Handbags can be a girl’s best friend or worst enemy; they can either make or break your look. But rest assured, whether you prefer a large handbag that is bold and colorful or a compact, functional cross-body style, there are a plethora of luxury African brands creating handbags that cater to a range of style preferences. Thanks to skillful artisans who handcraft every piece, African designers are making their mark in the slow fashion industry by using top-notch, ethically sourced materials to manufacture their accessories. From Nigeria to Senegal and other parts of the African continent, designers are approaching fashion with a conscious awareness of their environment and respect for the local communities of people surrounding them. Inspired by African history, designers create signature handbags that are parallel with traditional African craftsmanship and contemporary style.
In the life of the modern woman, handbags are used daily to tote our valuables while on the go. However, they are often worn as statement pieces to complement attires for several occasions such as weddings, business trips, and vacations. With handbags that come in a variety of styles, it’s not as easy to find one that pairs seamlessly with any outfit. From three-dimensional, hexagonal-shaped handbags to snakeskin patterns and lace trims, designers such as Anima Iris and Shekudo contribute to the underlying mission of providing innovative and original designs through their luxury accessories for the everyday woman. Interestingly enough, these African fashion designers also occupy the intersection of high fashion, sustainability, transparency, and social responsibility, which offers a refreshing take on how clothing should be made and worn.
Athena Bag by Thalia Strates
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The South African accessories brand Thalia Strates designs an incredibly soft Grecian-style crossbody officially known as the Springbok Athena Bag. In Greek mythology, Athena was the daughter of the Olympian god of sky and thunder, Zeus. Athena was a goddess who represented warfare and wisdom, and is also the name of the designer’s younger sister to whom the bag is dedicated. Thalia Strates’s sophisticated handbags are handcrafted in a local artisan shop in Cape Town where all materials are ethically sourced from the indigenous parts of the continent and made with 100% leather. As you can guess from the Springbok, Thalia Strates incorporated the fur of the antelope on the front of the Athena purse, with leather enclosed on the back. Inspired by slow fashion, Thalia Strates prides itself on manufacturing conscious and stylish clothing for the wildly spirited fashionistas and professionals.
Zaza Snakeskin Bag by Anima Iris
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Birthed from the names of her mother Iris Tasmoh and her closest friend Sarah Yaa Anima, designer Wilglory Tanjong founded African accessories brand Anima Iris in honor of the matriarchs of its past. Inspired by African craftsmanship, Anima Iris creates fashionable and sustainable purses with Africa’s history at the core of every design. The limited-edition Zaza Grande Snakeskin Leather bag features an envelope style flap with a magnetic closure, which makes it a functional handbag to wear on daily outings. Its light-green snakeskin texture combined with a braided top handle elevates the purse from average to a luxury must-have accessory. Handcrafting its wares in Dakar, the brand partners with local Senegalese business owners to acquire the materials and leathers for its staple pieces.
Yshaia Earth Bag by EDAS
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The Earth Yshaia Bag by New York-based accessories brand, EDAS is a beautiful neutral-toned handbag that features a large turquoise buckle. The bag also has a magnetic closure, cotton lining, and interior pockets to store cards. The small square-shaped purse is short and stocky and handmade with genuine cowhide leather, making it the perfect match to any casual chic outfit. EDAS delivers high-quality, statement pieces for everyday women who want to customize and diversify their wardrobe with earth tones. The brand focuses on world-class innovation and creative design to showcase femininity and sustainability with every handbag.
Maitama Moon Bag by Shekudo
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Nigerian accessories and shoe brand, Shekudo, creates an eccentric handbag inspired by the traditional Rafia round bag design in Ghana. Its full-moon shape provides abundant space to store essential items in its zipped and open-mouth interior pockets. This bag’s exterior shows off bold colors and patterns that can easily be paired with a solid-colored dress that allows the purse to do all the talking. Shekudo matches its open-toed sandals with the same print as the Maitama bag, which establishes continuity of style between the shoes and purse. Creative director Akudo Iheakanwa strives to reveal the highly skilled artistry and craftsmanship of Nigeria through her pieces. Integrating ancient techniques into her contemporary designs, most of the raw materials used can be locally sourced. From smooth leather handbags to traditional Aso Oke/Akwete cloth for its shoes, Shekudo handcrafts all its signature pieces with sustainability in mind.
Zuri Hexagon Bag by Anima Iris
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Also from Anima Iris, the Zuri Hexagon Leather Bag is by no means a basic handbag. This contemporary staple piece features a gold, circular top handle, allowing you to comfortably carry the handbag as you troll. You can even slide the gold handle on your forearm as a way to show off the bag more without toting it with your hand. The geometric handbag has a hexagonal shape with six sides, which offers ample space to store essentials. The one-of-a-kind Zuri purse was handmade with black, smooth leather.
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Words by Christine Okoro