June 3, 2023

These culturally conscious African fashion designers are leading another sportswear revolution – Global Voices

A Siko republik model advertising their gym wear. Image Source; Siko Republik's Facebook page

A Siko republik model advertising their gym wear. Image Source; Siko Republik’s Facebook page

For a continent that has consistently produced the world’s best long-distance runners and where football is the most popular sport, few homegrown sportswear brands would have dared before to challenge the local dominance of Nike , Adidas, Puma, and Under Armor — the most recognised and revered sportswear brands. Never before have the boundaries associated with what sportswear ought to look like been so pushed as they possess been in recent years by a new generation of culturally mindful fashion designers. Whilst striving to have got an Afro-centric offering, these entrepreneurs are usually heralding an additional sportswear trend that is bold, brightly coloured, symbolically patterned plus inspired simply by their heritage.

And the particular COVID-19 pandemic had everything to do with it.

In 2020, the apparel trade was one of the worst-hit industries. Considered a lifestyle sector, the freeze on all shipments led to a slump within the international apparel trade. At the same time, more individuals became more health conscious with many turning to walking, running or working out at home. This shift in consumer behaviour due to nationwide lockdowns, coupled with the decline within purchase power as businesses closed down and a spike in unemployment rates saw the shift within consumer tastes. This accelerated the pervasive wear associated with a recent fashion trend: Athleisure (a fashion pattern of casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and general use).

The global athleisure market is anticipated to be worth USD 662. 56 billion by 2030 , according to a brand new report by Grand View Research, Inc. Bringing this closer home, t he Africa and Middle East sports apparel marketplace is expected to reach $23190. 43 million USD by 2029 according in order to an Industry Trends and Forecast report simply by Data Bridget market research.

Similarly, the particular global athletic footwear market size has been worth $71. 18 billion dollars in 2021 and grew to $76. 72 billion in 2022 according to Athletic Footwear Global Market Report 2022 published in August.  

African sportswear brands have been around since the mid-nineties.   They have just not been as boldly colourful and culturally conscious as they are now.

Sportswear that will be more bold, patterned plus vibrant

It all began with the Ankara fabric.

In the mid -20oo’s, an Ankara material ripple started . Previously known within the East African region as the particular Kitenge, the Ankara is usually one of the majority of enduring and widespread clothing materials from West plus Central The african continent: a distinctively colourful and elaborately designed 100 percent cotton fabric commonly referred to because the “wax hollandaise. ” 

Despite Ankara’s controversial origins as not a ‘truly’ African material, it has come to be that will colour, look and feel that is instantly recognisable since ‘African. ’  The late 2000s saw a revival of these strong, wildly colorful and symbolic Ankara-patterned fabrics whose designs are now stitched on every aspect associated with fashion through apparel in order to furniture across the globe.    

Although the first African sportswear brand —  Capestorm, a South African-based sports activities apparel firm focusing mainly on outdoor wear plus sportswear — was started in the particular 90s, it was not until the mid 200os that companies began popping up from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana with unique bold patterned and vibrant coloured clothing, sneakers and trainers, inspired not just by the Ankara fabric but also by Nguni from South Africa, Kente through Ghana plus the Mud Cloth from Mali — all distinctly unique materials with their own set of colours, patterns and texture   that are quickly becoming a preferred alternative by nearby consumers to global manufacturers.

These are some of the brand names shaking up the athleisure industry by adding their own cultural touch.

Lornah Sports African Sportswear:   When former Kenyan World Cross Country champion Lornah Kiplagat launched her female sports brand Lornah seven years ago, she became the 1st African sports activities personality in order to achieve such a feat. The company, founded in 2015, focuses on authentic plus unique African-inspired sports attire appealing to women with a keen interest within sportswear, including shorts, shirts, sports bras, tights, jackets and running dresses. The names of the clothing items on the girl catalogue sold through her online shop and distributed globally such as ‘twiga tights, ’ Barika Sports activities Bras, Kito Capris, plus Mumbi long sleeves, are inspired simply by names through various Kenyan names and Kiswahili.

