As men’s fashion week comes to a close in Milan and the circuit moves on to Paris and then New York, steadfast fashion lovers will undoubtedly pore over their favorite publications to view the collections in realtime and read the clamor of opinion and fact that are reviews. Yet as the men’s tour draws toward an end, many Stateside publications will gloss over the coming menswear presentations happening outside of the traditionally covered cities.
At most they may offer a few street style snaps of the action outside of the shows, but even that is rather a shame considering that they’re missing the talent presenting inside. Where many of the established tradeshows and men’s fashion weeks haven’t exactly had cause to innovate or exist outside of certain traditions, others are consistently showing rising young talent with a fresh and singular point of view.
The African continent in particular is rich in talent whose multicultural backgrounds, life experiences and love of travel are helping to shape new norms in men’s fashion.
Below are 12 such menswear designers worth getting to know.
Dent de Man
Ivorian-British designer Alexis Temomanin launched Dent de Man in 2012. The brand, which translates to “tooth of man,” is named after a mountain of the same name near the Ivory Coast city of Man. Temomanin’s design ethos centers around challenging the established order by inspiring men to “dress as themselves.” Even still, much of his early direction came from a desire to design clothing that allowed him to express the memories and values inherent to his Ivorian roots while assimilating into a new cultural reality.
Temomanin’s obsessive interest in pattern makes itself known in Dent de Man’s unrestrained use of bold, colorful prints. In fact, Temomanin often turns to the Indonesian patterns popular in both the Ivory Coast specifically, and West Africa. Though the patterns he uses are often mistaken for wax prints originating from the Ivory Coast, many actually have roots in Indonesia; the lasting result of the Dutch fabric trade on the continent in the 1800s, and the popularity of Indonesian prints in Europe during that era.
The designer also revealed to Nordstrom that his interest in patterns comes partly from a traumatic childhood experience. When he was only five years old his mother abandoned him during a trip to the Ivory Coast’s capital city, Abidjan. According to Temomanin, he remembered what she was wearing so vividly that he later began to study patterns and subsequently created a suit using a pattern similar to the one she wore the day she left him.
Philadelphia-based Nigerian designer Walé Oyéjidé is one of the driving forces behind contemporary menswear label Ikire Jones, a conflation of his father’s village in Nigeria and his wife’s American name. He serves as the creative director, working alongside co-founder Sam Hubler, the brand’s bespoke tailor. Oyéjidé also happens to genuinely fit the dictionary definition of a modern renaissance man. After bouncing between Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and several other countries, he arrived in the United States. Oyéjidé then went on to study computer science at Morehouse University before promptly deciding to become a musician post-graduation. Though he was signed to a label and counts working with legends like MF Doom and J Dilla among his accomplishments, Oyéjidé eventually returned to the books, heading to Temple University to study law.
After graduating law school, he spent several years as a civil litigator, a career that allowed him to refine his passion for contemporary suiting, though he soon found he was bored with the work itself. During his time as a lawyer, Oyéjidé’s dedication to dressing sharply even landed him on Esquire’s list of “Best Dressed Real Men in the Country” in 2010.
Oyéjidé also recognized there was a gap in the American menswear market, specifically one in which those of foreign backgrounds could tell their own stories honestly and with integrity. The realization led him to connect with Hubler, who happened to be the brother of one of his law school friends. In 2013 Ikire Jones was launched.
While the label certainly has roots in the traditional men’s suiting and tailoring, Oyéjidé infuses a distinctive point of view into each collection. The SS17 collection, for instance, dubbed “Born Between Borders,” is a visual and sartorial testimony to the hopes and fears of the children of immigrants who carry the dreams and burdens of their parents, all while navigating existing in the space between cultures. Even the smallest accessories become tablets for new narratives; a traditional pocket square might pay homage to Renaissance art, but like the art of Kehinde Wiley, it superimposes images of people of color where once there were none.
