Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Chika Iwenofu.jpgFinalist: Chika Iwenofu

Country of Origin: Nigeria

Chika Iwenofu is the creative mind behind Chika Couture, an emerging UK based Afrocentric fashion label. Her use of bold, colourful prints show the clear influence the African continent has on her designs. The label was founded in 2009  when she was just a 16 year old, looking for creative ways to inspire young individuals to embrace culture and diversity through fashion. The young designer has always been involved in creative projects and was selected to represent London as a BBC Blast Youth Panel Ambassador in 2009, an initiative aimed at inspiring and helping young people all over the UK to discover creative industries and new talents.

Chika Couture has attracted the attention of the media, being featured on ITV news, Croydon Radio and various publications including the Guardian Newspaper, Fab Magazine and The Upcoming. Nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Croydon Champions Awards’ in 2012 and ‘Fashions Finest Graduate Designer of the Year’ Award in 2011, Chika Couture has grown from strength to strength and the latest Spring/Summer 14 Collection titled,‘PunkAfrique’ was unveiled on the 15th September 2014 at Fashions Finest London Fashion Week Show at The Grand Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden. The show marked the start of the young designer’s pursuit to support and inspire young people who are looking for a career in the fashion industry through the Fashion Traineeship Programme, she created.

The collection featured collaboration with a group of 16-24 year olds who were struggling to find employment in London. The Traineeship aims to address the growing issue of youth unemployment by allowing young people the chance to gain the skills and experience needed to become self-employed, progress onto apprenticeships, or permanent employment.

‘Chika Couture’ is working in partnership with training provider BOCK Consultancy based in South London, to deliver the traineeship to young people who are aged between 16-24, unemployed and have not achieved above level 2 qualifications (GCSE’s).

The core aim of the Traineeship Programme is to address unemployment by providing those who are, by definition, not ready for employment with the key interpersonal skills and experience needed to survive in the world of work, become self-employed, and move onto apprenticeships or further education.

At the moment, 1 in 4 young people are unemployed in London (25.5% or around 126,000), making London one of the worst places for youth unemployment in the whole of the UK. Within the Traineeship, participants are able to learn how to create and run a fashion label and have the opportunity for their design’s to be showcased and available for purchase on the online store.

Find out more about Chika Couture HERE.

Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Hazel Eki Aggrey-OrleansFinalist: Hazel Eki Aggrey-Orleans

Country of Origin: Nigeria

Hazel Eki Aggrey-Orleans is the creative force behind the high-end London-based fashion-label Eki Orleans. Born in Germany, raised in Nigeria and educated in London, her design aesthetic has been strongly influenced by this diverse mix of cultures. She draws inspiration from all of her cultural experiences, most notably, however, from her West African heritage. Growing up in the buzzing, chaotic and culturally diverse city of Lagos, Hazel first developed a love for the vivid and earthy colours of Africa.

While still pursuing a career in finance, she decided to follow her vocation and natural aptitude for textile and fashion design. Combining both artistic skills she launched her first fashion collection with her own fabric designs in 2009. It is her outstanding and unusual talent for perfectly co-ordinated pattern and colour combinations that ultimately determines the styling of her day and evening dresses and co-ordinates. Where other fashion designers find fabrics to suit their visions of a dress, Hazel decides on the dress to suit her vision of a fabric design.

For inspiration and choice of subject the designer inevitably resorts back to her African roots. Her patterns tell stories reminiscent of childhood memories or are an interpretation of nature through her eyes.

Eki Orleans has been featured in many publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Drapers, The Financial Times, Arise, The Guardian, CNN, New African Woman, Le Figaro, The Washington Post, FAB, OK! Nigeria etc. We have showcased our designs in London, Paris, Lagos, Johannesburg and Cannes. Our dresses and scarves were stocked in Selfridges, and have been picked up by exclusive boutiques in Europe and in Nigeria.

Find out more about Eki Orleans HERE.

Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Julia MakombeFinalist: Julia Makombe

Country of Origin: Zimbabwe

Julia Makombe, during a tough economic period, built from scratch a successful African jewellery and accessories business with the intention of turning simple and ordinary fashion into extraordinary style with statement pieces of accessories. Accessories are a major asset to any outfit and her brand Veneka Fashion house provides an authentic, uniquely luxurious lifestyle experience. The accessory line has achieved significant recognition amongst bloggers and fashion critics.

