Africa’s Swimwear Wave
So, you know the adage that goes, “Black people can’t swim”? Well, we’re cancelling that, taking back the seas and oceans and getting ourselves into the best shapes of our lives just in time for the June to September months when the sun is high and water is blue and we can spend our evenings and weekend carefree and about in the water. We’d be doing that in swimwear made by us, for us.
Swimwear brand Llulo was one of the first to embrace and contemporise classic Vlisco Dutch wax patterns and motifs, transforming them into pop art on the bodies of their adoring fan base. Their suits often mirror classic silhouettes and their one-piece bikinis are a thing of beauty. They are currently expanding into accessories and interior decor with gorgeous Africa inspired throws and furniture. Llulo retails online at Llulo.com
For a relatively young brand, Nigerian American designer Buki Ade’s swimwear brand Bfyne Swimwear has quickly become the toast of the global swimwear industry, garnering features on international sites like Vogue, Essence, Afropunk, Fader and Sports Illustrated.
Bfyne has particularly become distinguished for its use and adaptation of the dashiki print. Her interesting cuts and iterations have breathed new life into the print and turned the world’s eye back to Africa. Bfyne retails online at www.bfyne.com
As with many Nigerian/African brands, Kambili Ofili Okonkwo started her swimwear label Kamokini because she couldn’t find great swimwear options to buy in Nigeria. Kamokini combines interesting, innovative designs with a preference for colour blocking with an understanding of the average Nigerian woman’s body and her sensibilities at high street prices. Over time, it has grown to become one of the most reputable Nigerian alternative labels and has featured in magazines such as Mania and Genevieve.
Kamokini retails at several Nigerian retailers including Zazaii and Grey Velvet Lagos as well as via their Instagram @Kamokini.
Andrea Iyamah Swimwear
In the years since she started her label, Dumebi Iyama’s brand has grown to include Andrea Iyamah Bridal and Andrea Iyamah Swimwear, the label’s most prominent arm. Andrea Iyamah Swimwear has been featured in Vogue and Elle and has dressed many celebrities including Christina Milian, Bonang Matheba and Angela Simmons. Her designs have been internationally lauded and become a global phenomenon.
Andrea Iyamah retails online at their website and in select luxury stores across Nigeria, including Temple Muse, MeiDei and their flagship store in Lagos.
Is the world ready for African made luxury men’s swimwear? Bola Marquis of London based premium swimwear line; Okun Beachwear seems to think so. Okun, the Yoruba word for ‘ocean’, is in its fourth year of business and has gained considerable traction, with twenty stockists across Europe, United States, Japan and Nigeria and the UAE. They have strong digital media campaigns built around their idea of Ankara board shorts for men and boys. The swimwear while vibrant, is rarely explorative of what swimwear could become, relying instead on exclusivity, themed collections and tailoring.
Okun retails at Nigerian luxury clothing store Temple Muse.