10 Trailblazers in Fashion & Design
Helen Jennings, Author of New African Fashion and Editor of Arise Magazine, shares her picks of leading trailblazers across fashion and design from Africa who have paved the way for the rising crop of designers globally...
“From Central Saint Martins to Gieves & Hawkes, from stage clothes for U2 to Dover Street Market, and from Ghana to the UK, Joe Casely-Hayford has been there and done that since he started out in the early 1980’s. Now joined by his son Charlie, their new menswear brand Casely-Hayford brings tradition and innovation head to head, delivering enduring and understated clothing for the modern man.”
“Duro Olowu’s debut spring/summer 2004 collection, a capsule range of empire line dresses based on the Yoruba Bubu, was featured in US Vogue and won him New Designer Of The Year at the British Fashion Awards. He’s had no cause to look back since. The Nigerian lawyer turned designer now counts Michelle Obama, Iman, Bethann Hardison, Shala Monroque and Iris Apfel among his customers and recently made his NYFW debut for autumn/winter 2011/12.”
YVES SAINT LAURENT
“While interviewing people for my new book New African Fashion, I (almost) lost count of the number of designers who cited Yves Saint Laurent among their major influences. Young menswear designer Adrien Sauvage told me that when he’s in a fashion quandary, he simply asks himself ‘What would Yves do?” and everything becomes clear. I think I might start doing the same.”
“Azzedine Alaïa, The ‘King of cling’ established his brand in Paris in 1980 after stints at Christian Dior, Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler and has earned his place in the fashion annuls for his sensual womenswear, his African model muses and his quietly considered approach to the business of fashion. The Tunisian returns to the Haute couture schedule in July.”
“Malian-born, Paris-based designer Lamine Badian Kouyaté launched Xuly Bët Funkin’ Fashion Factory in 1989 and has become known for being an upcycling pioneer and for his signature body conscious silhouettes that idolise the female form. He’s shown in five continents, dressed Grace Jones and continues to promote positive images of Africa through his consistently uncompromising body of work.”
“Eric Raisina is renowned for his feather-soft, hand woven textiles that in the past have been commissioned by Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. The Madagascan designer now keeps them all to himself for his Haute Texture line of grown up, romantic womenswear.”
“Oumou Sy, Senegal’s ‘Queen of Couture’ has made a significant contribution to the infrastructure of African fashion by founding both a fashion school and fashion week in Dakar as well as the Carnival of Dakar in the 1990s. She’s celebrated for her costume design for film and stage and each of her fantastical creations aims to turn their wearers into goddess-like symbols of African power, liberation and assimilation.”
“South Africa’s grand dame, Marianne Fassler, has been in fashion for over 20 years, is cited by designers such as Klûk CGDT as a major influence and has more awards than one mantelpiece could accommodate. Her collections are womanly, colourful, bold and proudly African.”
“Moroccon-born Alber Elbaz worked at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Guy Laroche and Krizia, but it was his appointment as creative director of Lanvin in 2001 that has propelled him to fashion royalty thanks to his timeless, joyful designs. His spring/summer 2011 show closed what industry insiders dubbed “the fabulous five”, namely Ajak Deng, Ataui Deng, Jourdan Dunn, Melodie Monrose and Jeneil Williams wearing tropical all-in-ones.”
“These days considered a bastion of Savile Row, Ozwald Boateng was a maverick force when he burst into the world of men’s tailoring in the 1990s with his daredevil use of colour and sharp, sharp suits. The British-born Ghanaian has been director of Givenchy Homme, had an exhibition devoted to him at the Victoria & Albert Museum and received an OBE from the Queen in 2006.”
WHO ELSE HAS PAVED THE WAY FOR AFRICAN FASHION & DESIGN GLOBALLY? SOUND OFF BELOW!
"I love the fact that [African Fashion] it’s not afraid to be itself. It’s very bold and brave."