EKPO x Actual Frame of Mind’s Brands Of The Year 2020

2020 will be remembered as one the most disruptive years for the fashion industry.

With halted productions and physical events cancellations, African designers have found themselves in a particularly vulnerable position. In response to the structural challenges they were faced with coupled with the newly imposed way of living and consumer behavior shifts, they’ve had to rethink their strategies and reorganize their operations.

Ekpo has tapped Actual Frame Of Mind to select 10 African designers who have impacted the fashion industry from the continent this year. The fashion platform founded earlier this year by Annick-Ange Logmo has been showcasing the work of Black-owned brands on Instagram with the #BrandOfTheWeek segment, telling the stories of both emerging and established brands.

The fashion pioneers selected for the Brands Of The Year 2020 are all innovators who have achieved great performances during this year and positively contributed to the development of the industry on the continent. With a sustainable and authentic approach, these brands have captured global attention and presented their uniqueness across touchpoints.

Orange Culture

Over the years Orange Culture has become one of the most prominent brands of the Nigerian fashion scene, presenting androgynous wardrobes and pushing the boundaries of masculine representations. Through emotions and creative visualization, Orange Culture wants to break the mold and encourage people to show up as themselves. The brand has strengthened its global presence online by participating in Browns’ digital Homecoming festival and being sold on Farfetch, allowing him to promote local craftsmanship.

Free The Youth (Ghana)

By showcasing the “Do-it-yourself’ culture of Ghana and including socially conscious messages in their designs, the streetwear label has instantly connected to its growing audience and pushed the boundaries of the street fashion scene. This year, the brand teamed up with Daily Paper, an Amsterdam-based African-owned streetwear brand. They hosted a panel discussion for young creatives in Accra in January and ended the year with the release of an exclusive capsule collaboration available at Daily Paper’s pop-up store in Accra. 

Rich Mnisi


With an accelerated digitalization of the brand and partnerships with global companies like Volvo and Swarovski, the Johannesburg-based designer continues to rise thanks to his mastery of color, technique and fabrics. Through his work, Rich Mnisi bridges the gap between modernity and stories of Africa, thus highlighting South Africa’s heritage and disrupting fashion’s globalized narrative.

Loza Maleombho

The Ivorian designer founded her brand a decade ago, effortlessly melding traditional craftsmanship and modern aesthetics to honor her history. Continuing to celebrate the paradox and the synergies of tribal aesthetics and futurism, she designed Beyoncé’s iconic “Already” custom monochromatic look for her ‘Black Is King’ film, which caused her sales to spike 300 percent.

Vivendii

The Nigerian design collective is championing West African streetwear culture, and this year was able to launch its new online store after winning the Metallic Fund grant, a financial support and mentorship initiative dedicated to support Black creatives. The Vogue-endorsed street couture brand’s unique e-commerce store is inspired by the digital world of the 1990s, replicating the formats of Tekken and Windows Solitaire.

Thebe Magugu

The multi award-winning South African designer has made his brand more tangible and accessible through its online universe and extend its retail footprint. To further the storytelling of his brand, Thebe Magugu has leveraged an app called Verisum which can display fabric composition, pictures of the people who worked on the garment and the general story behind the collection. He has been named as one of six finalists in the 2021 International Woolmark Prize, continuing to showcase ‘Made In Africa’ to the world’.

Lisa Folawiyo

Dedicated to design integrity and empowering local artisans, Lisa Folawiyo is proving that luxury made in Nigeria can become global. Her innovative use of Ankara fabric allows her to deliver experimental yet wearable collections. The brand has transformed the notion of ready-to-wear in African fashion and elevated the beauty of common fabrics. This year, the Nigerian label has increased its global footprint through strategic partnership with global e-commerce platforms such as Moda Operandi and Farfetch.

Tongoro

Sarah Diouf uses her brand as a catalyst for change and to empower African manufacturing. The ready-to-wear brand solves the equation between local tailoring, African style and mainstream fashion. By leveraging fashion technology, storytelling and strong imagery, Tongoro has inspired people at a global scale and sets a new standard. With the “Made In Africa” documentary released this year, Tongoro illustrates its journey as a global brand made on the continent, and shines a positive light on the fashion industry in Africa.

Kenneth Ize

Kenneth Ize has been on a mission to create and inspire future traditions. The Austrian-Nigerian designer merges both of his cultures into his work, combining new design with Nigerian tailoring techniques. Earlier this year he made his Paris Fashion week debut, during which he presented his Autumn/Winter 2020 ready-to-wear collection. His innovative work has been as impactful in Nigeria as in the rest of the world, allowing him to win Arize Fashion Week’s “30 Under 30” prize this year.

Atto Tetteh

The Ghanaian brand focuses on reinventing traditional Ghanaian textiles, implementing eco-friendly production methods and celebrating Pan-Africanism. From traditional Kente to Fugu clothes, the streetwear brand has showcased the versatility of West African heritage all while defining its own unique aesthetic. Atto Tetteh embodies African modernity by remaining loyal to traditions and enhancing them with a fresh perspective.

Written By: Annick-Ange Logmo



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