Expert Opinion: African Accessible Luxury Fashion Brands to Watch – ADJOAA
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Expert Opinion: African Accessible Luxury Fashion Brands to Watch

In our last post, we looked at the rise of African haute couture in an industry that for too long has held exclusionary attitudes. But that is set to change with doors opening for African and Afrodescent high fashion designers creating collections for some of the biggest fashion weeks in the world. But there’s still a way to go before high fashion truly reflects the diversity of its admirers. 

Instead of waiting to see the future of fashion, the ADJOAA team has contacted three African luxury fashion experts to give their opinion on what African luxury brands will make it big. 

Nana Kweku Osae Brenu

Nana Kweku Osae Brenu, also known as Nana Brenu, is a Ghanaian born fashion designer and creative consultant based in Milan, Italy. He is an Alumni of Parsons School of Design in New York and Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Career-wise, Nana is well-accomplished and has designed for brands such as Mila Schön and Ports 1961 and is the founder of the fashion brand 1981 and NATIV LTD, a design and production company based in Ghana. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his experience. So, his knowledge of the high fashion industry and all its facets, including African fashion, naturally makes him a reliable source for fashion insights. 


BIIO is all about championing self expression and positively disrupting the status quo. Nana says that BIIO’s “chic sportswear-inspired aesthetic will feel at home at New York Fashion Week, which is known for encompassing a wide range of styles.” These styles range from the sleek and sophisticated to edgy and avant-garde. Nana notes that BIIO’s designers are inspired by street fashion, urban living, music, art and global trends.” This wide range of inspiration means that each collection from this creative label results in garments that are “innovative, eclectic, and forward-thinking.”


A recommended brand for London Fashion Week (LFW) has to embody the event’s “eclectic and experimental aesthetic” according to Nana. The label that fits the bill is Nigerian fashion brand NKWO. Nana says that “NKWO’s artisanal and sustainable collections offer pieces which are avant garde and forward thinking.” This results in each collection shining a spotlight on African creativity and ingenuity, which successfully embodies LFW’s eclectic and innovative aesthetic via a mix of tradition and innovation. To summarise, Nana says NKWO’s “vibe is often edgy, daring, and unconventional, with designers pushing boundaries and challenging norms.”

Tokyo James

From his experience observing fashion weeks over the years, Nana has noted that Milan Fashion Week (MFW) is known for exuding luxury, sophistication and “timeless elegance that is chic and cosmopolitan.” An African designer whose works match the description include Tokyo James. James is a designer that is finally getting his flowers at Milan Fashion Week. He is known for creating pieces that have a unique blend of African influences and modern tailoring to create intricate patterns. 


While London and Milan are known for their experimental and luxurious natures, respectively, Nana says Paris Fashion Week (PFW) “features designers from diverse cultural backgrounds” whose works feature elements of cultural heritage. IAMISIGO is a Nigerian brand that explores the themes of social commentary and identity. Each garment they make contributes to the African cultural dialogue. 


MAXHOSA is another recommended African brand for Paris Fashion Week. It is based in South Africa and is known for its “bold, innovative and vibrant knitwear” which draws inspiration from the South African Xhosa tribe. The inspiration lends itself to unique experimentation and reinterpretations of Xhosa imagery, which effectively blends traditional and modern styles. Overall, Nana says that MAXHOSA demonstrates “creativity akin to the avant-garde spirit often showcased at Paris Fashion Week.” So, it's no small wonder that this awe-inspiring African haute couture brand has launched a collection for the latest PFW. 

Elvis O. Kawedo

Elvis O. Kawedo, also known as Elvis Kachi, is a fashion journalist who has worked with leading brands in the media space, such as, BBC, Condé Nast, Essence Magazine, Reuters, etc. He’s also the convener of fashion consultancy initiative, The StylePen Memoir. As a storyteller and researcher, Elvis has an ability to understand fashion beyond the fabric and understand the subtext and the story that a collection is telling. When it comes to analysing African haute couture, this is a vital skill to have and makes Elvis’s picks for the next African labels to make it big, even more meaningful. 

TJ Who 

A great fashion label has to start with a great founder. That is why when talking about this fashion-forward brand, Elvis had to mention Taju Ibrahim, TJ Who’s creative director and “one of the most phenomenal talents to emerge from Nigeria.” Thanks to Ibrahim’s visionary skills, TJ Who has been able to create premium menswear that is stylish, functional and connects African culture with contemporary styles. As part of TJ Who’s innovative take on fashion, Elvis also highlights the unique use of fabrics and design details in TJ Who pieces, along with Ibrahim’s architectural background, which leads to the construction of high-quality menswear. 

