February 5, 2023

These culturally conscious African fashion designers are leading… – 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 plus revered sportswear brands. Never before have the particular boundaries associated with what sportswear ought to look like been so pushed as they have been in recent years by a new generation of culturally conscious style designers. Whilst striving to have an Afro-centric offering, these entrepreneurs are heralding another sportswear revolution that is bold, brightly coloured, symbolically patterned and inspired by their heritage.

And the 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, a freeze on all shipments led to a slump in 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 a decline in purchase power as businesses closed down and a spike in unemployment rates saw the shift within consumer tastes. This accelerated the pervasive wear of a recent fashion trend: Athleisure (a fashion trend associated with casual clothing designed in order to be worn both for exercising plus general use).

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

Similarly, the global athletic footwear market size was well worth $71. 18 billion in 2021 plus grew in order to $76. 72 billion within 2022 based on Athletic Footwear Global Market Report 2022 published in August.  

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

Sportswear which is a lot more bold, patterned and colourful

It all began with the Ankara fabric.

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

Despite Ankara’s controversial origins as not a ‘truly’ Africa fabric, it has come to be that colour, look and feel that is instantly recognisable as ‘African. ’  The particular late 2000s saw the revival of these bold, wildly colorful and symbolic Ankara-patterned fabrics whose designs are now stitched upon every aspect of style from clothing 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 90s, it was not until the middle of the 200os that will companies began popping up from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Botswana along with unique bold patterned plus vibrant coloured apparel, sneakers and trainers, inspired not just by the Ankara fabric but also by Nguni from South Africa, Kente from Ghana and the Mud Cloth through Mali — all distinctly unique materials with their own set of colours, patterns and texture   that are quickly becoming a preferred alternative by local consumers in order to global brands.

These are some of the brands shaking up the particular 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 grew to become the first Photography equipment sports personality to achieve such a feat. The company, founded in 2015, focuses on authentic and unique African-inspired sports apparel appealing to women with a keen interest in sportswear, including shorts, shirts, sports bras, tights, jackets and running dresses. The names of the clothing items on her catalogue sold through her online shop plus distributed globally such as ‘twiga tights, ’ Barika Sports Bras, Kito Capris, and Mumbi long sleeves, are inspired by names from various Kenyan titles and Kiswahili.

Enda: The country’s first operating shoe company was founded in 2016 by Navalayo Osembo and Weldon Kennedy. The company has its eyes set on the global sports shoe brand marketplace. Their catalogue includes the particular Lapatet — a Kalenjin name that means “running, ” and Iten — the name of a town in Kenya where the best long runners inside the world are trained.

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

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

While speaking to Al Jazeera within 2021 , Udezue spoke of how ‘stumbled’ into “to pioneer the very first plus only African sports attire company to officially outfit a team at the particular 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. Whenever we started the little league I noticed that the basketballs were really slippery because they were made with regard to air-conditioned gyms and we all know that there aren’t too many of those in Africa, ” Udezue explained , ”so I went to China and developed the ball that absorbs sweat and immediately we witnessed less turnovers in the particular game as a result. ”

AFA sports activities ships to 20 countries and has received endorsements from some of the well-known homegrown celebrities. Within 2020, AFA Sports became the 1st African-based brand name to sponsor and kit a national team at the Olympics, after securing the opportunity for the Nigerian women’s basketball team.  

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

CultureFitClothing : The company was started in 2017 by a group of entrepreneur friends of West Photography equipment and black descent who, brought together by their own heritage, their particular love regarding travel plus their interest in wellness, set out to create what they considered “a high-performance activewear for that culturally conscious woman. ” Their own vivid prints stand out within their list of yoga mats, leggings, and sports bras.

Zawadi Sports: This fitness brand specializes in unique African-printed Athleisurewear, activewear and swimwear whose prints are influenced by the particular Ghanian Kente, the Malian mud cloth as well as the Maasai shuka.

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

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

While speaking to True Love magazine in 2020, Gwala said,

“At the time, I was enjoying the gym and loved dressing up for it. But, I had been struggling to find clothes that had been comfortable, with a Nguni print on them. So, I decided in order to create something that has been tailored intended for African bodies with the print that will represented my tribe. ”

Richard Wanjohi contributed to this article

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