Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe is a doctor by trade, but an interest in fashion – and a desire to help African fashion brands gain global attention – inspired her to found the African Fashion Institute in 2007. Through AFI, Motsepe strives to attract investment and consumers. attention to African creators of all types; to date, the AFI platform includes 100 emerging and established designers.
On March 7, at the inaugural Forbes 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi, AFI partnered with Forbes on a fashion showcase featuring seven of AFI’s top designers, who traveled to the UAE from Ghana, South Africa, Egypt and beyond. The evening culminated with supermodel Paulina Porizkova, 56, making a triumphant return to the catwalk, closing the show in a vibrant dress and overcoat by Sara Tamimi.
Keep scrolling to see the dazzling designs from the showcase and hear insights from Dr. Motsepe and each designer.
Sober Design House / Tshepo Mafokwane
Tshepo Mafokwane started Sober Design House in South Africa in 2006. A fashion design graduate from Tshwane University of Technology, Mafokwane said her goal was to celebrate all women and their tremendous ability to conquer anything.
Christie Brown / Aïcha Ayensu
Two-time African Designer of the Year winner Aisha Ayensu founded Ghanaian brand Christie Brown in 2008. Ayensu’s designs have been worn by Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé and have appeared on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Italia. Ayensu was also listed as one of Forbes‘ Most Promising Entrepreneurs of 2016.
Marie Louis Bishara
Marie Louis Bishara is a Cairo-based fashion designer who has shown her work at Paris Fashion Week and at ready-to-wear and haute couture shows. She is the first female president of the Egyptian Apparel & Export Council, and she is also CEO and Vice President of the Egyptian agricultural company Bishara Group.
Laaniraani / Shamyra Moodley
Shamyra Moodley was on maternity leave when she developed the idea for Laaniraani, a South African design brand with a focus on sustainability and multiculturalism: all of Moodley’s work is handmade with scraps of salvaged fabric or recycled, and each piece aims to reflect its African, Indian and Irish heritage. In 2021, Moodley was named AFI Fastrack Young Designer of the Year.
Sima Collezione / Sima Azadegan
At the age of 50, Iranian-American designer Sima Azadegan founded Sima Collezione with the aim of using her work to empower women of all ages. Her designs have appeared at New York Fashion Week and have upcoming showcases at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks.
Born in Madagascar, educated in Paris and now based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Raisina is known for his “high texture” technique, which he developed while working for Yves Saint Laurent. His process involves taking a raw textile, like silk, and turning it into something else, like fur.
Sara Tamimi from Abu Dhabi always wanted to be a fashion designer; she says that even as a child she created the clothes she couldn’t find in the store. Today, Tamimi runs a brand focused on sustainability – she’s been outspoken against the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment – and on detail.
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copy by Maggie McGrath; video by Ivan Clow and Tim Pierson; photos by Colin Baldwin and photomontage by Merrilee Barton