Celebrating African women who are pioneers in the fashion industry on International Women’s Day

Zizipo Poswa, Wandile Mabaso, Lorna Scott and Palesa Mokubung. Picture: Supplied.

Zizipo Poswa, Wandile Mabaso, Lorna Scott and Palesa Mokubung. Picture: Supplied.

Published Mar 8, 2024


Women are the pillars of strength, the givers of life and beacons of light.

Every year on March 8, the world commemorates International Women’s Day to celebrate all women for being.

This special day is for celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and this year, we take a look at some of the women who are leading the fashion industry in Africa.

Lucilla Booyzen

She is not a designer, but her contribution in the fashion industry is for the books.

In 1997, Booyzen launched the South African Fashion Week, one of the remarkable fashion organisations in Africa.

Through this platform, she has helped many designers launch their careers, including David Tlale and Thebe Magugu, who have become renowned international designers.

“South African Fashion Week has been paving the way for the retail sector to support SA designers via our trade shows, designer pop-up shops and other initiatives. The response from large retailers and departmental stores has been uninspired and, in my, view, short-sighted.

“Rather than harnessing the opportunity to build our brands, too many have opted for the easy route of inexpensive, and often tepid, imports.

“The real and exciting opportunity, therefore, exists for the mainstream sector, including the large international chains currently dominating our market, to commit to local production,” says Booyzen, in an introductory statement.

Founder of SA Fashion Week Lucilla Booyzen. Picture: Itumeleng English

Palesa Mokubung

Palesa Mokubung. Picture: File.

The founder of Mantsho has always been about women and continues to create extravagant womenswear.

Mokubung is the first African designer to collaborate with Swedish brand H&M and have her collection sold at the retailer’s stores worldwide.

Mantsho by 
Palesa Mokubung 

When that collection launched in 2019, Mokubung was over the moon because she took the Mantsho signature flower to the world and made it accessible to everyone fond of the brand.

The collection consisted of dresses, a skirt, pants, kimonos and tops, as well as a range of accessories, shoes, clutch bags and earrings. The main pieces were the Mmabatho dress and Shekisha skirt.

Elyon Adede

Elyon Adede. Picture: Instagram.

Women like Adede, the founder of Elexiay- a sustainable fashion brand that highlights Nigerian craftsmanship, understand that by empowering women, you are empowering the nation.

“Our crochet pieces are made in Nigeria by the hands of female sartorially advanced crocheters. We believe in the creation of jobs locally and the empowerment of women,” explains Edede in her bio.

Elexiay prides itself on creating unique crochet and knit pieces that are trendy. In February this year, they showcased their collection at The Folklore at New York Fashion Week Showroom.

Elexiay designs. Picture: The Alfe.

Aisha Ayensu

Originally from Ghana, Ayensu is the creative director of Christie Brown, a ready-to-wear haute brand. She is famous for creating stage costumes for Beyonce, Genevieve Nnaji, Jackie Appiah and Sandra "Alexandrina" Don-Arthur.

Aisha Ayensu. Picture: Instagram.

Ayensu, who makes clothes for a “modern woman who seeks a true taste of Africa” named her brand after her grandmother.

“I’ve always loved fashion. I got that from my grandmother, Christie Brown, who was a seamstress.

Christie Brown Autumn/Winter 23 collection by Aisha Ayensu. Picture: Instagram.

“What made me push that further and start a fashion brand had more to do with a burning desire in me to change the narrative about Africa that I’d gotten so sick of seeing and hearing on the global scene.

“I needed the world to experience the side of Africa I lived in each day. I bit the bullet and decided to build a global fashion brand that spoke to the sentiments and tastes of the modern African woman - her spunk, unapologetic love and appreciation of where she’s from,” she told “Essence” magazine.

Kunjina Tesfaye

The founder of Kunjina is an Ethiopian designer who makes clothes for people who want to feel an overwhelming sense of confidence. At her latest showcase at the BRICS+ Fashion Summit, she presented a whimsical collection of edgy pieces with a touch of denim.

Kunjina Tesfaye. Picture: Instagram.

“This collection is crafted for the tastemakers who are confident and possess an edgy sense of style. I envisioned individuals who cherish freedom in fashion, seeking pieces that offer versatility and a canvas for personal expression.

“The collection is designed to allow the wearer the liberty to mix and match, creating unique ensembles that accentuate their taste. It’s about integrating these pieces into one’s wardrobe, making them a part of their lifestyle rather than mere standalone items.

“This interaction between the collector and the collection is what truly elevates the tastemaking experience, offering a platform for personal expression and style innovation,” Tesfaye said in a previous interview with Independent Media Lifestyle.

Kunjina. Picture: Instagram.