Nigerian Fashion Icons: Leading the Way for ‘Made in Africa’

Nigerian Fashion Icons: Leading the Way for 'Made in Africa'


The Nigerian fashion industry is one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2018, the industry was valued at $1.2 billion and is expected to grow to $3 billion by 2023.

The industry is driven by several factors, including a growing middle class, a young and fashion-conscious population, and a rich cultural heritage. Several Nigerian fashion designers are making waves on the international stage.

Deola Sagoe is the founder of the fashion label Deola Sagoe, which has been worn by Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Tara Durotoye is the founder of the fashion label House of Tara, which is one of the most successful fashion brands in Nigeria.

Ejiro Amos-Tafiri is the founder of the fashion label ATAFO, which has been featured in Forbes and The New York Times.

These designers are all helping to put Nigerian fashion on the map. They are showcasing the creativity and talent of Nigerian designers to the world. They are also helping to create jobs and economic opportunities in Nigeria.

The Nigerian fashion industry has the potential to be a major force in the global fashion landscape. With its rich cultural heritage and its talented designers, the industry is well-positioned to take the lead in shaping the future of fashion.

Here are The Nigerian Fashion Moguls championing ‘Made in Africa’ worldwide.

1. Omoyemi Akerele.

Omoyemi Akerele, the visionary behind Style House Files, serves as both the founder and artistic director of this innovative creative development agency, which focuses on supporting Nigerian and African designers.

Specializing in collaborative efforts with Nigerian brands, Style House Files excels in various facets, including image development, creative direction, brand positioning, and the formulation of effective retail strategies.

Akerele, a driving force within the industry, extends her influence globally by providing these brands with invaluable international exposure. 

Notably, she orchestrates showcases at esteemed events such as Pitti Immagine in Italy and the renowned Lagos Fashion and Design Week.

The brainchild of Akerele, Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW) operates on a four-day schedule, featuring a thoughtfully curated lineup of emerging designers and fashion entrepreneurs.

In a groundbreaking partnership with the British Fashion Council, LFDW has played a pivotal role in elevating the profile of the Nigerian fashion industry on the global stage.

This influential showcase has attracted widespread international acclaim, drawing attention from esteemed journalists like Suzy Menkes and Cristina Manfredi, while simultaneously capturing the interest of numerous international buyers.

Before her groundbreaking work with Style House Files, Akerele served as the senior style editor at the popular fashion magazine True Love.

Her academic background includes a law degree from the University of Lagos and a master’s degree in international economic law from the University of Warwick.

Adding to her impressive repertoire, Akerele holds the esteemed position of a special advisor to the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), showcasing her commitment to contributing to the growth and success of the Nigerian fashion industry.

2. Deola Sagoe. 

 Deola Sagoe, the founder of the eponymous brand “Deola,” stands as a prominent figure in African haute fashion, hailing from Ondo State in Nigeria.

Since 1989, Deola has been a trailblazer in high fashion, making history in 2004 as the first black woman to showcase a collection at AltaRoma, Rome’s renowned fashion week.

Her globally recognized style has attracted a prestigious clientele, including Africa’s first ladies and notable figures such as society girls like Lydia Hearst, top model Alek Wek, and renowned personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith.

Deola Sagoe’s entrepreneurial prowess is deeply rooted in her lineage, tracing back to a family of Nigerian business magnates and proprietors of the Eilzade Group.

Originally established by her father and late mother, the enterprise is now under the capable leadership of her brother, exemplifying a legacy of business acumen within the Sagoe family.

3. Tara Durotoye.

 Tara Fela-Durotoye, a pioneering beauty entrepreneur, played a pivotal role in orchestrating a transformative shift in Nigeria’s professional makeup industry during the late ’90s.

As the visionary Founder and current CEO of House of Tara International, she occupies a prominent position within the Nigerian female entrepreneurship community.

Tara, serving as a thought leader, generously shares her extensive 20+ years of industry experience through a variety of in-class and online courses tailored for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Recognized for her significant societal impact, Tara is a passionate advocate for meaningful entrepreneurship, earning her the esteemed title of the poster girl for female entrepreneurship in West Africa.

