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When color, texture, and pattern collide, the result can be stunning—and nowhere is that more apparent than in African design. The rainbows of fabric extend far beyond season, and bold splashes of color lend flair to even the gloomiest fall days. Geometric-pattern pencil skirts, hand-woven clutches, and detailed peplum waists display the masterfulness of diverse design, and celebrities from Beyoncé to Lupita Nyong’o rock pieces inspired by the continent.
There’s also the rich history. For many designers inspired by the African continent, it’s about more than just bright colors. Pieces celebrate their cultures, the legacies of their parents, and their visions of the future through design.
Here are five African-inspired fashion lines bringing life to runways and city streets with every collection.
Demestik uses traditional Ankara and Holland wax cotton in a way that is less traditional and more Western in design. Colorful patterns splash their way across pencil skirts and peplum tops. The line’s creator, New York-based designer Reuben Reuel, takes his inspiration from color and women. Which women to be exact? Well, for one, Beyoncé, who has rocked his pieces on Instagram on several occasions.
It’s easy to turn heads and make a splash if you’re wearing A.I. The swimwear line is perfect for any winter beach getaway, with its vibrant colors, sexy symmetry, and flattering shapes for all body types. Nigerian-born Andrea Iyamah draws inspiration from her country’s rich symbols and stories. “The brand’s aesthetic is to always give a hint of edge while using cuts and patterns that embrace the feminine figure,” she says. “Color is a strong part of our message for the brand so its important to not only use colors that fit a style but also enhances the meaning.”
With her fashion line Suakoko Betty, Charlene Dunbar makes effortless, everyday wear that pops with color. The line celebrates African identity and culture with modern prints. “I love how African design is shorthand for ‘home,'” says Dunbar, who named the line after her father’s hometown in Liberia. “As someone who left Liberia at a young age, seeing [African design] and wearing it triggers a sense of identity and pride.”
William Okpo is less about bold colors and more about voluminous, functional comfort. Bronx-born sisters Lizzie and Darlene Okpo celebrate their Nigerian parents’ style mixed with American culture through their designs, which they named after their father. Stars including Solange have modeled for the line and their flagship store is in downtown Manhattan.
There’s nothing quite like a hand-crafted bag that makes a statement with color, especially during the winter months. Ghana native Akosua Afriyie-Kumi’s handbag collection, AAKS, uses organically-sourced leather and raffia produced by weavers in the village of Bolgatanga, Ghana. Its wares can be purchased in Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Reformation, among other major retailers.