Meet the New, Young Voices Changing the Landscape of African Fashion
Meet the African Fashion Changemakers Who Are Redefining the Landscape
By Ranji Mangcu
There is a new landscape emerging in African fashion. One that is being shaped by young, creative voices who are unafraid to challenge the status quo and push boundaries. These changemakers are occurring at every level in fashion, from the ground up.
They are showing the world the intersections and interventions that are possible and sparking critical conversations about what fashion can be.
Through their work, they are showing the world that African fashion can be stylish, modern, and relevant. In doing so, they open new opportunities for Africans in the fashion industry and helping to change how the world views African fashion.
This new wave of African fashion experts is changing the landscape of the industry, and we cannot wait to see what comes next.
Mowalola Ogunlesi (@mowalola)
Fashion brand Mowalola, helmed by Nigerian-born and London-based fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, has made a name for itself in the fashion world. Not only has it earned support from the likes of Solange Knowles, but it's also captured hearts on social media platforms such as Twitter. This niche brand offers a unique perspective on African contemporaneity and Nigerian youth culture that resonates with those passionate about high fashion.
Francesco Mbele (@franadilla)
Francesco Mbele's Franasonic is a "retro multimedia project" that honours Y2K pop culture. Franasonic design offering speaks to youth culture through a visual language nostalgic of the 2000s, remixing and incorporating style trends of the past to create a contemporary look. With pieces like bedazzled trucker hats, T-shirts that reference punk imagery, and a long-sleeved t-shirt that wisely remind us that “Black Women Fighting Apartheid Were the First Punks”, Franasonic adds a whimsical tone to fashion.
A versatile talent, Mbele is something of a fixture in the South African fashion scene as it exists today, continuously defining a collaborative and contemporary South African language for fashion-film. He most recently exhibited at the Latitudes Art Fair in Johannesburg.
Tanatswa Amisi (@iobservefashion)
@iobservefashion I think this is also a large part of why I’m hesitant to be over-critical of designers especially independent/ younger designers. I know at the end of the day, they’re just trying to make a name for themselves- often with limited resources, support and accolades while trying to keep up with the industry demands and fashion week calendars that larger brands are able to adhere to with no problem. I know there is great value and integrity in fashion critique but I’ve learnt to discern when my negative review (as someone who is an observer of fashion) does more harm than good. Especially considering that we’re in an age when one person’s online opinion can go viral and many people will just blindly agree with it - regardless of whether its factual or biased etc. #fashion #fashiontiktok #fashiontok #thebemagugu #alexandermcqueen #vincentvangogh #art #greenscreen ♬ original sound - Tanatswa Amisi
Tanatswa Amisi is a South Africa-based fashion researcher, critic, and commentator whose platform represents just how unsustainable the old model of gatekeeping is in today’s fashion landscape. Fashion is notorious for its tight grip on exclusivity, characterized by a perfectly manicured, curated facade.
As a result, gatekeeping has been a common practice in fashion – one that has come to limit the scope of genuine fashion criticism in recent years. From the early 90s to the 2000s, shows were so stringent that only those with privileged access could witness what took place within and spread the word. No show notes necessary – just a select set of eyes passing on information. Through her in-depth, accessible analyses, critiques, and approaches to forecasting, Amisi, whose primary platform is Tik Tok, gives her followers an excellent directory for navigating the chaos of fashion news and history.
Linda Sumbu (@itgirlenergy)
How many of us knew that the president of High Fashion Twitter was right at our doorstep? Amidst the chaos and intensity of High Fashion Twitter, a few consistent voices emerge, one of whom is Linda Sumbu, more widely known by her twitter moniker, @itgirlenergy. High Fashion Twitter is a niche section on Twitter. Hundreds of accounts who share a love of fashion, providing critical commentary and forecasts; but ultimately, a community.
She frequently goes viral with her takes on recent collections and critiques of the happenings in fashion. With the dissolution of fashion criticism in the fashion industry, accounts like Sumbu’s push fashion’s captive audience to think critically about designers and how their work both mirrors and informs the world around them.
Malick Bodian (@malickbodi)
Malick Bodian entered the fashion industry as a model, becoming the first Black male model to walk for Givenchy in 2020. Bodian has since continued in the spirit of informing the curve from behind the lens. In his career as a photographer, Bodian has photographed Wales Bonner’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection, Volta Jazz, in Accra, Ghana. In 2022, he worked alongside Mark Mutyambizi and Felix Paradza in producing “Chop Life: A Tribute to Bootleg Culture” for the Summer 2022 issue of Dazed Magazine, the 5th under the leadership of Ib Kamara.
The fashion industry in Africa is in a process of transformation, and these new voices are a part of this process. In creating inspiring pieces that defy old convention, they usher us into an exciting future for African fashion - one with more diversity, creativity, and sustainability.