Aiding the success of the business is that it was built with service in mind. Some of the products are handmade in the UK while she designs others which are made in different parts of Africa by resourceful and creative women who are working to support their families and preserve techniques and traditions carried from their homelands.

All pieces of jewellery have an ethnic twist in order to incorporate her ethnic origins. Her business name, Veneka is Shona from Zimbabwe and means ‘to illuminate’. So anyone partaking in the Veneka experience can expect to shine stunningly!

Find out more about Veneka HERE.  

Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Leah MubwandarikaFinalist: Leah Mubwandarika

Country of Origin: Zimbabwe

Leah Mubwandarika is the sole proprietor of the clothing line “Leah African Design” with its headquarters in the UK. The new designer is making waves on the international fashion scene with her eye-catching collection of designer garments ranging from haute-couture to ready-to-wear.

Leah African Design is all about glamourous and luxurious textiles, characterised by colourful and matching accessories, which fashion critics have said are a great way to break up the dark. The label, which focuses on African style, was recently launched in UK.

Specialising in evening dresses, cocktail gowns, bridal wear and beautifully tailored clothes, the designer has been showered with praises at many functions such as Miss Zimbabwe USA and Miss Zimbabwe UK among others.

To date, she has presented her collections in South Africa, Germany, UK and the US. She draws her passion from day-to-day activities and the people around her something which influenced her since her days at Harare Polytechnic.

She is currently working on a bridal collection. Last year, she was nominated at the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards and a BEFFTA award. Aside from designing clothes, Leah is a qualified mental health nurse in the UK.

Find out more about Leah African Design HERE.

Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Tina Ndidi UgoFinalist: Tina Ndidi Ugo

Country of Origin: Nigeria

Tina Ndidi Ugo had always dreamt of launching her own fashion label. With no formal training in Fashion to float a fashion brand at the time, she was equipped with a creative mind, first and second degrees including an MBA, and previous work experience from different sectors and so she eventually took the bold step and launched DiDi Creations Ltd in June 2012. Tina did eventually enrol in a fashion school to learn dress making and sewing after the brand was launched.

DiDi Creations Ltd. Is a fashion company incorporated and based in the UK, catering to the fashion conscious male and female through creating unique pieces of Clothing, Bags, Accessories and Footwear. With less than two years of operations Didi Creations Ltd are already stocking and selling their pieces through an online boutique and six different outlets in; London, Lagos, Abuja and the United States.

In 2013, they showcased at; Africa Fashion Week London, Kenya Fashion Week Nairobi, and TABNyC in New York during the New York Fashion Week. They have also been featured in several fashion and beauty magazines in the UK, Kenya and Nigeria including; Black Beauty and Hair, Pride, Urban Coco , Oh Yes Magazine, TW magazine, Swag magazine, Fiesta magazine, Complete Fashion, Vanguard Allure, Saturday Guardian, Sunday Sun, Explore etc. Including online fashion magazines and blogs such as Fabmagazineonline.com, Ciaafrique.com, BellaNaija.com,OnoBello.com, MadameSolange.com etc just to name a few.

Find out more about DiDi Creations Ltd HERE.

Women4Africa 2014 Finalists_Fashion Designer of The Year_Annie MuhlwaFinalist: Annie Muhlwa

Country of Origin: Zimbabwe

Annie Muhiwa went from making newspaper purses, recycling her mother’s magazines into her own masterpieces and a dip in her mom’s ‘haberdashery’ to having a line at Trinity Place Department store in the heart of New York. Born and bred in the City of Kings, Annie is the second of three children. With a creative mother their Matsheumhlope home was a jackpot of “raw materials”. This London based mother of three is pulling out all the stops in creating a handbag legacy. She admittedly has had her fair share of ups and downs including struggling with her residency in the UK during her earlier years that would later taint her name but certainly not dishearten this accomplished young woman, mother and wife. She has indeed come full circle as the founder of a brand that is fast becoming global as it continues to expand from Southern Africa to Asia and the Americas. T-Redz is the name of her range of bags with her most noted creation to date it the “Bassenger Bag”, a big hit on huge websites such as MYTRND comfortably in the company of some of the world’s fashion giants such as Dolce and Gabbana, Miss Sixty and LK Bennett. A true testament to grabbing life by the horns despite circumstances.

Find out more about T-Redz HERE.

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