African Luxury Lifestyle Brands You Should Know
The African luxury market continues to expand rapidly, with brands like Jenna Clifford and Yswara, establishing themselves on the continent and beyond, as well as ranking with foreign ones like Louis Vuitton and Hermés. Here’s a carefully curated list of luxury-lifestyle brands in Africa that you need to know about.
Jenna Clifford (South Africa)
Eponymously named brand, Jenna Clifford is a high-end jewellery outfit based in South Africa and known for its unique designs and superlative craftsmanship. Established in 1992, the company has steadily grown its clientele and profile as a powerful force in the luxury industry. Jenna Clifford’s bold and dramatic designs incorporating gold, diamonds and precious gems to create the most extraordinary pieces are sought after by some of the most recognised business icons and celebrities from around the world. Today, the jewellery brand is considered one of the best, employing about 70 people, including some of the finest artisans and craftsmen in South Africa.
Alara is a luxury lifestyle brand in Nigeria dedicated to contemporary art, design, fashion, cuisine and culture from Africa. Alara, which means wondrous performer in Yoruba, is the creation of Nigerian businesswoman Reni Folawiyo. Renowned architect Sir David Adjaye designed the exquisite building. With its contemporary structure that plays well with geometry and lines, it is one of its kind in Nigeria. Designed as a concept store, Alara caters to high-end individuals and features an exhibition-style retail space, a terrace lounge, an art gallery and a restaurant by celebrated Senegalese Chef, Peter Thiam, which serves African street food with a Western twist.
Taibo Bacar (Mozambique)
Mozambican designer Taibo Bacar‘s self-named brand is known for its fusion of high fashion and ready-to-wear. Taibo Bacar has won many international awards and in 2011 was the first African brand to showcase at the Milan Fashion Week. Bacar was born to a seamstress in 1985 and having grown up around sewing machines, fabrics and design sketches, he decided to follow his passion for fashion and traveled to Spain for classes in design and pattern making. He also undertook internships in South Africa in 2009, and in Rome in 2012. Today Bacar’s designs are a combination of beautiful African fabric with fresh and stylish silhouettes that embrace his rich cultural heritage.
Minku is a fast growing luxury Afro-centric brand based in Nigeria. Established in 2013, by Nigerian fashion designer Kunmi Otitoju, who successfully relays a fresh sub-Saharan aesthetic characterised by merging Spanish leathers and Aso-oke fabric, a hand-loomed cloth woven by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The results are worldly cosmopolitan goods that are both contemporary and timeless. All Minku products are hand-made at a studio in Barcelona, Spain and sold at high-end shops in Nigeria.
In 2011, Swaady Martin-Leke created Yswara, a fast rising luxury brand with products crafted by African artisans including gourmet tea, chocolates, artisan jewellry and home accessories such as home ware, spoons and home fragrances. Yswara aims at preserving and promoting Africa’s endangered cultural heritage by revisiting her ancestral craftsmanship. The brand is present in 4 countries – South Africa, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and France, with 15 different direct and indirect retail points.
R & R (Nigeria)
PR executive, Valentine Obaze’s R&R, is a luxury, natural skincare and fragrance brand based in Lagos. Established in 2010, Obaeze has quickly grown her hobby of making products in her kitchen into a lucrative business. With continued high demand for her products, in 2013, Obaeze opened her first store in Lekki, a high-end location in Lagos and since then, increased her clientele, and broadened her range of products from scented candles, body oils, soap bars, shea butter to virgin coconut oil.
Adele Dejak (Kenya)
Nigerian-born Adele Dejak is a luxury fashion accessories brand based in Kenya. Inspired by African shapes, textures and traditional techniques, the cutting-edge pieces sit perfectly between artefact and high fashion. Created with the help of East Africa’s finest artisans, Adele Dejak’s exceptional pieces combine local fabric including kuba cloth and kitenge (wax print) with recycled materials like rice, cement sacks, brass, aluminium and glass.
Omenka magazine (Nigeria)
Published by Revilo Company Limited, Lagos-based Omenka magazine is Africa’s premium global source for up-to-date news, information and expert commentary on art, architecture and design, fashion, music, business and luxury-lifestyle. Noted as the first of its kind in Africa, Omenka is published as a quarterly print, an app, a digital edition, and across an online platform (omenkaonline.com). Omenka aims to position Africa as the hub of an increasingly globalised world by stimulating interest in art from the continent as an asset class, while cultivating taste and defining emerging trends in contemporary visual culture, among a sophisticated and cultured audience that includes the affluent, creative and the stylish who lead trendy and luxurious lifestyles.
Alexander Amosu (Nigeria)
Luxury designer Alexander Amosu started hustling at the age of 10, earning £10 per week for paper rounds. By 16, he started promoting basketball tournaments and club nights. When he was 19, he developed a business plan, that earned him a grant from the Prince’s Trust. He became a millionaire by 25 when he sold his dry cleaning business to focus on his passion, ringtone making. Subsequently, he developed a luxury brand known as Amosu Luxury Mobile Phones, which makes luxury custom made phones. He has set many records, especially in the last few years with a £70,000 suit, which according to Guinness is the most expensive in the world. His businesses include Amosu Luxury Mobile Phones, Mobscasino – a mobile gaming company, Mind of an Entrepreneur, Screen Nation Awards, Mobsvideo – the world’s first free mobile video portal, and a property portfolio worth over £6 million.
