African designers pushing boundaries with sustainable fashion

Adèle Dejak jewellery featuring Vanhu Vamwe handbag. Picture: Instagram.

Adèle Dejak jewellery featuring Vanhu Vamwe handbag. Picture: Instagram.

Published May 20, 2024


African fashion continues to push boundaries as the world recognises the beauty and craftsmanship our designers have to offer.

From bold accessories to timeless statement pieces, African designers are cementing themselves as some of the best globally as they thrive in this highly competitive industry.

As we celebrate Africa Month this May, we look at some of the best sustainable fashion brands in Africa that you should know.

Fruché (Nigeria)

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Fruché is a contemporary fashion brand owned by Frank Aghuno, who has been designing since he was 11 years old. As a self-taught designer, he learnt how to make clothes using his mother’s wax prints

Aghuno is consistent in making clothes that explore the rich historical stories that challenge the notion of how Nigerian/African women and men are expected to look and dress.

According to the brand’s statement: “Fruché is a mix of traditional Nigerian culture, heritage, artisanal techniques and contemporary design.

“The brand embodies a unique sensibility that seamlessly combines an outspoken narrative and a bold sensuality that is luxuriously modern.”

What we love about this brand is that it promotes slow fashion with its innovative designs.

Fruché. Picture: Instagram.

Kiing Daviid (Nigeria)

Some people overlook shoe designers, which is comical because no matter how gorgeous your garment may be, your look is incomplete without the right shoes.

Shoes can make or break your overall look.

It’s people like David Eze, the founder of Kiing Daviid, who makes us respect the craft as he prides himself in making luxurious shoes made from sustainable materials.

What makes his shoes stand out is that they are handcrafted and the chunky soles are made from tyres, while the upper layers are either made from leather or denim.

When “Bella Naija Style” asked Eze why he decided to design shoes, he said: “We noticed there was a need in that space, in terms of people wanting to wear boots, but can’t see a Nigerian brand that provides them, so they order from other brands outside Nigeria or Africa.

“Hence, paying exorbitant prices and wait for weeks or months to get their order since it’s been imported. So we saw that need and decided to solve that problem.”

Kiing Daviid shoes. Picture: Instagram.

Oddity (South Africa)

Owned by Jessica-Ann Shepherd, Oddity is a Cape Town-based brand known for its colourful crotchet pieces.

The brand that won this year’s SA Fashion Week Mr Price New Talent Search, is going to the top, especially with crochet growing worldwide. What makes this brand stand out is that it makes fashion-forward pieces using a slow fashion method of crochet.

When using sustainable fabrics like linen, Shepherd makes sure to hand-paint all her prints to stay true to the ethos of her brand.

“Sustainability is important. We’ve done it with our knitwear and our lift-over jerseys; nothing ever goes to waste. We try to keep all the offcuts and use them anywhere else possible,” she said.

Oddity. Picture: Eunice Driver.

Christie Brown (Ghana)

The Ghanaian luxury brand is owned by Aisha Ayensu, who founded it in 2008.

It is named after the designer’s grandmother to preserve her legacy as a seamstress with no label of her own.

“Christie Brown is inspired by the countless artisans and visionaries that have come up before it. From women selling colourfully printed and intricately woven fabrics in crowded market stalls to seamstresses expertly cutting out patterns by freehand,” reads the brand’s story.

What we love about this brand is the craftsmanship behind every piece, from the patterns to the dyeing techniques and the innovative designs that exude sophistication and timeless elegance.

Christie Brown. Picture: Instagram.

Rich Factory (South Africa)

Owned by Rina Chunga Kutama, Rich Factory is a Pan-African brand based in Randburg, north of Joburg.

The brand is known for its vibrant African prints that celebrate femininity and the essence of an African woman.

Although she came into the spotlight in 2016, the Zambian-born designer, who grew up in Botswana and now resides in South Africa, has been making clothes since 2007.

Nomzamo Mbatha in Rich Factory. Picture: AFI.

Adèle Dejak (Kenya)

Clothes without accessories can be bland, hence accessories designers like Dejak are needed in the industry.

The Kenyan designer is known for making handmade wearable art, including handbags and jewellery. One of her best-selling pieces is the Afro-adele mud cloth bag, which boasts a mini timber afro comb detailing.

The press description read: “The tradition of making beautifully patterned out mud cloths, or ‘bogolanfin’i, is strongly linked to the Bamana people of Mali.

“Bògòlanfini is a term in the Bambara language made up of three words. ‘Bogo’ refers to ‘mud,’ ‘Lan’ means ‘with’, and ‘Fini; means ‘cloth.’ Hence, the term Bògòlanfini is Bambara for ‘mud cloth’.”

All accessories, including the handbag by Adèle Dejak. Picture:Instagram.

Hanifa (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The globally acclaimed luxury brand is owned by Anifa Mvuemba, who made headlines in 2020 during lockdown when she became the first fashion designer to stage a virtual 3-D fashion show.

In her show, Mvuemba had no models but was able to use technology to make invisible ones to launch "Pink Label Congo", a collection that paid tribute to her Congolese roots.

"For our second Pink Label Congo collection, it was important to pay homage to my roots and the origin of my creativity passed down from my mom and African seamstresses. I felt it was time to share our story in the context of my heritage.

“Pink Label Congo was a nod to the beauty and resilience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it was also my way of saying thank you to all of the African seamstresses who have come before me throughout the continent," she told the Business Insider Africa at the time.

One of the dresses called "Kinshasa" from the Pink Label Congo collection that American actress Zendaya wore for her “InStyle” magazine September 2020 cover was exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in April this year.

The dress was named after the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Zendaya wearing the ‘Kinshasa’ dress. Picture: Instagram.

∎Africa Day is celebrated annually on May 25.