In Conversation series this week breaks bread with A A K S ; founded by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of introducing the world to her favourite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, A A K S creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts characterised by bright exuberant colours.
Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work
I am Akosua a fashion accessories designer from Ghana. I embarked on my adventurous journey from London to Ghana in 2013 to start my brand A A K S after seeing a gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted bags. It was a truly defining moment in my lifeas I wanted to go out on my own and pull together all my passions and talents to create something unique that would be fulfilling – both personally and professionally. I embarked on my journey to Ghana to make this happen. I am motivated by family and friends and starting a luxury African brand on the continent!
What’s your creative process?
My design process is slightly complex but simple at the same time. I start by establishing a mood that fits with my clientele’s lifestyle and my design aesthetic. I seek inspiration by visiting my favourite places and exploring new environments through travel. I am an avid sunset photographer so I normally pick beautiful hues from pictures I have taken from travels which then form part of my colour palette. I draw my bag designs from photographs, historical and contemporary fine art, and fashion photography pictures which resonate with me and also architecture.
After drawing and deciding on a set of ideas, I take my design sheets with spec measurements, colour ways and finishes to my weavers in where I brief them about my inspirations and ideas for the season. Weavers also bring on board their ideas of technical know and how each bag would be executed. We then begin by twisting the raffia, we also dye the strands with organically certified dyes then leave to dry in the open sunshine. Preparation normally takes 3 -4 weeks before weaving can begin.
Weavers then start making 3 dimensional shapes of my designs with critical attention to detail and and then we achieve sample shapes for the season. I bring the samples to my studio 12 hours drive away from the weaving community and start putting together finishes touches such as linings, trims, labels, leather handles and buckles. I go through each piece to approve quality and I pick the final pieces which is then presented as my final collection for a customer and then stores.
What’s your fashion philosophy – i.e. ethical and/or sustainable fashion?
A A K S is a purpose driven, lifestyle brand for the conscious and stylish consumers, who are willing to help change perception about made in Africa goods. Our design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts and design element which ensues from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in our production.
What’s your advice to aspiring designers?
I would advice any aspiring persons to start. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the planning of your business and sometimes it’s okay to know what you want and just go for it.
In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?
Building a fully African-made luxury brand presents tremendous challenges which my team and I are overcoming everyday. We struggle with infrastructure, simple things like poor telephone network, intermittent Internet connectivity and electricity disruption also poses a lot of inconvenience to our daily work. However, despite all these setbacks we are persevering and making the best out of everything and taking a competitive advantage when the need arises.
How do your give back to the community?
Through my work in Ghana, we impact the community greatly by providing employment to the local community and ensuring the continuity of weaving as an art/technique that can be passed down to the younger generation. We also encourage weaving to be valued as a major income earner for many in the cooperative. I hope that our brand will go someway in contributing to the revival and sustenance of weaving as a thriving art.
What’s your price range?
Mid range market
Where can we see more of your work?
In many unique stores around the world such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters in the UK and USA, Maison Mara in Cape Town South Africa, Alara in Nigeria, District Six in Germany, House of Satori in Singapore, Packing Man in Italy and also via my online webstore.