MaXhosa by Laduma
South African textile and knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo’s colorful interpretations of his Xhosa background have caught the eye of an international crowd. Ngxokolo’s textile skill manifested early; in 2010 he won the South African Society of Dyers and Colorist’s Design Competition before going on to win the international leg of the competition in London. Even then, the winning collection, which he named “The Colourful World of the Xhosa Culture,” was dedicated to Ngxokolo’s interest in sharing the diverse and multifaceted traditions of his people.
In the same year he established Maxhosa by Laduma; the project was inspired by his desire to create knitwear-based solutions for amakrwala who must adhere to a strict formal dress code for six months after their initiation into manhood. Amakrwala are young Xhosa initiatives who have successfully undergone a rigorous traditional process that marks their crossing over from boyhood into adulthood. Having gone through the process himself, Ngxokolo realized it was not only expensive, but also not necessarily easy to maintain the dapper standard of dress. This realization led him to experiment with making knitwear that incorporated the patterns, beadwork and symbols of his culture while introducing a thoroughly modern bent.
After a successful first collection, the burgeoning designer went on to receive a WeTransfer scholarship in 2014. The prize allowed him to study for his masters in Material Futures at the prestigious Central St. Martins University in London. The year after, he also won Vogue Italia‘s 2015 “Scouting for Africa” prize. His eye for color, talent for storytelling and desire to communicate culture through fashion all combine to make a singular statement. Ngxokolo also designs women’s collections and recently had a shawl from his FW16 collection voted “Most Beautiful Object in South Africa” by Design Indaba.
South African designer Rich Mnisi’s eponymous label began as OATH in 2014 before he changed the name toward the end of 2015. In 2014, while his brand was still largely in its incubation phase, Mnisi got off to an illustrious start when he won the Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year Award. He followed up the win by taking part in Design Indaba’s emerging creatives incubator in 2015.
A self-admitted connoisseur of pop culture, Mnisi’s design perspective is informed by the contemporary while still incorporating elements of his heritage. In a recent interview, the designer described the intersection between identity and pop culture in his designs, stating,
“Yes, there are elements of my identity within my work because it’s something I cannot escape, but not necessarily plastered throughout every piece of work I create. However, I would say that what I absorb today plays an even bigger role in the final product of my work. From music, movies, art to social structures, those are the elements I look to.”
His minimalist-leaning work often features audacious silhouettes that manage to smartly defy gender classifications. Mnisi’s FW16 capsule, which was inspired by the adornments of Zulu warriors, is a testament to this. Oversized coats with peacock-esque ornamentation are paired with loosely-tailored trousers and body-contouring tops that run the gamut from sheer a la ’90s rave kid to classic turtlenecks. There’s even a silken romper placed over a fitted blue top, and a foppish bell-sleeved button-front top for those who dare.
Young & Lazy
Anees Petersen is the designer behind Young and Lazy, one of South Africa’s most exciting young streetwear labels. Petersen founded the line in 2009 in Cape Town as part of a store he opened with several other students. After graduation he completed a stint at Woolworths for practical work experience.
It wasn’t until September of 2013 he decided to make the move to Johannesburg where he showed his third collection in STR. CRD, the city’s largest urban street culture festival. Petersen, who hails from Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town, has said that he was interested in streetwear and skate culture from a young age. In an interview with The Fader he shared that as a child his mother would often dress him in casual classics like sneakers and denim jackets. As he got older he began admire the style cues of designers like Raf Simons and Yohji Yamamoto whose sleek, athletically inspired creations lay at the intersection of innovation and comfort.
Petersen translates this inspiration into collections that feature sporty, lightweight materials and gender-neutral styles that align with the zeitgeist of the time. Whether it’s re-appropriated neon baseball jerseys or a floral take on the dad cap, there’s a playfulness and wearability to Young and Lazy that has earned it loyal male and female followers. See the looks from their recent collaboration with fellow South African streetwear brand Sol-Sol in the gallery.
Lagos-based Chukwuma Ian Audifferen founded Nigerian label Tzar Studios in 2013 as a small capsule of shirts and tunics. Since then the label has grown to produce full collections that are often centered on art, Audifferen’s personal experiences and his interest in photography.
