The United Kingdom is home to incredibly diverse styles and trends that artfully blend contemporary style with the classic tradition that the nation is known for. After all, it is the home of Savile Row, the trench coat and heritage knitwear. However, the Black- and women-owned brands that hail from the city of London are creating their own design narrative, inspired by their roots to the African continent and the modern world around them.
So, whether they are interpreting the built environment as earrings or advocating for a balanced day-to-day existence that incorporates wellness, discover the accessories and beauty brands based in London and the entrepreneurial women behind them.
Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan, founders of Liha
Before they dedicated themselves to all things skincare, friends Liha Okunniwa and Abi Oyepitan were on completely different career paths. Oyepitan was an Olympic athlete who was competing around the world and Okunniwa was in the art publishing business. The pair, who met at university and have been friends ever since, decided in 2017 to build a business based on the organic oils, soaps and lotions made from the nuts, tree bark and plants that Oyepitan would bring back from her travels to Nigeria.
Handmade in small batches in their kitchens in Cheltenham and Hackney, Liha’s scented oils, shea butter and black soap are created with Yoruba philosophy in mind, alongside the desire to celebrate their culture. A combination of natural West African roots and a quintessentially British attitude, Liha is rooted in slow living, sustainability and self-care.
Jessica Carre, founder of Ibeka
Initially a political science student before pivoting to studying fashion in at The New School in New York as well as in Paris, Jessica Carre started her handbag label Ibeka in 2012, fulfilling a dream she’d had since her teenage years. Inspired by the contemporary art world and her multi-cultural heritage – Carre’s parents are Togolese and French – Carre draws on images from West African and French art, powerful women and the vibrant colors of her hometown in Togo, where she spent many of her formative years.
With a desire to offer the best quality possible, Carre sources the best leather for her designs at renowned tanneries in Italy and her handbags are crafted near Florence to guarantee exceptional standards and longevity.
Malaika Carr, founder of Chalk Jewellery
Malaika Carr’s passion for jewellery developed when she was studying architecture first at University of Greenwich, then at Westminster University in the UK. She began to create her own pieces when she could not find jewelry to adequately express herself. This led to the establishment of Chalk Jewellery in 2012 and after working as an architect for more than 15 years, she recently decided to quit her full-time job as an practising architect to focus completely on her company.
Each piece is designed and carefully handmade by Carr in her London studio. Inspired by architecture, Carr produces geometric, unusual, wearable forms that are inspired by structural elements, art and everyday objects. With its use of bold and colorful patterns, Chalk Jewellery elevates contemporary styles, giving its accessories a dynamic edge.