The African and global Black fashion industry has come a long way. On the international scene, female designers of African descent are paving new grounds in fashion. From ready-to-wear to couture, luxury to fast fashion, these designers are defying the odds and steadily portraying that the future is indeed female.
Whether you set your sights on Lagos or London, Kingston or New York and everywhere in between, talented Black/African female designers are gaining more and more momentum in the global fashion industry. It is not just the high-spirited designs inspired by the colors, sounds, and heritage of Alkebulan (the original name for Africa, pre-colonialism) that have captured the attention of a global audience, but also the fact that Black female designers are defining fashion in their own way by putting local resources, artisan skills, and sustainable production at the forefront of their business models.
Through their ingenuity, these designers highlight the continent’s authenticity and potential — something the world is finally paying more attention to. In addition, the creativity of these women plays a vital role in ensuring that the rest of the world no longer sees Black and African fashion as mediocre, but rather as a formidable player on the global fashion scene.
So, in honor of the strides of the many Black female designers out there, we have curated this list of Black female designers you can support and shop from all year round.
Check out 29 Black female fashion designers you should know…
#1. Darlene & Lizzy Okpo
Sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo created this brand in honor of their parents and named it after their father, Willaim Okpo. Although namesake with a man, this womenswear brand is undeniably chic. The Okpo sisters migrated with their parents from Nigeria to the United States when they were barely three, and their brand illustrates “the unique aesthetic that results from the juxtaposition of the immigrant’s sense of style against American cultural sensibilities, offering the modern feminine designs with touches of masculine elements.”
#2. Priya Ahluwalia
Priya Ahluwalia is an internationally recognized designer with Nigerian-Indian heritage. She founded her London-based brand Ahluwalia World that blends culture, craftsy design, and sustainability. According to GQ Magazine UK, the designer is “an irrepressible mouthpiece for multicultural representation across the fashion industry,” and her brand is proof of this. Ahluwalia has collaborated with other prestigious names within the industry such as Gannie and Paul Smith. In addition, celebrities like Lewis Hamilton and Regé-Jean Page have been spotted in her pieces.
#3. Lisa Folawiyo
Next is Lisa Folawiyo, the Nigerian fashion designer who perfected the art of wearing Ankara through the use of ornate embellishment. She transformed the Ankara from its humble beginnings into one of the most recognizable fabrics in the world, thereby creating a global footprint and turning her label into a coveted luxury brand.
#4. Aurora James
Brother Vellies was founded by Aurora James in 2013 to keep traditional African design practices and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. Now handmade across the globe, Brother Vellies creates luxury accessories that celebrate cultural histories and timeless design.
#5. Anifa Mvuemba
Inspired by a woman’s journey to a life without limits, Hanifa was created by Anifa Mvuemba. Utilizing captivating designs, bold colors, and unique textures, the brand’s feminine designs celebrate a woman’s natural curves. Featuring ready-to-wear collections for women sizes 0 – 20, this brand holds true to providing affordable luxurious pieces for all women at every turn of their lifestyle.
#6. Stella Jean
Stella Jean’s collection focuses on a standard of sustainability and multiculturalism and as a result of this, all SJ collections result from constructing a cultural bridge between Italian design and the artisans of a developing country, or low-income ones. The brand works with artisans in countries such as Peru, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Mali, and others in South America, Africa, and Asia.
#7. Lanre DaSilva Ajayi
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi is a luxury fashion brand founded by a Nigerian designer of the same name. The brand first arrived on the fashion scene in 2005 with iconic 1940s couture signature designs. Since then, LDA has evolved into a much more modern brand that still holds on to its classic aesthetics. LDA creatively combines pattern, print, exquisite, and traditional fabrics to produce day wear, evening wear, gowns, and cocktail dresses. This clever play with colors, fabrics, and textures has made the label successful within and outside Nigeria.
#8. Camille Perry
TOVE, founded by Camille Perry, is an advanced contemporary brand conceived to create a minimal, refined wardrobe for the modern woman. Inspired by these women’s lives, the label explores the concept of creating collections that layer season upon season. Each piece is designed to be relevant yet show a timeless quality that ensures longevity.
