Close
Designers

Meet the buzzy African fashion designers in the V&A’s new Africa Fashion exhibition

From Morocco to Cameroon, Senegal to South Africa, these new-gen labels are blazing a trail across the continent’s fashion scene

Africa Fashion: Meet the contemporary designers in the V&A’s new exhibition

The V&A’s blockbuster exhibition Africa Fashion opened last week to much acclaim. Showcasing an extraordinary collection of garments, sketches, photographs, film and catwalk footage, it is a compelling celebration of African fashions from the mid-20th century to the current day. Here we highlight five new generation African fashion designers featured in the V&A’s exhibition, all of whom are making waves across the continent and beyond.

Tongoro

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Founded in 2016 by Paris-born, Ivory Coast-raised creative director Sarah Diouf, Tongoro is a ready-to-wear label with a strong emphasis on African fashion and craftsmanship. All materials are sustainably sourced on the continent and each and every piece is made in Dakar, Senegal by local tailors (Senegalese tailoring is renowned for its exceptional quality). The long-term goal is to “create a new dynamic for Africa-based manufacturing, and foster the economic and social development of artisanal workers in Western Africa.”

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

One of the most prominent names among African fashion designers, the label counts Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Iman and Alicia Keys as fans, who no doubt favour it not just for the billowing silhouettes, bold patterns and graphic prints that ripple through the collections (SS22 sees voluminous shapes and black-and-white geometric motifs blazoned across flowing jumpsuits, maxi dresses and playsuits) – but also for the fact that the brand is based around empowering women. 

tongoro.com

Meet the contemporary designers in the V&A’s new Africa Fashion exhibition

Maison ARTC

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Founder and creative director Artsi Ifra established Maison ARTC at the age of 28, swapping his career as a ballet dancer for one in fashion and setting up an atelier in the heart of Marrakech. The self-taught Israeli Moroccan designer – described as a “visionary” in the world of African fashion designers- has gone on to garner international acclaim for his avant-garde designs, showing at Haute Couture Week in Paris.

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

A champion of the slow fashion movement, Artsi uses vintage fabrics, repurposed garments and traditional textiles – often sourced at local markets – to create contemporary, sculptural silhouettes. At once playful and bold, all of his pieces are one-of-a-kind, made by Moroccans in Morocco. Each design is always exquisitely photographed, further blurring the lines between art and fashion. 

Africa Fashion means the past, the future and the present at the same time,” Artsi says of the V&A exhibition. “The joy of life and the joy of colour are completely different and very particular to the continent. It’s a language of heritage, it’s a language of DNA, it’s a language of memories.”

maisonartc.com

Meet the contemporary designers in the V&A’s new Africa Fashion exhibition

Imane Ayissi

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Imane Ayissi’s love of fashion began in Cameroon where, as a young boy, he could often be found cutting up his mother’s dresses to better understand how they were made. Like Maison ARTC’s Artsi, Ayissi went on to become a dancer, as well as a successful model for the likes of Dior and Valentino. But it was his passion for couture that prevailed – and, after moving to Paris, he set up his eponymous label in the French capital in 2004.

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Two decades on and Ayissi’s high voltage, made-to-measure pieces continue to bridge the gap between the traditional and the contemporary, blending elements of African tribal art with modern haute couture and mixing locally sourced organic fabrics (Ayissi favours textiles like kente and bògòlanfini, created in collaboration with cooperatives) with silk and taffeta. The red carpet go-to for the likes of Zendaya and Angela Bassett, it is one of Ayissi’s bold raffia and silk creations that opens Africa Fashion at the V&A. 

imane-ayissi.com

Meet the contemporary designers in the V&A’s new Africa Fashion exhibition

Thebe Magugu

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Ever since Kimberly-born, Johannesburg-based designer Thebe Magugu unveiled his debut collection in 2017, he has been a strong advocate of the political power of fashion, addressing cultural, social and political issues through his designs, from gender-based violence to apartheid. Alongside his signature sharp tailoring, love of texture and bold palette, Magugu is known for incorporating prints into his designs that reference Africa’s past and retell its stories.

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

His inventiveness and talent saw Magugu win the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2019, the first African fashion designer to receive such recognition, and last year he was a finalist in the International Woolmark Prize (Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld are previous winners). Referring to the V&A exhibition he says: “Now more than ever African designers are taking charge of their own narrative and telling people authentic stories, not the imagined utopias.” 

thebemagugu.com

Meet the contemporary designers in the V&A’s new Africa Fashion exhibition

Sindiso Khumalo

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Having worked for British-Ghanian architect David Adjaye before switching to fashion and graduating from Central St Martins with a Masters in textile futures, Sindiso Khumalo founded her eponymous Cape Town-based label in 2015. Khumalo’s mother was a political activist who fought against the Apartheid regime, inspiring her to draw on her heritage to create modern textiles with a strong emphasis on African storytelling. A passionate advocate for social equality and female empowerment, Khumalo often weaves these elements into her collections.

5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin
5 Exciting African Fashion Designers You Need To Know AboutPin

Sustainability and craft are also close to Khumalo’s heart. She designs by hand using watercolours and collage, before working closely with NGOs and small workshops in South Africa and Burkina Faso to develop the handwoven and hand-embroidered textiles, using natural materials such as hemp, linen and organic African cotton. A joint winner of the LVMH Prize in 2020, she has shown at Milan Fashion Week and spoken at the United Nations on sustainability in fashion.

sindisokhumalo.com

Africa Fashion runs until 16 April 2023

vam.ac.uk

RECOMMENDED
The Glossary Logo

Subscribe to our curated London guides for the very best in contemporary culture across the capital. Plus the latest style and beauty news and reviews

Share to...