives classic silhouettes with her fashion label W35t, which she launched in 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. Her casual-chic clothing line features hand-painted wrap dresses and slip dresses that flatter every body shape. W35t designs comfortable and elegant womenswear that appeals to confident, sexy, and fun-loving women. The boldly patterned Animal Print Slip Dress, which features both tiger stripes and leopard spots with splashes of pink for a pop of color, takes a simple slip dress and elevates it to an eye-catching number.

This Nigeria-based brand—started by Andrea Dumebi Iyamah when she was just 17 years old—is strongly influenced by ethnic cultures, traditions, and colors. Andrea Iyamah combines retro silhouettes and flattering designs to make unique swim- and resortwear pieces for an adventurous and worldly audience. Harvest, the brand's spring/summer 2021 collection, keeps to its traditional designs while also representing the culmination of the brand's hard work over the past decade. The Mulan Bikini is high-waisted with leaf-like detailing, and it comes in earthy tones like papaya orange and coconut white.

Mixing traditional Nigerian culture and technique with contemporary designs, Fruché creates a luxuriously and almost cosmopolitan narrative with every product. Frank Aghuno started the brand in 2014 and has used each new collection to experiment with the past, the present, and the future of Nigerian fashion. One of the staple pieces in the Fruché roster is the Osagie Shirt Dress, a contemporary take on the classic white button-down shirt featuring asymmetrical tailoring juxtaposed with chic, feminine drapery. It's an eye-catching, versatile statement piece that will easily complement many of your favorite pieces in your closet or that can even be worn on its own as a dress.

 

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Selfi produces "ready to go" clothing with a great emphasis on sustainability for the modern woman. With its name originating from the word "self," the brand features details drawn from South African culture, history, and identity. Handcrafted with ramie linen, the lightweight Stone Oval Sleeve Jumpsuit is perfect for summer. This chic piece features an elastic waistband for a comfortable fit, and the cutout and rounded sleeves allow you to feel the summer breeze on a warm day. Pair the jumpsuit with retro sneakers for a sporty day look or open-toe heels to dress it up.

Presenting notes of heritage, luxury, and contemporary design, Nigerian womenswear brand Onalaja focuses on experimentation with textiles as well as clashes in textures. Capturing the essence of Onalaja is the Elia Mini Dress, crafted from a shimmering black fabric and outlined with rose-colored gems for a bold and beautiful look. The brand aims to fuse Istituto Marangoni–trained designer Kanyinsola Onalaja's Nigerian heritage with the flair of Italian design and the formality of British fashion.

Nominated for the LVMH Prize in 2015 and the International Woolmark Prize in 2018, Nigerian brand Orange Culture caters to a creative class with a variety of colors, styles, and fabrics. Priding itself on the extensive coverage of universal silhouettes with an African touch, the brand manufactures all pieces in Lagos with ethically sourced fabrics from local makers in order to remain as sustainable as possible. The Warning Tunic from the latest collection is inspired by the popular graphic warning of imminent danger, but in a stylish way. The text at the bottom reads, "Warning: Wear at your own discretion. All advice reserved." Wise words.

 

Twin sisters Sylvia and Olivia Enekwe-Okoji started Gozel Green in 2012 to cater to the women of the world who aren't afraid to stand out and use their clothes to make a statement. The brand's ready-to-wear pieces represent the passion and drive that Sylvia and Olivia have to create the clothing that tells African stories in an unconventional and artistic way. The Black Long Sleeve Gash Dress showcases such artistic flair with the unique white stitching across a classic black silhouette, and the green lining peeking through creates an entirely new dimension to this simple piece.

 

Despite the name, Côte d'Ivoire–based brand Kente Gentlemen is not just for men. Its unisex designs are made to defy the expected norms of fashion. Each piece is fitted, cut, and sewn with materials from Africa, employing the rich textile heritage and craftsmanship seen across the continent. Established in 2017, the Ivorian brand aims to be a clothing line dedicated to offering edgy yet elegant products tailored with contemporary and unique designs in mind. The signature Baba and Soke Suit, a blue-and-white pinstripe two-piece, is handmade in Abidjan and exemplifies the elegance and craftsmanship of the Kente Gentlemen brand.

 

Soko is a women-led, people-first jewelry brand that takes pride in its ethical practices to create and deliver high-quality pieces that are timeless. By employing local Kenyan artisans to handcraft its earrings, cuffs, and rings, Soko's mission is to showcase the beauty of Kenyan artistry and the country's deep cultural roots. Shaped from a curved sheet of brass, the minimalist Sia Stud Earrings will add a touch of effortless elegance to any look.

Unique silhouettes and bold colors riddle the collections of Nigerian womenswear brand Mazelle Studio. Founded by Mariam Afolabi, a graduate of the Istituto Marangoni fashion school in Milan, the brand makes use of adire, an indigo-dyed cloth made in Nigeria, which has become one of its many defining hallmarks. The pleated bust and dramatic flared sleeves of the Gathered Sleeves Pleated Bust Blouse makes it one of Mazelle Studio's statement pieces. It allows for movement and playfulness while remaining a bold yet versatile addition to any wardrobe.

