From designers to photographers, these five fashion industry professionals have taken their culture and influences from Africa abroad, creating a competitive niche and finding success in the international fashion industry. —Sirita Wright
Diversity and inclusion. Those are words found on the mission statement of clothing label Bunmi Koko. Olaye, a former fashion stylist and illustrator, is the creative director of the luxury, ready-to-wear line. Olaye previously worked with prestigious fashion houses including Prada and LVMH, and under the direction of the acclaimed designer Alexander McQueen. Her education includes degrees from London College of Fashion and Kent Institute of Art & Design. A featured designer at the Spring 2012 Arise show, Olaye’s collections have been inspired by the Efik tribe of her native Nigeria. (Photo: File)
Image consultant and designer Ugo Mozie has been making waves in the fashion industry since landing in New York in 2009. Mozie’s knowledge of and passion for fashion can been seen in magazines such including Elle, 360, and Arise. He’s crafted the images for celebrities including Dawn Richards (of Diddy Dirty Money) and Diggy Simmons, and credits his home of Nigeria for much of his style inspiration. Mozie’s unique sense of style and fashion flair inspired him and his partner Quinn Aston to create their own line of men’s clothing, under the name Aston Mozie which debuted in 2010.
Couture designer Deola Sagoe is known for her lively and colorful designs. The award-winning designer has an affluent fan base with celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Lydia Hearst. Her Nigerian background has been a major influence in her collections which include hand-woven designs and traditional African elements. Her designs have masculine touches, yet she remains feminine in her aesthetic. Sagoe’s three daughters are following in their mother’s footsteps with their own label “Clan,” debuting “The Rampage” collection in 2011.
Chris Saunders is a South African-born photographer and filmmaker. Saunders began his career in advertising and transitioned into fashion, shooting for fashion magazines like Dazed & Confused and Heat Magazine. Chris continues to shoot major advertising campaigns and past clients have included United Colors of Benetton for which he won a yearlong grant at Fabrica, Benetton’s research facility. Saunders is also a regular contributor to the fashion blog, Team Uncool. Much of Chris’s inspiration comes from his travels around the world and his home of Johannesburg.
African makeup artist Barbara Mensah was raised in Ghana by a grandmother “who never left home without her red lipstick or nail polish.” It was she who gave Mensah an early glimpse into the world of cosmetics and the art of make-up. Mensah has had a varied career within the fashion industry and has been mentored by renowned make-up artists including Beryl Barnard and Kevin Fortune. Holding a bachelor’s degree in fine art, Menseh has always had a passion for painting and incorporates her knowledge and gift in makeup artistry. Mensah finds inspiration in her home base of London, Soho and has painted the faces of celebs including Blondie and DJ Tiger Lilly. Her roster of clients include YSL, Lancôme, Fashionaires and ASOS. Who’s her dream client? Oprah Winfrey.