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Streetwear is the scene
If you aren’t already familiar with the buzzing streetwear scene in Africa, get to know it – or at least be aware of it. At a time in history where African designers are taking the global stage by storm, their clothes are everywhere. Embracing both global and local trends, mixing them together to create new looks that reflect their own personal styles as well as their heritage, here’s who’s big right now: South African designer Rich Mnisi, Nigerian designer Adeju Thompson of Lagos Space Programme, and Kenya’s SOKO Kenya.
This eponymous, South-African-based contemporary multi-disciplinary brand was founded in 2015 by Rich Mnisi. Initially, a creative outlet for Mnisi, hoping to unearth Africa’s hidden treasures while also being youthful, contemporary, and modern, the brand was born from Mnisi’s yearning to connect deeper with his unique culture and heritage and tell a compelling story through his art – a story of a mysterious past, intriguing present, and reimagined future. Each Rich Mnisi collection and offering presents a distinct point of view, celebrating culture, heritage, and the common human experience. All this is packaged in extremist, yet minimalist structures which are rooted in innovative design and superior craftsmanship. Having partnered with Adidas to produce a clothing range in 2022 inspired by the designer’s Tsonga community origins and the spirit of Pride, there are no heights that Rich Mnisi cannot reach.
Lagos Space Programme
“I want Lagos Space Programme to stimulate conversations around gender, indigenous knowledge and highlighting an alternate narrative around the African experience,” says LVMH Prize semi-finalist, the non-binary designer, Adeju Thompson. Celebrating contemporary design and queerness meeting heritage, Lagos Space Programme’s first collection launched in 2018 and has been producing trans-seasonal genderless collections ever since. Their designs aim to challenge obsolete norms around blackness, African design, masculinity and beauty. Sophisticated and subversive, Thompson’s designs are also gaining traction beyond the runway. Earlier this year, Lagos Space Programme was invited to exhibit in the Africa Fashion Exhibition 2022 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, scheduled to open in July.
Founded in 2009, SOKO Kenya has the vision to provide the fashion industry with a manufacturing solution with social and environmental issues at the heart of its business. Founder and CEO, Jonna Maiden, is passionate about producing high-quality clothing that also improves the quality of life for employees and the community. “One of my proudest moments was seeing Michelle Obama wearing clothes we had made. The first time we saw press images coming through, the team didn’t believe me and thought a ‘proper’ factory (to use their words) must have produced the same garment. The reality is, that we started with four people in a small outbuilding, and two moves later, we are now in a modern advanced facility. But, for us all, the emphasis has always been on creating quality garments and this, along with the great partnerships we have made with our clients, has enabled us to grow.” This vision extends into items that convey sincerity and integrity.
Why is streetwear so popular? Apart from having fun in your clothing, streetwear can be worn by both men and women, which makes them a “unisex” item. Sneakers make the perfect accompaniment to a streetwear look, and the clothing can also take on a more functional use for exercise. As an increasingly popular fashion sense throughout Africa’s affluent and aspirational, the demand for streetwear is only likely to increase.
Words | ASA Magazine
Images | RICH MNISI x Adidas Collection, Lagos Space Programme © Kadara Enyeasi, SOKO Kenya