Tzar’s offerings are characterized by unexpected smatterings of color and a vaguely ’70s aesthetic that sees Audifferen enthusiastically playing with dimension. His design choices are interesting in that you’re never really certain what you’ll get each season. There are certainly elements that are consistent, but they aren’t necessarily so emphasized they leave an instantly recognizable signature. It’s an approach that can go both ways, though it has produced plenty of wearable clothing that is perfectly in tune with the local and international markets.
26-year-old Nigerian designer Adebayo Oke-Laval launched the androgynous fashion line, Orange Culture, in April of 2011. Three years later, in 2014, he became a finalist for the prestigious LVMH prize alongside 29 other rising talents. For Oke-Laval, who studied banking in school and received no formal fashion training, it was a crowning achievement. Prior to debuting Orange Culture, he spent years teaching himself to sew, learning pattern-cutting from YouTube, and interning with several Nigerian designers to learn more about the business side of the industry.
Orange Culture began as a menswear and womenswear label but Oke-Laval eventually scaled back to concentrate on menswear exclusively. In the end, the change mattered little as the designer has often said he creates with the idea that both men and women can wear his clothes.
Now in its 10th season, Orange Culture recently presented a SS17 assortment at London Collections: Men. The offering features two distinctive prints: one is inspired by the Yoruba people and other Nigerian tribes, while the second features multicolored hands making globally recognizable gestures like peace signs. Because of the brand’s feminine-meets-masculine aesthetic, it has been hailed as among the most innovative and forward-thinking young labels on the continent.
Even still, Oke-Laval recently told The New York Times that when he’d first started incorporating pieces with translucent materials and more traditionally feminine silhouettes he was met with resistance, “We started making sheer pieces in Nigeria two seasons ago, and a lot of people really were like, ‘Oh you shouldn’t be making this — it’s feminine. It’s wrong.” These days, those very same pieces can be found in some of Nigeria’s best concept stores.
At 24 years old, South African maverick Lukhanyo Mdingi is poised to be one of the country’s most promising young talents. Mdingi, who hails from the town of East London, told i-D that his interest in fashion came from a childhood love of daytime soap operas, specifically The Bold and The Beautiful, which partook in the gaudiest of ’80s fashion with gusto. Mdingi later attended Cape Peninsula University where he completed the fashion program in 2013. That same year he entered the ELLE “Rising Star Design Award” and was selected as a finalist.
At the time he’d already completed two avant-garde womenswear collections over the course of his studies. The collections, respectively named “Granite” and “Basics,” were inspired by organic forms and the natural world. In 2015 he launched his inaugural menswear collection ahead of the Fall/Winter season. Dubbed “Macrame,” the assortment was a minimalist meditation on an age-old form of textile making. Mdingi incorporated signature knots into woven fabrics, and modernized silhouettes to reflect a contemporary point of view.
His most visually stunning collection to date is without a doubt the SS16 offering, “Taintless.” Set against the backdrop of sand and water, the garment’s airy fabrication and deep navy hues look at once dark and ethereal.
Laurence Chauvin Buthaud is the Ivorian designer behind the Paris and Abidjan-based contemporary label LAURENCEAIRLINE. She is also one of the growing number of women who are breaking into menswear. As a child, Buthaud frequently traveled between the Ivory Coast and Europe, splitting time between her father and mother’s homes. This early exposure to travel and the multicultural experience is one of the inspirations behind both the brand name and her aesthetic. Ultimately, Buthaud seeks to join her backgrounds by fusing timeless silhouettes with elements that reflect her Ivorian heritage.
Prior to launching the label in 2010, Buthaud worked as an intern for Louis Vuitton in Paris. She then returned to Abidjan where she set up a small studio and began experimenting with producing womenswear using sustainable manufacturing processes. Shortly after, she switched to menswear because she preferred the simplicity of current men’s fashion. These days, her Abidjan studio is comprised of a small number of locally trained artisans who produce a stream of high-quality garments in small runs.
