By Nomali Cele
We live in a time when “African print” – the catch-all phrase for anything remotely tribal or printed – has been revealed as not at all African. It’s good to see African designers who are not tied to this trite prescriptive of what African fashion should be thriving in the global landscape.
Amaka Osakwe has the distinction of having American First Lady Michelle Obama wear her designs. On a 2013 state visit to South Africa, Obama, a woman whose style has been hailed from the very first moment her family stepped into the White House, was captured wearing Maki Oh – the brand Osakwe founded in 2010.
Michelle Obama and Lupita Nyong’o wearing Maki Oh Designs
In 2014, the Nigerian designer was nominated for the LVMH Young Designer prize, which aims to support young fashion designers across the world. Maki Oh designs are produced using organic fabrics and draw from a heritage of Nigerian production methods. While the brand draws from culture, Osakwe states in its mission that she wants Maki Oh to challenge “prevailing notions of beauty and analyses cultural norms through a womanist lens.”
Other notable stylish famous women who have been spotted in Maki Oh include Lupita Nyong’o, Azealia Banks, Solange Knowles, South Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek and Kerry Washington, the current darling of American television.
Maki Oh has stockists in Lagos, Nigeria and Dallas, Texas USA and is available on Oxosi.com, which is a portal to buy luxury African Fashion design. There is an internally run online shop in the works too.
When Beyoncé, Queen of all things, wears something the world sits up and takes notice. Recently, she wore an Ankara print dress in a post on her Instagram and the world had to know all the details. Back in 2014, Beyoncé was pictured wearing a striped, black and white cocoon coat carrying her daughter after the Annie movie premier. Again, the world simply had to know all the details.
Beyoncé wearing Kisua
The beautifully structured coat was from Kisua, the online retail store of African fashion founded by Ghanaian Sam Mensah. Kisua collaborates with African designers to create capsule collections, which are then distributed via the online shop as well as a three-continent network of Africa, Europe and North America.
Today Kisua has a number of physical locations in Johannesburg.
What does African fashion design mean to you?