#9. Liya Kebede
Supermodel Liya Kebede was inspired to launch this brand following a trip to her native Ethiopia during which she met a group of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft. Lemlem is committed to elevating artisanship and expanding production and jobs across Africa. The core collection is handwoven from natural cotton in Ethiopia, and Lemlem is steadily expanding partnerships with additional artisan groups across Africa.
#10. Andrea Iyamah
Ethnic cultures and nature elements strongly inspire Andrea Iyamah. Founded in 2011 by Andrea Dumebi Iyamah, the brand adopts design elements that stay true to creating authentic clothing and resort wear that celebrate her African roots. Inspired by travel and nature, the bold colors, modern femininity, retro classic silhouettes, and a contemporary edge appeals to the A.I. woman, who is an adventurer in spirit, mind, and style.
#11. Grace Wales Bonner
Wales Bonner‘s designs are characterized by a blend of sportswear and tailoring and her interest in making everyday clothes such as the tracksuit more elegant. She is a recipient of several awards and was voted number 41 on the Dazed 100 list in 2017.
#12. Sindiso Khumalo
Sindiso Khumalo founded her eponymous label in Cape Town, South Africa, focusing on creating textiles with a strong emphasis on African storytelling. This designer fabricates the textiles in her collections by hand through watercolors and collages. As a result, she has developed a uniquely colorful visual voice that draws upon her Zulu and Ndebele heritage. She works very closely with NGOs in developing handmade textiles for her collections.
#13. Felisha Noel
Fe Noel is a conceptual lifestyle brand created for a woman who embodies a love for travel and style. The label founder, Felisha, is another Black female designer who is influenced by her heritage. The Grenadian-born creative has mastered the ability to bottle up culture and glamour infused with sensibility and sensuality.
#14. Marianne Fassler
Marianne Fassler has spent over three decades in the fashion business. She operates from Leopard Frock, her creative workshop in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, where she sells ready-made garments and also consults with individual clients by appointment. Her work is always superbly crafted, interesting, and comfortable. She appeals to a wide range of women who love individuality, identity, craftsmanship, and diversity in their wardrobe.
#15. Abrima Erwiah
Studio 189, co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, is an artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand/social enterprise that produces African and African-inspired content and clothing. It currently operates a manufacturing facility in Accra and supports various community-led projects in Africa and the USA. Studio 189 works with communities specializing in various traditional techniques, including natural plant-based dye indigo, hand-batik, kente weaving, and more.
#16. Brea Stinson
Brea Stinson, the founder of Stinson Haus, has made a name for herself as a stage couturier to megastars, including Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, H.E.R, and Beyonce. She has also worked with superstars such as Missy Elliott, Zayn Malik, Rita Ora, Demi Lovato, TLC, DJ Khaled, 50 Cent, and more. Growing up in a house where both her parents worked in fashion and retail gave her early experience in trend watching while teaching herself to sew on her grandmother’s sewing machine. In short, she’s become the go-to designer for artists who want a show-stopping look, often in seemingly impossible time frames.
#17. Kirsten Goss
Kirsten Goss is an independent jewelry design company specializing in locally manufactured, high-end, everyday jewelry for the independently-minded, discerning wearer. The company opened its doors in London 18 years ago and consequently, has opened four other shops in South Africa. The collections are made by an in-house team of goldsmiths, using gemstones and fine materials. KG specializes in limited-edition and one-off pieces that are modern, sophisticated, and fashion-forward but always classic.
#18. Selly Raby Kane
Selly Raby Kane by African female designer Selly Raby is a brand whose designs embody a mix of urban, Afro and pop. They are a mixture of modern and trendy while combining traditional and contemporary fabrics. The brand expresses the spirit of a new generation: assertive, rebellious, free-spirited, and sophisticated. It is a mix of influences and trends for a unique and uninhibited style with attention to detail and a passion for accessories.
