Published on June 30, 2020
The international fashion industry has evolved over the last five years, introducing a growing number of new-generation, high-profile models from the African continent who are bursting, with aplomb, onto the world’s stage. African models being in the global limelight is not a new phenomenon per se: Names of supermodels such as Iman (Somalia), Alek Wek (South Sudan), Oluchi (Nigeria), Liya Kebede (Ethiopia), and the late Katoucha Nian (Guinea) line the pages of fashion’s history books. In addition, more recently, models such as Maria Borges (Angola), Adut Akech (South Sudan), and Halima Aden (Somalia) are gallantly paving the way for a new generation of discoveries. The new guard of fresh African faces on the global fashion body—a movement which may be (at least partially) credited to forces like Ingrid Tamborin, a Milan-based mother agent who scouts African models from the continent and places them with international agencies in Milan, Paris, London and New York—follow the strides of Africa’s storied ambassadors of the catwalk.
Be it in editorial campaigns or recent runway appearances, this new generation of African models are becoming industry mainstays, their names firmly planted on the lips of fashion’s inner circle. “What’s beautiful about this group is that they are all telling a different story”, notes Tamborin. From a former Ethiopian athlete to a Senegalese-Italian It-girl-in-the-making, Industrie Africa has rounded up the next generation faces of African descent that you need to know now.
Catwalk Cameos: Fendi, Valentino, Stella McCartney, Hermes, Kenzo, Versace, Sacai
Madit’s soft features, lively presence and rhythmic step caught the attention of some of fashion’s biggest maisons, including Dries Van Noten, Saint Laurent and Loewe. After walking her first show, closing for Rodarte AW’19 last year at only 17, and turning heads in a dreamy neon Valentino chiffon dress for Spring ‘20, this season was even busier for the New-York-based, Nebraska-born, Sudan native. She hit number one on Models.com’s runway rankings, appearing in a total of 39 shows this AW ’20 and opening and closing for four shows: Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler in New York, as well as Miu Miu and Sacai in Paris.
Catwalk Cameos: Heron Preston, Y/Project, Sunnei, Loewe, Marni
Since winning an international model competition in 2016, Italy-based Senegalese model Rosalie Ndour has continued to gradually grow her presence, recently walking in a number of high profile shows ranging from Y/Project to MM6 Maison Margiela. Last runway season, she made waves for her distinct versatility as she embodied each look or collection with noticeable ease. This chameleon-like quality was marked by her easy transition from Heron Preston’s simple streetwear vibe to her eccentric transformation at Marni, where she sported a patchwork appliqué ensemble paired with a smattering of face glitter.
Catwalk Cameos: Givenchy Haute Couture, GCDS, Thom Browne, Rick Owens
Growing up in South Sudan and moving between Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and South Sudan in search of better opportunities, modelling seemed an improbable dream for Hakima Athuai. “I never thought I would be a model one day, but it’s like a dream come true”, Athuai writes. She first appeared on the scene in 2018, but only emerged on international radar last year in 2019, appearing in a small number of illustrious shows including Thom Browne and Givenchy. The 21-year-old has since become a favorite of the latter house, showing face in both the brand’s SS'20 ready-to-wear and Spring 2020 haute couture shows. This AW’20 season she made a strong case as a quirky addition at cult labels like Rick Owens, Thom Browne and GCDS.
Catwalk Cameos: Christopher Kane, Givenchy, Valentino, Dries van Noten, Isabel Marant
Amar Akway burst on the scene at Lanvin last SS’20 season and has walked all the right shows since, from Valentino and Givenchy to Dries Van Noten. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Akway spent five years training as part of the Ethiopian national athletics team before she was scouted and introduced to the fashion industry by friend and fellow Ethopian model Mekdalawit. Whether she’s in elegant couture gowns or trendy ready-to-wear looks, this 19-year-old brings notable poise and presence to the runway and magazine pages, as witnessed on her recent Numéro and Another magazine editorials.
Catwalk Cameos: Valentino, Saint Laurent, Versace, Fendi, Prada, Burberry, Fendi
You know you’re doing something—or a couple of things—right when Naomi Campbell is cheering for you: That’s precisely what happened on Maty Fall’s Instagram Post last Autumn. For baby-faced, 19-year-old, Senegalese-Italian newcomer, Fall, this includes a powerful start at Saint Laurent and a Valentino debut in 2019 which she described as “living the dream”. That illustrious start has led to her being cast in major shows for the AW'20 season, including appearances at Victoria Beckham, Isabel Marant and Valentino where she joined Pierpaolo Piccioli’s line-up for the second time. This past February she appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue in what became a controversial feature that challenged Italian beauty norms.
Catwalk Cameos: Acne studios, Schiaparelli Haute Couture, Valentino Haute Couture, Balenciaga, Hermes
Discovered by a scout visiting Kenya, where she’s based, South Sudanese newcomer Nyagua Ruea made her international debut in Paris in 2019 walking for Maison Kimhēkim. Ruea is a vibrant beauty with cheerful energy as her charm. Her enthusiasm and confidence add to her appeal. Ruea champions diversity and inclusivity for people of color both on and off the runway, occasionally using her Instagram platform to encourage and inspire her followers. Her crowning moment last couture season was walking for her dream house, Valentino, during their SS’20 Haute Couture runway show at Paris Fashion Week.