Under her adept leadership, House of Tara earned the distinction of being named one of Jobberman’s best 100 companies to work for in Nigeria in 2017. Notably, the House of Tara was established in 1998.

4. Ejiro Amos-Tafiri.

 Ejiro Amos-Tafiri, the CEO and founder of Ejiroamostafiri, has established her Nigerian women’s fashion brand as a harmonious blend of traditional African attire and contemporary garment construction techniques.

Since its launch in 2010, the brand has grown organically from Amos-Tafiri’s previous roles at Out of Africa, Zizi Ethnic Clothing, and Tiffany Amber. Notably, she is credited with revitalizing the Iro and Buba ensemble into the iconic Oleku outfit.

As an alumna of the US Consulate’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs and a regional winner of the YOUWIN grant, Ejiro Amos-Tafiri actively advocates for quality education within Nigeria’s fashion sector.

Her brand has forged collaborations with industry leaders such as Samsung, Vlisco, Belvedere, British Council, Lagos Fashion Week, and Paris Fashion Week.

Having showcased her collections at GTCo Fashion Weekend, Amos-Tafiri’s designs have graced runways in the United States, Europe, and various African nations, solidifying her brand’s international presence.

5. Banke Kuku.

 Founded in 2011, Banke Kuku, under the creative direction of its founder, Banke Kuku, has gained recognition for seamlessly fusing West African and Western eclectic influences, creating intricate and distinctive textile designs.

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the brand specializes in an array of upscale loungewear and lifestyle pieces.

Making notable appearances at Lagos Fashion Week (2021) and GTCo Fashion Weekend (2023), Banke Kuku has solidified its significant presence in the fashion landscape.

In 2022, the renowned Hollywood actress Gabrielle Union collaborated with Banke Kuku to unveil a fashion collection in celebration of her 50th birthday.

This collaboration materialized into the New York and Company x Banke Kuku collection, with Union herself modelling select looks.

6. Stella Ndekile.

 At the forefront of Nuban Beauty stands Founder and CEO Stella Ndekile, steering one of Nigeria’s premier beauty brands that cater to the cosmetic needs of the African market. Notably, NUBAN Beauty is a prominent participant in the GTCo Fashion Weekend 2023.

Possessing a wealth of experience as a Serial Entrepreneur and Business Development Strategist, Ndekile brings over 12 years of expertise in management, digital marketing, public speaking, procurement, and process analysis to her diverse professional portfolio.

Beyond her leadership in the beauty sector, Ndekile is the visionary force behind St. Nika Apparel, a brand dedicated to meeting the fashion needs of pregnant women and nursing mothers.

With a background as a Medical Laboratory Scientist holding a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory sciences, Ndekile made significant contributions to institutions like the University of Lagos Medical Centre before making a successful transition to entrepreneurship.

7. Ohimai Atafo.

Mai Atafo, the renowned Nigerian fashion tailor and founder of his eponymous brand, honed his craft at the Savile Row Academy in Leeds, UK.

Upon returning to Nigeria in 2002, Atafo took on pivotal marketing roles at British American Tobacco and Guinness Nigeria before deciding to step down in 2010.

During his tenure at Guinness, the founder of Mai Atafo gained celebrity acclaim, receiving recognition from figures such as Omowunmi Akinnifesi, Banky W, and IK Osakioduwa.

In his role as Creative Director, Atafo introduced the wedding line “Weddings by Mai” in 2011. Additionally, he serves as the Strategy Director at Firehouse Group and leads the Future Awards Central working committee.

In a significant collaboration in 2018, Mai Atafo partnered with Nivea, becoming the official designer for the skincare company’s ‘Black and White’ collection.

8. Folake Coker.

For almost three decades, Folake Folarin-Coker, in her role as the CEO of Tiffany Amber, has been a transformative influence, reshaping women’s self-perceptions and leaving an indelible mark on the fashion industry.

Having received her education in Switzerland and the United Kingdom, where she earned a postgraduate degree in petroleum law, Folarin-Coker redirected her passion toward fashion upon her return to Nigeria.

