Streetwear style is generally said and accepted to have sprouted out of the New York City hip hop culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with elements of Los Angeles surf culture. Early streetwear in the 1970s and 1980s also took inspiration from hip hop. As years started flying by established legacy sportswear and workwear fashion brands such as Schott NYC, Dr Martens, Kangol, Fila and Adidas joined the wave of streetwear and began making streetwear clothing.
As more years went by Hypebeast emerged and the culture it brought along as well as the sneaker culture made streetwear even more popular. Fast forward to 2022 and streetwear has taken over the entire globe, from New York, LA, Milan, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Accra and Lagos. It may have not emerged in Africa, but African designers and African street culture connoisseurs have really taken something foreign and made it their own.
I found three African streetwear brands I want to shed some light on. one, the first two are from Nigeria and the other one is from Ghana.
Vivendii is a streetwear brand that fuses punk and Y2K internet aesthetics and prides itself in just making cool shit, it was founded by a trio that is based in both London and Lagos – Jimmy Ayeni, Ola Badiru, and Anthony Oye. This collective channels the Y2K internet aesthetics through the eyes of Nigeria’s youth not only through fashion but through sound as well, Vivendii sounds.
We’re taking these nostalgic memories and bringing them out. Back when I was growing up in Nigeria, there wasn’t really that much internet access. I’d beg my dad and my mom to use their laptop, and all I could really do is play Solitaire or Minecraft, use Microsoft Word, use Paint. All those things remind me of so many boring hours spent trying to create something, trying to do something, trying to have fun.Jimmy Ayeni
Free The Youth
This Ghanaian streetwear brand, Free The Youth is undeniably one of the reigning streetwear brands on the continent. Founded in 2013 by Jonathan Coffie, Kelly Foli, Shace Winfred Mensai and Ormano it has set itself as a collective that aims to penetrate the art and fashion scene around the globe. “Free the Youth is shaping the look of youth culture on the continent and beyond with thought-provoking graphic print T-shirts, sweaters and denim. The brand has been featured by renowned fashion insiders such as Vogue, Highsnobiety and OkayAfrica.”
Nigeria’s blooming streetwear brand Severe Nature was established in 2012 as a means of pushing urban trends forward by Christopher Afolabi & Tobi Adeleye. Severe Nature’s mission is said to express an urban and street element in a “luxurious, detailed way” — while still retaining a modern youth expression. As much as they established themselves as a streetwear brand they also host events and intimate Q&A with local music artists, as a means to reach the youth and build stronger communities around them.