The brainchild of Katherine-Mary Pichulik—a South African pastry chef turned jewelry designer—accessory brand Pichulik has been crafting impactful jewelry for women since its inception in 2013. Featuring a corded hoop that's accentuated on each end with a large pearl, the chic but sturdy Large Pearl Hoop Earrings capture how the right piece of jewelry can make a woman feel seen and powerful.

 

Nigerian women's footwear and accessory brand Shekudo aims to highlight the local artisans and craftsmanship in Africa by showcasing unique and wearable designs for the everyday woman. From recycled insoles to wooden shoe heels, all of Shekudo's raw materials are sourced and produced locally. Shekudo strives to establish a global sisterhood and create a sense of women's empowerment with every accessory. The Ilamoye Mule Sandal is a statement piece that will be the focal point of any outfit. Each pair is carefully made to order by skilled artisans, meaning each weave arrangement and tassel placement is unique, and no two pieces are the same.

 

A self-described manufacturer of "sketches and doodles in metal," jewelry brand Lorne thrives on the imperfections of its production. Lorne creates wearable art that's inspired by everyday spontaneity. Each piece is handcrafted and made to be one of a kind in order to utilize the majority of the materials. The Wild Flower Earrings are made from intricately laced gold-plated brass, with pieces layered over and between each other to capture the delicate movements of a flower.

With more than 70 years of experience in the industry, South African milliner Simon and Mary was founded on the backbone of the family and continues to honor its history through simple but stylish hats that integrate ancient styles with contemporary design. Utilizing the same trusted machinery from decades ago, Simon and Mary creates modern headwear that can elevate the look of any outfit. The Red Classic Fez hat is, as the name implies, a classic. It upholds the traditional fez hat style worn in the Middle East and Africa during the Ottoman empire. The wool fez hat is unisex, featuring a pointy top, a bowl-shaped design, and a gleaming gold Simon and Mary pin on its side.

 

Based in Cape Town, accessory brand Thalia Strates creates bags for "wildly spirited yet sophisticated adventurers and professionals." The brand prides itself on transparency in materials and manufacturing: Artisans set their own wages, the materials used are ethically sourced, and relationships with customers and local entities are prioritized. Practicality meets luxury in the Mali Black Clutch thanks to its dual purpose as a belt bag. With its detachable strap, the bag can be worn around the waist when you need to go hands-free or as a clutch for evenings out on the town.

 

Originally from Cape Verde and currently residing in Rio de Janeiro, Afro-Brazilian fashion designer Angela Brito uses her eponymous brand to reflect her heritage. Taking inspiration from nature, art, and geometry, her innovative womenswear designs present the Cape Verdean aesthetic through wearable, elegant, and maximalist styles rendered in eye-catching prints and bold colors. With its mismatched shapes and patterns that still align harmoniously, the Arquipélago Print Dress exemplifies Angela Brito's colorful design ethos.

 

Fusing modern fashion and Ivorian traditions, womenswear brand Loza Maléombho has been creating looks for traditionalists who like a modern twist. Established in New York City in 2009 and relocated to Côte d'Ivoire three years later, the brand bounces between old and new, with the final product remaining on-trend. A statement piece that lives up to the Loza Maléombho mission is the Abla Stripe Sandals, block-heeled black-and-white striped shoes fastened with a tie in the back and adorned with a 24-karat gold-plated mask pendant on each shoe. The statement sandals will wake up a dull wardrobe just in time for summer.

Lagos-based women's swimwear brand Salt and Sunscreen creates colorful and versatile tops, bottoms, and one-piece swimsuits that cater to every woman's style and flatter all body types without compromising on comfort. The La Romana One Piece is the perfect beach-ready attire, featuring an open-back plunge along with two straps that tie at the shoulder. The swimsuit straps are adjustable, which allows you to achieve the perfect fit and accentuate your curves.

By combining comfort and luxury, designer Rhita Sebti breathes new life into the classic Moroccan babouche shoe style. With the intent of making the shoes a basic in every closet, the designer has taken them to a new level, literally. The signature platform design elevates the typically heelless shoes, and each pair is handmade in Casablanca, Morocco. The Amber Babouches feature pearl and crystal embellishments and are made of real suede leather. Crafting with elements from all over the globe, Rhita Sebti seamlessly blends different design details together in the babouches.

Founder Wilglory Tanjong combined the names of her mother and closest friend to create the Anima Iris brand. Each accessory in this collection is handcrafted in Dakar, Senegal, with artisanal detail and precision. Inspiration is drawn from the strength and power of the matriarchs of the past so that each woman who carries Anima Iris will feel empowered and emboldened. The Zaza Grande Snakeskin Bag features an envelope-style flap with a functional magnetic closure, and its lemon-yellow snakeskin texture combined with a braided top handle elevates the purse from ordinary to a must-have luxury accessory.

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