"When you are doing the right thing, the universe will bring the right people into your path," Simone Cipriani told us when we arrived in Milan last week at the invitation of the International Trade Centre's Ethical Fashion Initiative where he is Chief Technical Advisor.
Well the universe has been on top form aligning us with some pretty amazing people recently so we must be on the right track. It brought us together with the EFI team a while ago and we instantly bonded over our shared passion of the power that fashion can have to create change in communities, especially for women and young people.
We also share a passion for brands such as Stella Jean and Christie Brown who they champion, so we knew we were about to see the juicy good stuff when they invited us to check out the four Ghanaian brands they were bringing over to showcase at the renowned Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) design school in Milan with a selection of international designers. We were not wrong- these are the emerging designers in Ghana that are out to teach the world something new about African fashion, and that we should all start getting excited about.
The twitter universe sent Ghanaian designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi our way in London last year just days before she moved back to Ghana to set up her fashion and accessories brand. We knew straight away that AAKS was one of us with a passion for craftsmanship and pushing the boundaries of African fashion as we know it. But we've learnt quickly through sourcing for our SBA boutique that there are many brands out there with good concepts, great stories and even better imagery but it all falls apart when you get your hands on the products and the quality just isn't up to the level that our customers expect. So we were anxious that the woven raffia bags AAKS presented would feel as good as they looked on Instagram.
But our worry was a waste because this my friends is how you do African fashion. The collection is cohesive, thoughtful, extremely well executed and needs to take its rightful place at the centre of our summer wardrobe. The bags are colourfully hand-dyed and then woven by women in Northern Ghana into a range of sizes and colours. She also surprised us with a womenswear collection with prints that are based on the woven patterns of the bags. The result was the sort of collection that makes you instantly start visualising your summer social life based on maximising opportunities to wear all of it.
AAKS is exactly the kind of brand that we love at SBA. Clearly rooted in African heritage and design, but pushing it steps further as all next generations should, yet simultaneously wearable to a woman whether she's in Accra, London, New York or Shanghai.
Améyo was another highlight of the show for us. If you're a fan of the web series An African City, a sort of Ghanaian Sex and The City, then you'll have regularly seen the leading ladies gallavanting across Accra in Ameyo. These creative, sophisticated and elegant women are exactly the type of customer that Ameyo's designers Netty Anang and Klekleli Dzidzienyo keep in mind while designing in their studio in Accra's Teshie Nungua neighbourhood.
"The EFI took us to Burkina Faso to meet the women who spin and weave the beautiful fabric that we used in the collection. It makes you more appreciative and passionate about the fabric when you know where it's coming from and what goes into creating it." Netty told us while we were snooping backstage.
EFI's Burkinabe project has grown to work with over 1000 women in just one year, creating fabric that is used by designers such as Stella Jean and Ameyo. Now they've opened a production centre in Accra to support these emerging designers on their technical production as well as providing opportunities to showcase internationally.
Ameyo- we'd be happy to personally showcase your purple pencil skirt anywhere you like.
Designers Leslie Wiredu and Kofi Gyedu Kwabia combined forces on a strong military inspired JOINT COLLECTIVE softened using light fabrics. Following their trip to Burkina Faso with EFI they integrated the hand woven cotton fabrics with the Ghanaian wax prints. Another collective of designers came from Ghana's premier fashion program at Radford University to form the RADFORD COLLECTIVE of Afua Biney, Papa Oppong and Michael Owusu.
The show was just a taste of the amazing design talent that is coming out of West Africa right now and we couldn't be more excited that the EFI have expanded their work to support the design talent in Ghana to create local luxury brands that are high quality, ethically produced and covetable internationally.
And well you just don't get more holy grail than that.
For more info on the designers mentioned head over to You Tube for a short video of the trip.
Written by Kiran Yoliswa, Co-Founder of Styled By Africa