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The best of African design

4 African Models Who have Changed Fashion History

Tuesday, 02 June 2015

The African fashion industry isn't entirely credited to the authentic, colourful and cultural look it can create. Much of the credit falls upon the iconic African fashion models who have stormed into the industry over the last few decades. Together, they have brought to light the fact that cultural diversity should be celebrated, specifically through the art of fashion rather than vanity.

>>African fashion is gaining force in the UK

To compliment an array of darker skin tones, elongated athletic figures and a rich heritage, the fashion industry began to explore the roots of African fashion in order to create their own African inspired clothing lines.

>>Discover our vintage African products here.

b2ap3_thumbnail_african-models.jpgTo honour this movement, we have decided to take you through our top 4 African model influences and our cause for inspiration. So join us in finding out everything about their discovery to their worldwide impact on the fashion industry as we know it today. Can you guess who our 4 iconic models are?

Alek Wek


Alek was discovered in London in 1995. A scout spotted her at an outdoor market in Crystal Palace. This led her to later appear in the music video for "GoldenEye" by Tina Turner and fashion modelling wasn't far behind. 2 years later Alek was named "Model of the Year" in 1997 by MTV.


She was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle in 1997.


Out of every model in the public eye, Alek Wek has the most captivating a raw look. Her shaved head gives her a tribal image intertwined with an authentic African vibe. Her impact of the industry has brought the athletic figure and shaved hair into the spotlight, making the African female a more popularized vision worldwide. Back in the 90’s, dark-skinned models were rare in the high fashion industry and her success was celebrated by black women all over the world. Oprah Winfrey once said “if (Alek) had been on the cover of a magazine when I was growing up, I would have had a different concept of who I was.”.

Naomi Campbell


Naomi Campbell is of African-Jamaican descent and is possibly the most notorious African model to date. Her varied look caught people’s attention and by the age of 15, she was recruited as a model. Her story is perhaps more of a well known one due to the fact that she was one of the first six models to be declared a ‘supermodel’. She was seen to rule the catwalk in the 1990’s.


She was the first ever black model to be featured on a French Vogue cover.


The impact that Naomi had on the industry lies in the catwalk sector of fashion. Her height and long limbs made it impossible for shorter models to try and get into the profession. Nowadays, height is one of the main requirements. This saw a rise in clothes to compliment the nature of the African woman’s features.

Tyra Banks


Tyra Banks model evolution has led her to become better know as a TV personality. She began modelling when she was 15, while attending school. An opportunity arose to model in Europe so of course, she took it.


She was the first black model to be featured as a cover on the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and on GQ. Tyra is one of four African Americans to have repeatedly ranked among the world's most influential people by TIME magazine. In 1997 Banks was the first-ever African American chosen for the cover of the Victoria's Secret catalogue.


Tyra Banks’ impact has resulted in many other young African women aspiring to become a model themselves and of course with the TV show ‘America's Next Top Model’ there had been a number of culturally diverse winners. This resulted in an awareness of modern African fashion which has been enhanced by these women.

Grace Jones


Before becoming a singer, Grace was a model. She moved to New York at 18 and signed on as a model but, ironically, as a child, Grace was teased by classmates because she was "skinny". Little did she know that this would become a huge part of such a successful career.


Grace influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s and has been an inspiration for artists including Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Basement Jaxx.


Jones changed the image of a skinny frame to something that is no longer made fun of, to some extent at least. This has seen a rise in confidence in young women across the world. As for her style, she has remained a constant icon for and no doubt will continue to for years to come. This was when the contemporary style of African fashion came to light, making it more modernized.

As you can see, these 4 iconic women have made a huge impact of the fashion industry and they are a large reason why African fashion has such a demand and growing reputation. These women have certainly inspired us and there’s no better way to repay them than not using their names, reputation and heritage in vain.

Our clothing, jewellery and home accessories don’t only celebrate the African fashion movement but they embody it as well. Each of our products are locally made by the men and women of Africa and are shipped over seas just for you. Browse our product details for more information on where each piece of clothing or accessory has been made.


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