#19. Amaka Osakwe
Ready-to-wear label Maki Oh has earned founder Amaka Osakwe an LVMH Prize nomination. The brand has grown into one of the biggest success stories to come out of the Nigerian fashion scene. In 2012, Maki Oh debuted at New York Fashion Week, and in 2013, former US First Lady Michelle Obama wore her design. The brand has also attracted an enviable celebrity clientele that includes Lupita Nyong’o and Solange Knowles.
#20. Laurence Basse
Leatherwork guru and Project Runway finalist, Laurence Basse emerged from this canvas with a passion for well-designed things. The inspiration developed early with a background that puts function before anything else. The fashion label reportedly sources the most luxurious materials available and is reputable as a brand dedicated to detail and structure.
#21. Toyin Lawani
Through sheer determination, consistency, and faith in herself, Toyin Lawani has become one of Africa’s most daring designers and deserves a spot on our list of Black female designers you should know. Her brand, Elegante by Tiannah is well known for creating authentic and radical designs –– an expression of its creative director, Lawani. The brand believes to be free is expensive, and to express oneself is freedom.
#22. Ann McCreath
KikoRomeo, meaning “Adam’s Apple” in Kiswahili, was founded by Ann McCreath in 1996. It has become a heritage brand, widely credited with transforming fashion in Kenya and mentoring many designers and artisans over the last two decades, during which they have gone beyond cultures and fashion trends. The brand’s vision is to bring different people together for humanity, using fashion and art as a medium.
#23. Ituen Basi
A graduate of the London School of Fashion, Ituen Bassey founded her eponymous brand in 2006. The brand celebrates individuality and feminism in a stylish combination of timeless elegance and a touch of contemporary twist. Bassey’s designs are individualistic, inspired by anything and everything, and synonymous with cutting-edge aesthetics.
#24. Palesa Mokubung
Founded by Palesa Mokubung, Mantsho was established in 2004. Her designs are a perfect balance between functionality and aesthetic which leaves a woman feeling comfortable and sophisticated. Mantsho makes clothes that embody African finesse and are inspired by a generation of Africans that are both global and still embrace their culture through their love for bespoke garments, prints, and textiles. They were the first African design house to collaborate with the global giant, H&M.
#25. Ade Hassan
Frustrated by the lack of skin-tone choices to go with her ever-expanding wardrobe, Nubian Skin founder, Ade Hassan decided it was time for a different kind of nude. Nubian Skin launched a carefully edited collection of lingerie and hosiery to provide women of color with essential underwear needs. Her design model has since inspired the works of many new and existing lingerie brands.
#26. Akosua Afriyie-Kumi
Akosua Afriyie-Kumi founded A.A.K.S to introduce the world to her favorite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana, while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, the brand creates bags characterized by bright, exuberant colors. The essence of the brand’s design philosophy is a beautiful combination of thoughts and design elements, with critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity, and ethical values in their production.
#27. Mowalola Ogunlesi
No list of Black female designers is complete without Mowalola Ogunlesi, a Nigerian-born fashion designer who is making clothes for the world she wants to live in. Her designs have been spotted on Drake, Kim Kardashian, Skepta, among others. In 2020, she was appointed as the Design Director of Kanye West‘s Yeezy Gap initiative.
#28. Sumaiya Mohammed
Founded by the duo Kabutey and Sumaiya Dzietror in 2008, Pistis means the ‘personification of good faith’ in Greek. The Ghanaian fashion house garnered widespread attention when Ghana’s second lady, Samira Bawumiahas attended the inauguration of Nana Akufo-Addo in one of their creations. Pistis Ghana has gone on to create outfits for Naomi Campbell, Ghana’s current First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Yvonne Okoro, and many others.
#29. Tolu Bally
Elegant, sexy, and unapologetic are some of the words best used to describe 2207 by TBally. Founded by Nigerian designer, Tolu Bally, this womenswear label is for the woman who takes pride in her appearance and values her stylistic expressions. With inspirations drawn from diverse cultures, colors, cuts, and textures, Tolu Bally creates an African and contemporary blend, telling her unique story with her designs.
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