New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has long been a global platform for designers to showcase their talent, creativity, and cultural diversity. Over the years, several African designers have made their mark on this prestigious stage, paving the way for newer brands to follow. In this journey through the history of African brands at NYFW, we explore the stories of trailblazing designers who have left an indelible mark on the fashion landscape.

Maki Oh

Maki Oh Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear Collection at NYFW via Vogue

Maki Oh, the brainchild of Nigerian designer Amaka Osakwe, made its debut at NYFW in 2012, captivating audiences with a collection that seamlessly blended traditional West African textiles and motifs with contemporary silhouettes. Osakwe's emphasis on sustainability and slow production processes has not only resulted in a unique aesthetic but has also earned her a 2014 LVMH Prize nomination.

The real breakthrough for Maki Oh in the US came in 2013 when then-First Lady Michelle Obama donned one of Osakwe's pieces during a trip to Johannesburg. This endorsement catapulted Maki Oh into the spotlight, with celebrity clients like Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles, and Leelee Sobieski becoming fans. Through her dedication to celebrating her West African identity, Amaka Osakwe has undoubtedly paved the way for other African designers on the NYFW stage.

David Tlale

David Tlale catwalk show for NYFW S/S 2015 via The Upcoming

Hailing from Vosloorus, South Africa, David Tlale is a designer whose roots play a pivotal role in shaping his brand. Tlale's journey began in 2003 when he won the Elle New Talent award at SA Fashion Week and simultaneously launched his eponymous brand. Drawing inspiration from the rich cultural tapestry of South Africa, Tlale's designs stand out with their earthy originality.

Tlale made his NYFW debut in 2014, and since then, he has showcased his unique vision over five times. His ability to marry the wealth of South African resources with his creative ingenuity has set a benchmark for African designers aspiring to make a mark on the global stage.

Deola Sagoe

Deola Sagoe/CLAN SS14 Collection from NYFW via Bella Naija

Deola Sagoe, a Nigerian-born fashion designer, has been a trailblazer since the late '80s. Her commitment to reviving traditional African techniques and infusing them into contemporary designs has earned her accolades and recognition globally. In 2014, she became the first Nigerian to have her stand-alone show at NYFW, further solidifying her position as a leader in African fashion.

From winning the MNET Anglo Gold African Design Award in 2000 to featuring in and producing costumes for the film "October 1" in 2015, Deola Sagoe has consistently pushed boundaries. Her journey from the MNET Face of Africa in 1998 to the NYFW stage showcases the evolution and global recognition of African fashion.


Xuly.Bët NYFW Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection via Vogue

Founded in 1991 by Lamine Kouyaté, XULY.Bët is a Parisian fashion house with a unique approach to sustainability. Kouyaté, originally from Mali, reshapes discarded garments into high fashion pieces, incorporating aspects of his African roots and urban life into his designs. In 2016, XULY.Bët made history at NYFW by debuting the first-ever show featuring all Black models.

Kouyaté's ability to transform simple nylon garments into statement pieces reflects his dedication to fashion that tells a story. XULY.Bët's presence at NYFW continues to inspire new generations of designers to embrace sustainability and celebrate their cultural heritage on a global stage.

Tiffany Amber

Tiffany Amber NYFW Spring/Summer 2010 via BellaNaija

Folake Coker, the creative force behind Tiffany Amber, entered the fashion world in 1996, launching her brand in Nigeria in 1998. Her designs, with a distinctly African attitude, quickly gained global recognition. In 2008, Tiffany Amber made history as the first African-based brand to showcase twice at NYFW, a testament to Coker's visionary approach to fashion.

Over the years, Tiffany Amber has expanded with additional lines, including TAN by Tiffany Amber and Folake Folarin, each representing the designer's iconic style. Coker's commitment to empowering artisans across the continent and her dedication to a vision of sophisticated, indulgent, and modern style have solidified Tiffany Amber as a global luxury lifestyle brand.

Studio 189

Studio 189 NYFW 2023 Ready-to-wear via Vogue

Studio 189, co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, is a Ghanaian-based brand that seamlessly integrates fashion, sustainability, and social enterprise. The brand, which won the CFDA Lexus Fashion Initiative for Sustainability, debuted its ready-to-wear collection at NYFW in 2018, showcasing African and African-inspired content.

Studio 189's focus on empowerment, job creation, and education aligns with its commitment to sustainable practices. Collaborations with organizations like the United Nations ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative and support for artisanal communities highlight the brand's dedication to making a positive impact. Through their unique approach, Studio 189 encourages a shift toward fashion with purpose on the global stage.


As we celebrate African fashion showcased at NYFW, it's essential to recognise these pioneers who have paved the way for newer brands like Oshobor, Sukeina, Kilentar, Korlekie, Onalaja, Fumi the label, and Head of State to showcase at the NYFW. The journey continues, and with each showcase, African designers leave an indelible mark on the global fashion landscape, proving that style knows no boundaries.

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