In 1998, she introduced her iconic fashion brand, “Tiffany Amber,” in Lagos.  The brand has since expanded, boasting four standalone stores and boutiques in Lagos and Abuja.

In 2008, Tiffany Amber made history as the first African-based fashion designer to showcase twice at the prestigious New York Fashion Week.

More recently, Folake Folarin-Coker unveiled The Tiffany Amber Gardens, a flagship store located in Lagos, marking another milestone in her illustrious career.  Her global influence extends to fashion shows held across Africa, Europe, and the United States.

Notably, Folarin-Coker dressed supermodel Naomi Campbell in 2019, further solidifying her status. She has been recognized on Forbes Power Women in Africa, with a roster of celebrity admirers that includes Beyonce, Kelis, Tasha Smith, and Eve.

9. Nike Ogunlesi.

Nike Ogunlesi, the visionary behind Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, took a modest shop, where she and her mother were the sole staff, and transformed it into a globally recognized children’s clothing brand in Nigeria.

Distinguished for its production of high-quality children’s apparel locally, Ogunlesi identified and addressed a gap in the market. 

She observed that existing options were either subpar or excessively priced imports.

With her strategic insights, Ogunlesi positioned Ruff ‘n’ Tumble as a leader in Nigeria’s children’s clothing industry.

Established in 1996, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble has grown into a major player in Nigeria’s children’s clothing sector.

The brand now encompasses a warehouse, factory, and multiple retail outlets strategically located in key cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Ilorin, and Abuja.

Moreover, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble maintains a network of distributors along the West African Coast, further solidifying its presence and impact in the region.

10. Dumebi Iyamah.

Led by Nigerian-Canadian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah, Andrea Iyamah is a brand that embodies a clothing line deeply influenced by vibrant colours and diverse ethnic cultures.

Driven by a passion for fashion and the arts, Dumebi honed her tailoring skills and self-educated in fashion, establishing the A.I. brand at the early age of 17.

Renowned for its distinctive and lively swimwear, Andrea Iyamah goes beyond swimwear excellence, excelling in ready-to-wear and custom-made special event dresses.

Grounded in African heritage, the brand’s essence has been evident since its inaugural swimwear collection launch in 2013.

Andrea Iyamah’s designs have graced celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Kate Hudson, Gabrielle Union, Ciara, and Issa Rae, solidifying its status as a globally recognized and celebrated fashion brand.

11. Oke Maduewesi.

Oke Maduewesi, the visionary behind the indigenous beauty brand Zaron Cosmetics, spearheads a contemporary and innovative cosmetics enterprise.

With an impressive network comprising 25 franchise outlets and over 800 distributors across Nigeria and various African nations, Aaron not only excels in the beauty sector but also actively contributes to socio-economic development through initiatives such as job creation, enterprise development, and robust corporate social responsibility.

Under Oke Maduewesi’s leadership, Zaron Cosmetics extends its impactful presence to countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mauritius, Botswana, Liberia, and Canada. 

Across these nations, Zaron’s business initiatives play a pivotal role in fostering enterprise and growth.

Oke Maduewesi, the founder of Zaron Cosmetics, showcased her expertise as a featured speaker at the inaugural GTCo Fashion Weekend in 2016, and her influence continues to make waves in the industry.

Acknowledged among the 100 businesses showcased at the 6th edition in 2023, Zaron, originally established in Leeds, UK in 2010, commenced its operations in Lagos, Nigeria, in September 2011.

Disclaimer: The individuals highlighted in this compilation have undergone a meticulous selection process led by a distinguished panel of editors, experts, and analysts at Nairametrics.


It’s essential to clarify that none of the individuals featured actively sought inclusion. 

Although this list endeavours to be comprehensive, it is not exhaustive, as numerous other contributors have made substantial contributions to the advancement of the Fashion Industry in Nigeria.

Credits – Nairametrics

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Written by Udemezue John

Hello, I'm Udemezue John, a web developer and digital marketer with a passion for financial literacy.

I have always been drawn to the intersection of technology and business, and I believe that the internet offers endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and individuals alike to improve their financial well-being.

You can connect with me on Twitter


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