Celebrating Female-Owned Fashion Brands That Have Put Africa On The International Map
For this edition of the Fashionomics blog, we celebrate women’s month by shining the spotlight on women who have worked diligently to tell the African fashion story on world stages. To do that, we share with you 5 African, female owned fashion brands that have been worn by Hollywood A-listers!
KUTULA is one of the African brands that have played the role of ambassadorship for fashion entrepreneurs in Africa. Based in Los Angeles, KUTULA is a fashion brand rooted in African origins, having been formed by two sisters Nyambo and Kay Anuhola, whose parental roots are in Nigeria and Zambia. Before its rebranding, the brand was originally known as “Africana Imports”, having been formed by their parents Tony and Franseca. In 2014, Nyambo and Kay were inspired to fuse new vitality to the brand, by renaming it, as they continued their family legacy. The two have served as co-owners of the KUTULA brand, and injected a new vision and modern styles, crossing cultural boarders and boundaries to appeal to an ever-growing audience. Among its most iconic milestones is its contribution to the authentic costumes in two prestigious Marvel films, BLACK PANTHER (2018) as well as 2016's CAPTAIN AMERICA: Civil War. The Fashion brand also provided designs for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘All the Stars’ official music video for the film. Since its formation, KUTULA has evolved into a brand that offers both custom wear for special occasions as well as designs for every day wear.
LISA FOLAWIYO is one of Africa’s renowned African fashion brands that has made waves both on the African continent and the international stage. The brand was founded by Lisa Folawiyo, a Nigerian lawyer by profession, and self-taught designer. Famous for its global remix of African traditional fashion with modern tailoring techniques, LISA FOLAWIYO has earned its mark as a producer of quality garments which reflect attention to detail, tailoring fit and embellishment. The brand’s collections are exclusively crafted from West African Ankara textiles that are vibrant and wax resistant. It is because of LISA FOLAWIYO’s high level of excellence that its designs are distinct and have managed to attract regional and international attention. Since starting her label in 2005, Folawiyo has spearheaded the movement of Nigerian designers achieving international recognition for their work. LISA FOLAWIYO has showrooms in both Nigeria and New York, and its collections are stocked in the UK, US, South Africa and Nigeria. The fashion brand’s design have been worn by Hollywood celebrities such as Thandi Newton, Lucy Liu as well as Lupita Nyongo.
TONGORO is a brand owned by iconic female Senegalese Sara Diouf. The brand was launched in 2016, and produces unique and playful apparel which focuses on understanding what the brand’s customers want. Despite it being a relatively young enterprise, the TONGORO brand has proved itself to be a reflection of brilliance, and has since attracted many international patrons. After observing and studying luxury fast fashion, Sara was challenged to come up with a different concept from what had already been presented. This inspired her to create a brand that dresses globally, and aims to help the ‘Made in Africa’ label to become a gage of quality worldwide. According to Sara, the name Tongoro resonates with the imagery of the brand, and tells a story about the brand which she does not have to explain- a characteristic of good branding. Many big celebrities have indulged in TONGORO designs including Naomi Campbell, Alicia Keys, Iman and Burna Boy. One of the brand’s most iconic moments was when Beyonce wore the brand’s designs for her BLACK IS KING movie. Because the brand speaks quality and creativity, Beyonce has been spotted wearing the brand’s designs more than once!
LAVIE BY CK
LAVIE BY CK is a female owned fashion brand that was founded by 26 year old Cameroonian designer Claude Kameni. LAVIE BY CK has established itself as a brand that merges the founder’s African roots with modern styles, to produce fabulous creations. Claude, the founder has studied patterns extensively, and this has allowed her to manipulate patterns to create eye catching garments. In 2021, LAVIE BY CK had its first New York Fashion Week show which was live streamed on Runway360, a digital platform. During the same event, Kameni also debuted her new collection for 2021, called ‘Mind Your Own Business’ which features colorful, bold prints inspired by the designer’s heritage. LAVIE BY CK has earned a reputation as an attire designer for A-list celebrities such as Ellie Ross, Viola Davis and Janet Jackson. LAVIE BY CK designs were worn by Janet Jackson in her video, ‘Made for Now’, where she wore a wax print crinoline for the single while Ellie Ross wore the designer’s piece at the American Music Awards of 2018. Viola Davis wore for a blue and gold blazer by LAVIE BY CK, for the cover of Vanity Fair July/August edition.
YHEBE DESIGNS is another female owned fashion brand that has made waves in the fashion industry. The brand was established in 2015, by Ivory Coast fashion designer Rebecca Zoro and named after Rebeca’s childhood nickname which her grandfather called her. The YHEBE brand therefore carries a representation of the odyssey of love and sensitivity, which is reflected by the rose emblem that the brand is identified with. The aesthetics of the brand are defined in straight cuts, and feminine geometric lines softened by fluid and delicate fabrics. Since its formation, YHEBE has grown from strength to strength, flying the label outside its home country. The Ivorian brand has dressed celebrities such as Janelle Monae and Beyonce, and has also featured on Elle and worked on Vlisco on campaigns. To date, YHEBE commands a crowd of over 10 thousand followers on Instagram, and has featured on several fashion week runways. YHEBE’s works has become known for its unique blend of African and western fabric using asymmetry as an aesthetic.