Ray Darten is a Nigerian fashion brand that is ethically made in a production facility in Nigeria. It’s the creation of former doctor turned designer Yetunde Olukoya, who took her hobby of designing and dress making and built it into a commercial brand. The name of the company is a combination of the Yoruba names of Olukoya’s children. The sensibility of the collections are deeply rooted in traditional and modern African design.
Olukuyo says, “our mission is to build a creative brand that also has a purpose for good. We use our styles to tell stories of Nigerian culture and heritage.” Ray Darten is driven to create socio-economic change. All fabrics are sourced in Africa. Production employs and empowers about a hundred Nigerian women who learn a skill to improve their quality of life in Nigeria. Some of the clothing is handmade. Production runs are small, and items are exclusive.
The focus of the collection is ladies wear, but the brand does men’s and children’s wear too. You can also pull together a “Mommy & Me” combination. Designs are typically African, which means large geometric patterns, bold colours, waist definition, volume and flounce, solid black accents, and cotton-rich fabrics. Clothing is typically dressy, flamboyant, and versatile. For example, many of the longer jackets will double up as a dress, and can be remixed with jeans, pants, moto jackets, denim jackets, tees, and trendy footwear. Size ranges run from an S to 4XL. Prices are more reasonable than I expected, especially on sale. You can purchase the brand through the Ray Darten website, and they will ship to the US. I’m unsure if Ray Darten will ship elsewhere.
I have travelled through parts of Africa, and lived in South Africa for 17 years. I find the Ray Darten designs striking and vibrant. I never tire of it. The silhouettes work on a range of body types, and have a timeless and trendless air about them. They never look dated, or overly casual. That makes the look and brand even more sustainable, and very much the flavour of today and the future.