Gentleman Flow: A Look at Five of Africa’s Leading Menswear Designers
There is something about a man with an undefeated style that leaves an impression wherever he goes. Stylish men ooze confidence, and we are here to celebrate the African designers who specialise in menswear. These designers’ unique aesthetics embrace multiple histories, cultures, and ethnicities, adhere to a strict set of standards, and show a high level of craftsmanship. Their designs communicate their heritage and cultural pride expressed innovatively through a dapper and unique mix of textiles, prints, and shapes. These designers are passionate about enhancing their global consumers’ tastes.
See below some of our top African menswear fashion designers.
Founded in Britain in 2012 by Ivorian designer Alexis Temomanin, Dent de Man is a brand named after a distinctive mountain close to the city of Man in the northwest region of Ivory Coast. Literally “tooth of Man,” this mountain dominates the skyline of the Dix-Huit Montagnes (“18 mountains”). The British-Ivorian founder and creative director was inspired to name his creations after this iconic landmark with its exotic habitat of colourful plants and animals. After an impromptu journey from the centre of Ivory Coast to the heart of East London and its vibrant fashion scene, the first creations under the name Dent de Man were introduced to the market in 2013. Dent de Man finds its identity in providing traditional sartorial elegance through outspoken and colourful menswear, a contrast of classic and cutting edge that defines the brand. With its underlying ethos of challenging the establishment, Dent de Man blends a simple approach to menswear with a traditional Javanese soul in prints and fabrics—each fabric is individually sourced and possesses its own story and meaning.
Dent de Man prides itself on using vintage fabrics and celebrates ancient printing techniques. Through close collaboration with premium batik-inspired Dutch print manufacturer VLISCO, Dent de Man has access to a fabric archive going back over 100 years. The team behind Dent de Man (encompassing over five nationalities brought together in its East London hub) embraces a global perspective. Through creative collaboration, Dent de Man creates a contemporary silhouette: reflecting a bold personality and avant-garde lifestyle for the citizen of the world. The pieces are bright and uplifting additions to the wardrobe of today’s man.
Ikiré Jones is the venture of Wale Oyejide and Sam Hubler, two artists with a zeal for creating beautiful things that sit to the left of the status quo. Oyejide and Hubler use design as a vehicle to tell stories that illuminate the nuanced lives of marginalised people. The duo does this without reproach or pity, but instead by showing that elegance is not exclusive to any particular culture, hue, or country.
“We are proud of what we do because our work genuinely means something to those who see themselves represented in it. In a world with such a rich diversity to the human experience, we find great joy in using our work to present the triumphant stories of people who many of us have previously ignored.” The duo’s work is intended to serve as a reminder that the accident of birth should not dictate one’s capacity for compassion.
The two multi-talented creatives behind the venture bring various skills to the brand. The founder, Wale Oyejide, designs Ikiré Jones’s textiles/accessories and serves as the company’s writer and creative director. He combats bias with creative storytelling. Sam Hubler individually attends to each of the garments that Ikiré Jones produces. He is an acclaimed tailor with extensive training in pattern drafting and garment construction.
Kente Gentleman was established in 2017 and is a group of young Africans telling stories and sharing emotions through clothes, photographs, texts, and ideas.“ In such an interconnected world, Kente Gentleman is a means to discover, value, celebrate, and foster our diverse yet very common socio-cultural heritage and identities through fashion, aesthetics, photography, and other visual arts. It’s only fair that we embrace and portray those rightful attributes to the global village we all belong to. The first name in Kente Gentlemen praises the kente cloth, a landmark textile and cultural icon of Africa, originating from the Ashanti kingdom, land of our forefathers.”
Kente Gentlemen is a brand that offers well-studied, elegant, and edgy clothing, each tailored in unique style and contemporary design. Every finished product is fitted, cut, and sewn from fabrics made in Africa, with high respect paid to the rich textile heritage and local craftsmanship. The quality of the brand’s products and its social impact is very important to the group. Kente Gentleman remains committed to involving a community of hand weavers, tailors, artisans, and vendors in its business to boost the local economy and to share the beauty of Africa with consumers around the world. The group aims to provide a fresh, culturally authentic, and aesthetically driven narrative of the continent. While honouring their heritage, the group intends to bridge the gaps and extend appreciation to other traditions, cultures, fashion etiquettes, and techniques of textile and apparel production, regardless of their origins. And in doing so, Kente Gentleman hopes to create something outside of the norm, something that speaks to them and to their customers at large.
Maxhosa by Laduma is a South African knitwear brand founded in 2012 by Laduma Ngxokolo, who started with the desire to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His initial vision was to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for this market. As a person who had undergone the process, Laduma felt that he had to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics. Along his journey into exploring the astonishing traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns, symbolism, and colours, he discovered that they would be the best source of inspiration for the knitwear, which he then reinterpreted into modern knitwear.
Maxhosa designs showcase the beauty, culture, language, and aspiration of the Xhosa people. With consideration for its current design context, these Xhosa designs have been modernised to resonate with multiple fashion markets globally. Ngxokolo’s numerous achievements have captured the media and the hearts of many fashion lovers from across South Africa, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Berlin, and New York.
Rich Mnisi is a contemporary South Africa-based multidisciplinary brand founded in 2015 by Rich Mnisi, Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year 2014. With a global view, the brand is young at heart and explores the treasures embedded within Africa and within the world of modern culture and heritage to tell the unique stories of then, now, and soon. All this is packaged in extremist yet minimalist structures which take design and craftsmanship as the first and foremost consideration.
The brand maintains a contemporary outlook and stands firm in an aesthetic that brings worlds of artistic imagination together. Rich Mnisi is inspired by sources outside of the realm of fashion, including film, music, art, and nature.
November 16, 2020
November 11, 2020