Enda: The particular country’s very first running shoe company was founded in 2016 by Navalayo Osembo and Weldon Kennedy. The company offers its eyes set on the global sports shoe brand market. Their catalogue includes the Lapatet — a Kalenjin name that means “running, ” and Iten — the name associated with a town in Kenya where the greatest long-distance joggers in the world are trained.

Kicks Sportswear : This particular South African-based brand specialises in sports activities clothes, sneakers/trainers and accessories.   Their own catalogue consists of their flagship brand Leg techinques and the particular very colourful Kokohva sneakers.

AFA Sports : This company was founded in  2017 by former college athlete and NBA agent Ugo Udezue, AFA Sports (AFA means The african continent For Africa) is a Nigerian company that designs, develops and manufactures sports merchandise and clothes.  

While speaking to Al Jazeera within 2021 , Udezue spoke of how ‘stumbled’ into “to pioneer the first and only African sports apparel company to officially outfit the team at the Olympic Games in Japan this year. ”

“I came back in order to Africa with the idea of starting a continental league that would match the NBA. When we began the little league I noticed that will the basketballs were very slippery because they were made for air-conditioned gyms plus we all know that there aren’t too many associated with those in Africa, ” Udezue explained , ”so I went to China and developed a ball that absorbs sweat and immediately we witnessed less turnovers in the game as the result. ”

AFA sports ships to 20 countries and has received endorsements from some of the well-known homegrown celebrities. In 2020, AFA Sports grew to become the initial African-based brand name to sponsor and kit a national team in the Olympics, after securing the opportunity for the particular Nigerian women’s basketball team.  

RuvaAfricaWear: This lifestyle brand provides been operational since 2015 in Zimbabwe to ‘celebrate African history and history through everyday functional clothes. It incorporates prints from different African countries. The particular acronym RUVA stands for Responsibility, Unity, Value Creation and Appreciation. Another meaning from the word ‘ruva’ is definitely ‘flower’ within Shona, one of Zimbabwe’s local languages. The founder Sylvester Ndhlovu chose the name to symbolize beauty, compassion, friendship, humility, plus passion. and other positive symbolisms associated with Africa.  

CultureFitClothing : The company started in 2017 simply by a group of entrepreneur friends of West Africa and black descent who, brought together by their heritage, their love for travel and their particular interest in wellness, set out to create what they considered “a high-performance activewear with regard to the culturally conscious woman. ” Their particular vivid prints stand away in their catalogue of yoga mats, leggings, and sports activities bras.

Zawadi Sports: This fitness brand specializes in distinctive African-printed Athleisurewear, activewear plus swimwear whose prints are usually inspired from the Ghanian Kente, the Malian mud cloth as well as the particular Maasai shuka.

Pfeka: Though not influenced with the Ankara but instead by African wild animal images, this is a Zimbabwean clothing brand that was started in 2018 by Eglet Nyabvure. A previous engineer and a strong supporter of being authentic plus true in order to self, Nyabvure, who now is now living within the Netherlands,   is looking to give everyday clothing value simply by embedding African prints, and patterns. The Pfeka trademark black plus white jerseys have become a symbol associated with national pride. They were worn by professional tennis players Benjamin and Courtney Lock during their winning match on the Drácula Open 2022 doubles in Puerto Cabello.

Siko Republik: Just like Pfeka, this particular company equally draws its inspiration from its founder’s traditions — the Nguni print from Zululand. Founded simply by Jabulile Gwala in 2018 as a proudly South African athleisure wear, it was borne out of frustration.

Whilst talking with True Love magazine in 2020, Gwala said,

“At the time, I had been enjoying the particular gym and loved dressing up for this. But , I was struggling to find clothes that were comfortable, with a Nguni printing on them. So , I decided to produce something that was tailored for Africa bodies having a print that represented my tribe. ”

Richard Wanjohi contributed to this article

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