Ajabeng Ghana

When it comes to Ajabeng Ghana, Elvis highlights their storytelling abilities as making the brand stand out from the crowd. The storytelling is achieved through the creative use of backgrounds, names and descriptions in each collection. He says that Ajabeng is “one of the fastest rising stars” from Ghana and are “seamlessly in sync” because of how all aspects of the brand work together to deliver looks that combine the best of minimalism and contemporary African art. From conception to the final design, Elvis says each Ajabeng Ghana collection is “perfectly executed.”

Kente Gentleman

Kente Gentlemen is an Ivorian brand known for their creative and innovative menswear, Elvis has chosen this brand as a favourite for global fashion weeks because he is “in love with [Kente Gentlemen’s] take on modern tailoring, and [their] choice of fabrics.” The bold prints emblematic of traditional Kente cloth invigorate and revive the concept of suits and menswear. On top of this, Elvis has noted this label for their unique branding and that the fabric choices make each piece from Kente Gentlemen easily identifiable in a market that is saturated with products. So, for this brand, being a part of global fashion weeks would set them apart for much greater success.

Viviers Studio

South Africa has proven itself to be a hub for emerging fashion talent, and according to Elvis, the Viviers Studios brand is one such talent. Elvis himself has had the privilege of speaking with the founder of Viviers Studio, Lezanne Viviers, and says “she’s such an incredible thinker”. This is evident in her designs which, like other African labels, pays homage to cultural roots via excellent storytelling and design concepts. 

Desiree Iyamah 

From the get-go, Elvis said that this eponymous label “truly has [his] heart.” That is mainly because of Desiree Iyamah’s customer-centric approach to fashion while still being fashionable and stylish. When it comes to this caring brand, Elvis says that “Desiree literally places herself in the shoes of the woman she dresses”, which is reflected in the brand’s collections that contain flattering silhouettes and pieces for diverse body types. In particular, Elvis says the brand’s gorgeousness, femininity and fabric choices are on point. He is genuinely in awe of the brand, and believes they deserve a chance to showcase their creations on global stages.

Nelao De Almeida

Nelao De Almeida is a freelance brand curator based in Holland, who has extensive and diverse experience in fashion merchandising. She has previously worked with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas. Nelao has her finger on the pulse on the retail side of the fashion world and given her expert opinion on what African fashion brands should feature in future fashion weeks, 


Kilentar is the brain-child of British-Nigerian designer, Michelle Adepoju. Nelao loves this brand for their impressive silhouettes, which includes fitted waists and draped trousers, balloon sleeves and bodices that fit to the body’s contours. Nelao says Kilentar’s “attention to fit and quality is so evident.” The way different parts of an item interact from the sleeves to the collars of tops creates an “impeccable design language.” In particular, Nelao has noted how Kilentar has made “the perfect drape”, which contributes towards pieces that have a tailored and high-quality look. 

Atelier Ndigo

“An ethereal aesthetic” is how Nelao describes this majestic brand. Each piece from Atelier Ndigo “feels like a fairytale” due to their precisely crafted and lofty silhouettes. This strong designer identity spans across each collection and would make an Atelier Ndigo piece instantly recognisable on a runway. Like TJ Who, Atelier Ndigo is inspired by architecture, which is evident in their well-structured designs. 

Loza Maleombho

When it comes to Loza Maleombho, the words and term “artistic”, “sculptural” and “wearable art” come to Nelao’s mind. It’s not hard to see why. The appeal of a Loza Maleombho piece is in her unconventional approach to fashion design that draws inspiration from traditional Ivorian art as well as conventional fashion techniques. When it comes to being fashion-forward, Nelao says the Loza Maleombho label is “pushing past traditional conventions of design.”


When it comes to high fashion, it is easy to forget that less can be more. But with OLOOH, they have stayed true to the idea of beauty in simplicity. Nelao says OLOOH “draws a beautiful focus on tailoring and a nod to androgynous style cues.” The focus is on minimal detailing and uncomplicated design lines, combined with high quality fabrics. This creates pieces that are flattering to many wearers and fits into the burgeoning movement of creating high fashion for all instead of a select few. 


While many high fashion African fashion labels often blend cultures, Renwa, also known as Renwa Yassin, is unique in that they specifically focus on the textile aspect of fashion. Nelao notes that Renwa often features “stunning mixed fabrications”. Items such as their braided dress have a unique blend of textures that “create a sense of surreal elevation with the intricate design details and craftsmanship.”

If only you could find these labels in one place… 

The good news is you can, for most of them. ADJOAA is a marketplace that specialises in supporting luxury African fashion brands. Many of the labels mentioned above, like OLOOH, Loza Maleombho, Desiree Iyamah and many more can be found on the ADJOAA platform. No longer does diverse and high quality fashion have to be gatekept but it is now more accessible than ever.



Hero image credit: BIIO Campaign 


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