5 African Designers Giving Philly a Great Name

Inspired by the Art Museum's Creative Africa exhibit, here are five designers bringing a little bit of Lagos (and more) to Philadelphia.

It’s hard to miss advertisements for the Art Museum’s latest global design exhibition, Creative Africa. For starters, they’re everywhere, and the vibrant, eye-catching prints certainly stand out on telephone poles and billboards. The exhibit is a colorful celebration of the visionary works created by African artists, with an emphasis on contemporary photography, fashion, architecture, and even centuries-old sculpture. Here are five Philly-based African designers who — just like those featured in Creative Africa — are reveling in their blackness and injecting a little bit of Africa into our city.

Ikiré Jones
Ikiré Jones is a Philly-based apparel/design company that specializes in bold menswear with an emphasis on graphic prints. The brainchild of afro-beat musician/attorney (coolest job ever) Walé Oyéjidé and musician/tailor Sam Hubler, Ikiré Jones is an exciting collaboration that meets at the intersection of fashion and passionate storytelling. Their S/S 2017 collection, “Born Between Borders”, highlights the many sacrifices African immigrants make for their children, and is told through gorgeously cut suit jackets and trousers. The brand is carried in high-end shops around the world from Japan to Germany but calls Philadelphia home.

Latasha Hall of LuvLillieClothing creates fabulously chic dresses out of modern interpretations of traditional West African fabrics, but it’s her editorial work that really shines. A graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Hall and her gorgeous designs have been worn on the Grammys red carpet and featured in magazines such as Vogue Italia, Ellements, Zander, Zink and Manhattan Bride. Her bridal gowns are the stuff of dreams, often featuring whimsical detailing and lots of tulle. 

Ayasa Afi
Born and raised in Philadelphia by her Liberian-Ghanaian father and African-American mother, Ayasa Afi has been sewing since she was 12 and cut her design teeth at Donna Karan. She’s presented her ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week and shown bridal looks at Philadelphia Fashion Week. Afi’s designs — remarkably feminine and sexy — represent the future of African design: bright and hopeful.

D’iyanu’s designer Addie Olutola is bringing African-inspired luxe to Philadelphia one kente-clothed cape at a time. Her thriving online business is supported by her 29,000 Instagram followers and over 96,000 Facebook fans. With the help of the internet, she’s bringing affordable African fashion to younger audiences trying to connect with their roots, all via her Norristown studio.

Philly-natives Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason started AphroChic as a passion project in their extremely limited spare time (Hays was a policy attorney, Mason a Ph.D. student). Now almost a decade later, the interior design brand has become a hallmark of “modern, soulful style”. They’ve championed global inspirations (in particular, those from Central and West Africa) and translated them into beloved written, video, and photo content for such outlets as About.com, HGTV, Refinery29, Apartment Therapy and AOL. The married duo is also currently serving as IKEA Brand Ambassadörs — so you can get a little soul as you wander through aisles and aisles of Tingbys and Liatorps.

These African designers are all for celebrating their history while looking forward to the present. Each of their designs are unique and fresh, but ultimately all of the gowns and blazers and dining rooms channel their undeniably African roots. After the colorful explosion that is the Creative Africa exhibit, we can count on these designers to continue to promote black excellence.