We are honoring inspiring female-founded fashion brands across Africa who are bringing African culture, design, and knowledge to the forefront of fashion. This article highlights their efforts as trailblazers in the global industry, who have built sustainable brands to standards of excellence and defied the status quo.
With Talensi as its flagship, the Ghanaian creative space has witnessed the birth of a brand that is ethical and sustainable. It has set the agenda for a dynamic fashion that is sustainable at heart. Their fabrics are dyed by local producers and artists in the country to create fabrics with beautiful patterns. By combining contemporary design with traditional motifs, Talensi creates a trendy, yet uniquely indigenous brand. In keeping with its native soul, it adapts to fit the ever-changing styles of its place of birth, its people, and others who recognize Africa as the cradle of civilization.
A former magazine editor, stylist, and entrepreneur, Sarah Diouf, founded Tongoro in Dakar, Senegal in 2016. Tongoro produces womenswear and menswear for African markets. The mission of the brand is to empower African artisans while advocating for African prints, fabrics, and traditional craftsmanship. Her label manufactures quality clothing and accessories for men and women, matching international standards using qualified and trained local artisans and tailors. Diouf began outsourcing production to independent tailors but has since developed a robust supply chain, enabling the brand to ship orders quickly to customers throughout the world. Sarah believes using African fabrics only does not mean representing the African culture, but by telling stories and translating them in imagery, what a typical African woman is like and what she wants to portray can be represented.
Studio One Eighty-Nine, founded in Africa by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, offers artisanal fashion and lifestyle materials that are inspired by Africa. Currently, the brand operates an Accra (Ghana) store, an online store, and a manufacturing facility in Accra, and supports programs in the US and African countries. Studios 189 collaborates with artisan communities that specialize in various traditional crafts, including natural plant dyes such as indigo, hand batik, kente weaving, etc. In their view, increasing the share of fashion industries and encouraging traditional methods will lead to social change.
Pepper Row is an African sustainable fashion brand with a sense of luxury. It was founded by Omafume Niemogha, an entrepreneur in Nigeria, in 2018. The color intuitive Ethical brand with its garments, footwear, and accessories made for the bold, sophisticated, and playful free spirits embodies and merges Africa’s rich cultural heritage, arts, and craftsmanship with modern influences for the global clientele. Pepperrow utilizes more sustainable raw materials, innovative production techniques with conscious consideration for the environment. Niemogha believes fashion can be a powerful tool for social and environmental change, along with exploring, promoting, and preserving the time-honored artistic craft of weaving and dyeing textiles, woodcarving, and hand painting.
Malawian Awa Meite is the founder, fashion, and textile designer behind the fashion label Awa Meite. The brand highlights artisanal fashion and accessories that reflect the country’s rich heritage of craftsmanship. Awa grew up in Côte d’Ivoire, contributing to employing marginalized artisans who were masters of their craft. The details of her designs portray the rich African culture and inspire the idea that African history cannot be forgotten if raw materials sourced from the continent are used in conservation. Using sustainable employment and skills development, she aims to improve the living conditions of her people.
Sindiso Khumalo is a textile designer from Cape Town who specializes in sustainable textiles. Sindiso Khumalo launched her eponymous label with the goal of creating modern, ethical textiles while emphasizing African storytelling. By hand, she creates watercolors and collages for her textiles. Over the years, she has cultivated a distinctive visual voice, and a brand devoted to sustainability, craftsmanship, and empowerment. Khumalo believes that collaborating with artisans in one’s native country brings back “the value of the hand into the contemporary world”.
Designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye is also known as Adama Paris, a label that embodies multicultural style in its purest form. In addition to New York, London, and Paris, her Moroccan-made pieces can also be found internationally. A pioneer of African fashion initiatives, Ms. Hodges founded Dakar Fashion Week, Black Fashion Week, and other initiatives promoting African fashion. Adama believes Africans can use their power to better themselves and don’t need others to do it for them, which is what her brand aims to do.