A celebration of the best and brightest creators of color within the fashion space, ESSENCE’s inaugural Best in Black Fashion Awards shines a light on top designers, stylists, photographers, models and insiders who made an impact in 2019. The star-studded roster of honorees and nominees will gather at pre-NY Fashion Week dinner this evening.
Meet These International Designers On The Rise
Ituen Basi is a multi-award winning label that was launched in Nigeria in 2006. The brand celebrates style, individuality and the feminism of the African woman, along with the richness and diversity of all things Nigerian. Ituen Bassey, who is the designer behind the label, has created costumes for several stage productions such as, ‘For Coloured Girls’, ‘HearWord’ and ‘Saro the Musical’.
Loza Maléombho is best described for her fusion between traditional cultures and sub-cultures as she experiments with the Ivorian tribal aesthetic and New York City’s urban fashion. The Brazilian born fashion designer works with artisans who have mastered their craft for generations and found ways to communicate their trade with fashionable finds.
Ohimai Atafo is a bespoke fashion tailor, entrepreneur and the creative director of fashion label Mai Atafo. The brand creates men’s suits and traditional outfits, alongside its sister brand Mai Atafo Bridal Atelier, which specializes in wedding and evening dresses. Atafo has worked with several brands such as, Samsung, Intel, Heineken, Baileys and Ebonylife as an ambassador and spokesperson judge.
Neahlis was created and founded by Jamaican fashion designer, Lisa McIntosh. Although she is known for brightening up runways with pops of color, she is also a celebrity hairstylist. Her clients range from Vivica Fox, Tyra Banks, Nicole Murphy and Yendi.
Swedish-Eritrean designer Selam Fessahaye officially debuted her collection during Stockholm Fashion Week in 2018. The young visionary experiments with utilitarian shapes, exaggerated silhouettes and textile play. Fessahaye claims that fashion has always been the most natural way for her to express herself.
Since its entry into the market, Loxion Kulca has been the embodiment of pop culture. The Johannesburg born brand creates bold sportswear and draws its inspiration from African principles of ‘ubuntu,’ which govern the nature of its corporate partnerships.
Maki Osakwe founded Maki Oh in 2010 and has since showed collections during New York Fashion Week. The brand challenges prevailing notions of beauty and analyzes cultural norms through a woman’s lens. Maki Oh has been worn by Michelle Obama, Thandie Newtown, Solange Knowles and Lupita N’yongo and has been featured in publications like Elle Magazine, The Fader, Paper Magazine and Nylon.
Deola Ade-Ojo is a Nigerian born haute couture fashion designer. In 2004, she became the first black woman to present a collection during AltaRoma, Rome’s celebrated fashion week and the first Nigerian to have her own show at New York Fashion Week in 2014. Her ingenuity and innovativeness has helped her win various awards, accolades and recognition over the years.
Stella Jean was born and raised in Rome, Italy and has been recognized as the first Black-Italian designer. Jean’s work merges classical Italian tailoring with African and Caribbean themes and imagery from Haiti. In 2019, she was highlighted by the New York Times as the most convincing of all the new generation designers in Milan.
Thebe Magugu is a contemporary fashion brand operation within the field of women’s ready to wear, while including accessories and other small multidisciplinary projects. The brand constantly seeks new ways of presenting women with clothing that both complies with and enhances the every day.
Donovan Depass is a Jamaican-born designer who is making an impact on the New York tri-state fashion scene with his edgy and bold pieces. Depass initially began his career as a freelance designer for Vera Wang and Gustavo Arango. Now his designs are being worn during Jamaica’s Style Week.
Giving a new take on Nigerian hand-woven designs, Kenneth Ize focuses on reinterpreting examples of the country’s craft to create an original perspective on luxury production within textile and fashion. The brand supports a small community of weavers and works directly with a variety of artisan and design groups across Nigeria.
In 2007 Nkwo Onwuka debuted her collection at the prestigious Kulture2Couture, where Nkwo won the coveted Phoenix Award. Her unique interpretation of the rich history, culture and traditions has made her emerge as one of Africa’s leading fashion designers as she champions the African renaissance.
Lanre Da Silva Ajayi
Lanre Da Silva is a Lagos based fashion designer and considered to be one of Nigeria’s leading couturiers. Launched in 2005, Silva’s eponymous label includes ready-to-wear garments, accessories and hairpieces. She often incorporates metallic fabrics, lace and African patterns, while referencing the 1940s or 1800s.
Since launching his brand fifteen years ago, David Tlale has showcased his designs during premium fashion week events. Tlale’s work is both daring and elegant and impenitently employs undeniable use and understanding of fabric, color and texture. In 2009, he was awarded Fashion Designer of the Year at the Africa Fashion Awards in Johannesburg and later debuted a collection at the Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week.
Hailing from the British Virgin Islands, Kristin Frazer birthed her company Trèfle in 2008. Her love for travel, people, culture and self-expression through her designs has landed her the opportunity to dress clients like Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy and Chrisette Michelle.
Based in Johannesburg, Mmuso Maxwell was unexpectedly founded by two partners Maxwell Boko and Mmsuo Potsane in 2016. The pair actually competed against each other and both won a spot to show at fashion week. Since their collaboration, the duo has been featured in several magazines and received the opportunity to style Beyoncé, while she explored South Africa last year.
Established by Palesa Mokubung in 2004, Mantsho is a Sesotho name meaning, “Black is Beautiful.” The fashion designer has already made major moves, as she is the first African American designer to collaborate with retail giant H&M. Palesa zooms in on African American materials and cleverly transforms them into modern and edgy designs.
Yutee Rone is a high-end African based women’s wear designer. Since launching her eponymous label in 2007, she has designed and created colorful and unique exceptional pieces from structural fabrics. Rone currently has stores located in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria.
Tiffany Amber is a 20-year-old fashion and lifestyle brand with global appeal and a distinctly African attitude. The brand was born in 1998 ready to pioneer the market and revolutionize the Nigerian fashion industry. Tiffany Amber has been acknowledged as Designer of the Year and Fashion Brand of the Year at the Arise Fashion Week in 2012.