It’s somewhat surprising that no one has done what Onycheck has before: that is to have curated a slick and comprehensive online boutique of innovative and luxe fashion by African designers. Selling both menswear and womenswear, the site is a roll-call of brands that are rarely represented in the rest of the world. The selection is vibrant and refreshing – from the graphic knits courtesy of MaXhosa by Laduma (men’s monochrome jumper, $210), to the jewellery by Legacy Collection ($36-$190), crafted from gold- and silver-plated metal salvaged from the fence that once surrounded South Africa’s notorious Robben Island prison.
Onychek is the work of ex-model Chekwas Okafor, who moved to the US in 2009 to study and soon began selling clothing out of his dorm room. “The idea for the website came to me in 2014,” he says. “A friend sent me some pictures of high-end suits from Nigeria, and I realised how much the Nigerian fashion scene had matured since I had left the country.” He established Onychek shortly after, focusing entirely on artisanal African-made accessories and clothes. “Everything we sell is high quality,” he explains, “but each designer is also sharing ‘their’ Africa in a totally different way.”
For women, Taibobacar’s tailored brocade pieces (pencil skirt, $260, and top, $140) are inspired by the designer’s home country of Mozambique and are detailed with beads and lace, while Zashadu’s TKO mini clutch bag ($160) is made from toffee-coloured goatskin and sandy goat fur in Lagos. For men, the black made-in-Ethiopia Enzi sneakers ($220) are a cool alternative to the Common Projects trainers you’ll find everywhere from LA to Tokyo, and Laurenceairline’s Kolia print shirt ($135) adds pizzazz to a classic shape with a vibrant colour-blocked yoke. This is a genuinely inspiring store that harks back to the magic of discovery that travelling used to bring – when you’d happen upon labels you’d never seen or heard of back home.