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Africa's hottest new fashion designers

By Jennifer Obiuwevbi,, Special to CNN
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
Jennifer Obiuwevbi, of <a href='' target='_blank'></a>, presents her pick of Africa's best new designers. <!-- -->
</br>This design is by label Shakara Couture, created by Nigerian Ewemade Erhabor-Emokpae.
Jennifer Obiuwevbi, of, presents her pick of Africa's best new designers.
This design is by label Shakara Couture, created by Nigerian Ewemade Erhabor-Emokpae.
Shakara Couture
Shakara Couture
Kaela Kay
Kaela Kay
Love April
Love April
Milq and Honey
Milq and Honey
Ernest Mahomane
Ernest Mahomane
Fenix Couture
Fenix Couture
  • writer Jennifer Obiuwevbi charts the change in African fashion design
  • Designs from the continent have diversified in shape and style over the years
  • African fashion houses now pioneer international catwalk trends, she says

Editor's note: Jennifer Obiuwevbi writes on fashion for Here she writes for CNN about Africa's top up-and-coming designers.

(CNN) -- We have long moved on from the idea of African design being simply Africa centered. In the past couple of years it has made it onto catwalks in Paris, New York, Milan and beyond. And of course, as with any competitive market, there will always be new talent changing the game.

In African fashion today, names like Lanre Da-Silva Ajayi, Thula Sindi, Deola Segoe, Ozwald Boateng and more are praised in the hallways of fashion houses. And now there is a new breed of designers who have caught the attention of fashion enthusiasts in Africa and abroad. So here are seven emerging African designers to watch out for this year.

Shakara Couture

Princess of fashion
Africa's feathered fashion export

Ewemade Erhabor-Emokpae has had a long obsession with the vintage glamor of the 1920s and 50s. Her design label -- Shakara Couture -- has encompassed the aesthetics, ambiance and essence of the present couture era and added an African flair.

Officially launched in 2012, the design label had its first major debut at the Music Meets Runway 2012 event where African designers clamoured together to unveil their late 2012 collections. Her collection was filled with long luxurious dresses with lace detail, creative fascinators, wide brim hats and satin gloves.

Recently, she released a few photos from her 2013 collection titled "There is No Such Thing As Too Much Glamor." The campaign photos showcased a young housewife carrying about her daily chores dressed to the nines.

Read this: Africa Fashion Week hits London catwalks

Kaela Kay

Courtesy Jennifer Conley Images/Kaela Kay

When I first encountered the Kaela Kay design label I was immediately struck with its big and loud prints and funky designs. Created by Ghanaian designer Catherine Addai the label thrives on its passion to transform bold and extravagant prints into feminine, sexy and modern clothes for the modern woman.

Addai has created the Kaela Kay woman to stand out. The Kaela Kay woman is a refined socialite who walks with her shoulders back and her head held high.

Apart from her label's aesthetics, which always have a professional outlook, another reason why the Kaela Kay brand caught my attention was because of its take on prints. It moves to re-interpret print combinations while still keeping its African foundations.


Courtesy BellaNaija/ Obi Somto

When the 2013 collection "Unicorns and Bullet Wounds" from Kitschai was released, fashion enthusiasts were engulfed by a wave of curiosity. The design label introduced an edgy and risqué collection that wasn't typical of Nigerian designers and has not been seen elsewhere in this year's batch of collections.

Fashion magazine targets 'Afropolitans'
Traditional dress of Senegal

Created by London-based Nigerian Andrea Ushedo, she incorporated her punk/retro personality into the designs, making them just dark and edgy enough.

With such an impressive debut, one can only wait in anticipation for what the label will bring out next.

Love April

Whenever I think of the Ghanaian Love April design label, I think of sultry and feminine designs with a hint of African detail.

Nina Barkers-Woode launched the Love April brand in 2011. She started it as a label offering ready-to-wear clothes for women, as well as leather goods and accessories.

Read this: Glorious fashion in the desert

According to her interview with Shadders Africa: "It embodies today's woman with the marriage between sophistication and sexiness which allows her to step into the world, wherever that might be, feeling and looking confident."

She last showcased her 2012/2013 collection at Ghana Fashion Week 2012, where it received a lot of praise.

Milq & Honey

Courtesy Milq & Honey

Dark earthy tones, gold panel details and a twist to every piece are the three qualities that come to mind every time I look at a collection piece from Milq & Honey.

Nigerian fashion goes 'green'
A stitch of Africa

Owned by Gabriella and Kelly Davids, the South African label speaks to the confident woman who is sexy and edgy, yet glamorous and classy. Their clothes are inspired by energetic colors, animals and the natural patterns and shapes of the Earth.

At the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town 2013 they debuted their 2013 collection, which was a mix of light and dark. They started off with a dark ensemble of typical Milq & Honey garments and then went off into a birth of colors in neon and summer-appropriate casual wear.

Ernest Mahomane

Courtesy SDR

With the experience gathered from being trained by Gavin Rajarh, Ernest Mahomane's eponymous label could easily pass off as one that has been in the business for years. The label opened the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town 2013 with an amazing combination of white and red dresses with gathered tulle, fitted bustiers and enhanced shoulder cuts that were as daring and serene as its Spring/Summer 2013/14 collection.

The clothes have a smooth and classy appearance that isn't overdone and is true to the Ernest Mahomane ethos of transcendent beauty.

Read this: Taking African colors to America's Deep South

Fenix Couture

Courtesy BellaNaija/ Julius Ding

This Nigerian-Canadian design label reminds me a lot of the Jewel By Lisa label. Its well-tailored designs and understanding for the female form are both professional and appealing.

The brand was created by Josephyn Akioyamen, who started her journey into fashion while living in Lagos, Nigeria. She was constantly surrounded by intricate colors and prints and, of course, African culture.

Fenix Couture is a combination of timeless elegance and modern luxury brought to life by stimulating textiles and precision tailoring. With its 2013 Ihotu Collection, the label introduced itself to the world as one not just to watch, but a label that is so transformational that it would last for years to come.

Creating a fashion label begins with the birth of passion, after which the dream is filled with enthusiasm and drive. I have only listed seven African designers that are certain to do great things this year and in the years to come, but there are many others that, just like these, are taking the African fashion industry to new heights.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jennifer Obiuwevbi.

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