Her SS16 collection is informed by her love of simplicity, but also incorporates elements of the fantastic. It was inspired by an imaginary place in which LEGO toys and African textiles somehow intermingle.
Jenevieve Lyons is another South African designer with a young, buzzing label that seems poised for longterm success. Lyons’ fashion career began during her time at Lisof Design and Retail Academy where she received recognition three years in a row for the avant-garde nature of her collections. She also went on to be a finalist in the ELLE “Rising Star Design Award” competition. A conceptual designer to the core, Lyons revels in innovative materials, sculptural dimensions and a less-is-more take on detail.
The idea for her FW16 collection came about after she watched Moshanyana, one part of a three-part film series titled Journey To The Centre of Capricorn. The sequence was directed by Mozambican illustrator, art director and author, Rui Tenreiro, and features a young albino boy as the central protagonist. Though the film’s title pays homage to some of the mythologies of the Sotho people, it also made Lyons consider the stigma of albinism in some parts of the continent. Because albinism doesn’t necessarily fit the collective societal standard of beauty, albino people often face the prospect of being other-ed, and in some instances, even killed.
Lyons shared with ELLE, “The aim was to showcase garments that represent debility; yet while bringing form to function, portraying a traveled journey symbolizing the constant travel of a person (albino) carrying ‘the other’; constantly searching for their placement within society. ”
Burgeoning talent Julia M’poko was born in Belgium and raised in Pretoria, South Africa. She later went on to study fashion design at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design where she developed her portfolio through styling local television shows and music videos, including a 2013 Grammy-nominated project featuring iconic South African musician Hugh Masekela. M’poko also interned at BoF 500 member Hanneli Rupert‘s influential concept store, Merchants on Long, which was one of the first of its kind in the country.
As a designer, M’poko began to garner major attention when she participated in the ELLE “Rising Star Design Award” in 2013. Other up-and-coming names participating that year included Lukhanyo Mdingi and Jenevieve Lyons. For the competition M’poko presented a luxury womenswear collection she dubbed Julienne.
In 2015 she launched Mo’Ko Elosa as a tightly edited womenswear collection inspired by Japanese design. M’poko settled on the name because of its personal meaning. Mo’Ko means “one” in Lingala, one of the many languages spoken in the Congo where her grandmother resides, and Elosa is her grandmother’s maiden name. M’poko followed up the women’s collection with her first men’s showing at SA Menswear Week. Her menswear collection proved to be equally as luxurious as her women’s offerings, though M’poko intentionally presented a more streamlined assortment that concentrated on superior tailoring and contemporary silhouettes.
In a 2015 interview with That Skattie she described the collection as follows, “Clean and minimal – for lack of a better word – but there is a lot of attention to detail and I play around with asymmetry. I don’t want to call myself a minimalist, everyone is a minimalist, but I’m still trying to find the one word that encapsulates it all. Its core essence is about getting inspiration from Japanese design aesthetics and elements, but I want it to be very subtle. For example if it’s inspired by a kimono, it doesn’t have to literally look like a kimono.”
British-Nigerian designer Inyie James, better known as Tokyo James, may already be a familiar name. Prior to establishing his own eponymous brand he worked as a stylist and creative director in London while pursuing a Mathematics degree at Queen Mary University. In addition to editorial styling for magazines, James also helped mastermind digital campaigns for brands like Brioni, Issey Miyake and PUMA.
After stints in brand consultation and styling, James turned his attention to his own project, ROUGH UK, a style, art and culture digital platform that aimed to present content outside of familiar formats. James eventually returned to Lagos, Nigeria where he joined the masthead of quarterly fashion and lifestyle magazine, MADE, as editor-in-chief.
James also took advantage of Lagos’s identity as a burgeoning fashion city to finally establish his own label, which he says caters to “modern men who want simplicity with an edge.” And though many of his offerings indeed feature ornamental details and atypical textures and patterns, the silhouettes maintain a traditional consistency that lends them a level of wearability that negates any real challenge.