ZAAF is a line of premium luxury leather goods and accessories handcrafted by artisans in Ethiopia. Founded by Abai Schulze, who also serves as creative director, the name means tree in Amharic. This idea tethers to how ZAAF is rooted in its rich Ethiopian heritage while utilising the resources and skillsets of its people as branches, wide enough to embrace the whole world. Their products are inspired by the diversity of people in the capital city, and embrace the cultural and artistic diversity of Addis Ababa.
Frazer Parfum (South Africa)
In 2008, South African perfumier and entrepreneur Tammy Frazer established Frazer Parfum. Collaborating with local artists, the brand handcrafted organic and natural perfume products. Each perfume was created at a particular time in her life, inspired by expeditions to source the raw materials. She works only with the finest quality raw materials, while at the same time, celebrating art and design. Tammy Frazer is the granddaughter of Graham Wulff, inventor of Oil of Olay. Following in his footsteps, she has single-handedly launched her perfumes in eclectic retail environments in Europe, North America, UK, Ukraine, Oceania, Nigeria and South Africa. Discovering the her exploration of scent portraiture, “Skin Portraits”, was catalogued as the first-ever scent “novella” at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art.
Duro Olowu (Nigeria)
Nigerian lawyer-turned-designer and “print king”, Duro Olowu’s interest in fashion was inspired at an early age by the mix of fabrics, textures and the draping techniques of the clothing worn by the women who surrounded him. Like his father, he studied law in England before returning to Nigeria where he practised for a few years. On his return to London, he pursued a career in fashion, starting his own label at the end of 2004. His first collection was an instant hit with fashion editors and buyers, selling out with stockists including Barneys in New York, Harrods in London and Maria Luisa in Paris. It featured the now signature “Duro” dress, praised in 2005 by both British and American Vogue as the dress of the year. That same year, he won the ‘New Designer of the Year Award’ at the British Fashion Awards, the only designer to have ever done so without a catwalk show. Today, Olowu’s designs are sold globally in concept stores like Ikram in Chicago, Biffi in Milan and Alara in Lagos. He often works with British-made prints of his own design, and with fabrics from all over the world that reflect, in eclectic and somewhat quaint ways, his Afro-Caribbean heritage and an international sensibility.
Chris Aire (Nigeria)
Legendary luxury designer Chris Aire, also known as “The Bling King”, made a name for himself with his handmade, innovative and dramatic diamond jewellery and watches. He discovered his true passion for gemstones and intricate craftsmanship when his friend’s father hired him to work in his jewellery store. In 1996, he decided to branch out on his own, having saved $5,000. He got his big break when he sold platinum basketball pendants, charms and bracelets to basketball legend Gary Payton and the rest of his crew. In 2004 he made fashion history when he became the first jeweler to showcase fashion as art when he staged a runway show during the New York Fashion Week. Naomi Campbell closed out the show, wearing a diamond halter worth $10 million to solidify his talents as a successful jewelry and watch designer. Today, his private shows are set in world capitals including New York City, Washington DC, London and Beverly Hills with a client list that includes sports celebrities and Hollwood A-list stars like Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Kobe Bryant, Kebin Durant, Allen Iverson, Usher, Chris Brown and Denzel Washington. Having achieved international success and recognition, Aire opened his first boutique at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria in 2012.
Oswald Boateng (Ghana)
Ozwald Boateng has had a transformational impact on menswear fashion for almost three decades, with a design aesthetic rooted in traditions but defined by international style, detail, and artistry. His instinctive use of colour, cut and fabric fuses traditional British tailoring with a high-end modern design focus on the refinement of a man’s silhouette. Boateng discovered his love for fashion upon introduction to cutting and design. At the time, he was studying computer science and Southgate College but switched to fashion design after he realized that a career in the fashion industry was more appropriate for him. His designing skills came into the limelight when he helped a friend make clothes for his fashion show. Soon, his clothes were seen on the racks of famous menswear store, Covent Garden and by 1991, he opened his first studio on Portabello Road. In 1994, Boateng made history as the first tailor to have a catwalk presentation on the runways of the Paris Fashion Week. The tremendous success of his fashion show led to the opening of his first boutique on Vigo Street in 1995. He experimented with fragrances and soon launched his own women’s fragrance in elongated jewel like bottles in 2003. Boateng’s first flagship store opened in 2008 on Saville Row and Clifford Street’s corner. He currently produces two collections of ready to wear every year, which are manufactured at the former Chester Barrie factory in Cheshire.
Makeda is an international luxury brand for various beauty products of the highest quality. Established in 2015 by Tamara Egbedi, Makeda is the one-stop beauty shop that ensures women look glamorous and successful. Makeda products include hair extensions, closures, clip-on extensions, wigs and hair accessories like ponytail clips to suit every woman’s hair texture, needs, style and personality.
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