Published on June 30, 2020
Inspired by their heritage and traditional processes, these brands are driven by craftsmanship and sustainability, fusing great design with storytelling—and distinct indigenous fabrics unique to the African continent with new materials. These are the labels making change.
Photo courtesy of IAMISIGO
Founded in 2009 and based between Nigeria, Ghana, and France, IAMISIGO is a ready-to-wear label that seeks to understand the female form by connecting experiences and practices from across the African continent. Founder Bubu Ogisi explores various indigenous materials and artisanal processes such as Kente weaving, the roots of which can be traced to the Asante Kingdom of Ghana. Ogisi travels the African continent for inspiration, seeking both that which is unique, and the threads that connect varying cultures. For SS’20, she sourced Barkcloth from Kampala, Kikoi from Nairobi, and recycled PVC from Lagos in a collection dedicated to a “divine female aesthetic through the past, present and the future of the fashion industry, concerning sustainability and waste, and how this affects the Ecosystem in Africa.” Presented during Paris Fashion Week and also at Lagos Fashion Week, the collection features PVC separates, frayed hemlines, and fringe detailing, alongside patchwork tailoring on sleeveless dresses and oversize two-piece suits.
Photo courtesy of NKWO
Nkwo Onwuka describes her designs as “free-spirited and nomadic.” Her eponymous label was established in London in 2007 and is now headquartered in Nigeria, after rebranding as an artisanal label in 2012. The brand creates fabrics from off-cuts and practices textile waste reduction by utilizing techniques such as fabric manipulation and origami—the art of paperfolding associated with Japanese culture—executed here by eliminating the cutting of fabrics in their design process. Nkwo's design code includes recycled denim, indigo dyed pieces, and deconstructed themes paired with patchwork patterns and distinct draping techniques. To further expand on the brand's sustainable and eco-conscious practices, Onwuka developed an artisanal fabric from off-cuts, known as Dakala cloth. This fabric is made from a strip weaving technique and resembles handloom cloth.
Photo courtesy of Kiko Romeo
Kiko Romeo was launched in 1996 by Ann McCreath with a desire to “stimulate employment through trade and encourage the appreciation of traditional crafts.” Starting out as a menswear label, the Kenya-based brand now produces both men and womenswear collections. Trained in Alta Moda (Italian couture), Ann, along with her daughter Iona McCreath, who recently joined the label as a co-designer, work with artisans and textile designers from East and West Africa, crafting perineal pieces inspired by fine arts and textures in paints and in mixed media. The brand references “traditional Kenyan culture, hip hop and punk” through expressive tie-dye techniques. With sustainability as a core element of the brand’s ethos, McCreath trains and mentors designers and refugees in Kenya, and collaborates with artists who create prints and new textiles. Through their exclusive textile-led approach, Kiko Romeo collections offer a unique experience made by skilled hands. Next up on the brand’s agenda is to conquer the international market as a global enterprise.
Discover Kiko Romeo.
Photo courtesy of Diarrablu
Created to empower Senegalese artisan communities using rich colors and patterns, designed from mathematical concepts and algorithms, Diarra Bousso left a career on Wall Street to pursue one in fashion. Her process involves playing around with equations such as curves, parabolas, and graph lines to create shapes that are turned into alluring prints, and then painted by hand onto her feminine designs. With a mission to “waste less and iterate,” the brand uses various sustainable processes and fabrics including lyocell (from natural cellulose found in wood pulp) and cupro (from regenerated cellulose fibers from recycled cotton liner) which are handmade into trendy dresses and jumpsuits. Leather scraps from Italian factories and fabric scraps from the brand’s atelier in Dakar, Senegal are recycled into fashionable mules.
Photo courtesy of Reform Studio
Design duo Hend Riad and Mariam Hazem created Reform Studio in 2012. Based in Cairo, Egypt, the pair grew what started as a graduation project into a durable, eco-friendly material called Plastex. This award-winning textile, made from recycled plastic bags and cotton threads, is tightly woven, water resistant, stretchable, smooth, and feels delicate. Driven by the desire to make a positive environmental and social impact in their home country of Egypt, in addition to prolonging the use of plastic bags, the brand also works to revive handloom weaving techniques by incorporating them into their modern designs. Their line of accessories is crafted wholly from Plastex and woven into a range of functional and glossy multi-colored accessories, including belt bags and backpacks.
Discover Reform Studio.