How to Construct a Culture: Boyedoe @ CANEX Portugal Fashion – ADJOAA
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How to Construct a Culture: Boyedoe @ CANEX Portugal Fashion

The same culture can be shared between millions of people, but the experience of it is unique to each individual. A culture, any culture, is always in a constant cycle of being deconstructed, reimagined and reconstructed. That is one of the concepts at the heart of Black-owned businesses like Boyedoe, a Ghanaian luxury brand founded by David Kusi Boye-Doe, who is also the brand’s namesake and creative director. Built from the ground up, Boyedoe is making a splash on the international stage with their ethical clothing and African accessories via CANEX presents Africa @ Portugal Fashion this October. 

What is CANEX presents Africa @ Portugal Fashion? 

The opportunity for emerging African designers to showcase their work at Portugal Fashion is made possible through the combined efforts of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX), Portugal’s National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) and Portugal Fashion. The event happens twice a year, and is in Porto, Portugal, from October 10th to 14th. 

The initiative is an integral part of supporting the next generation of up-and-coming African and diaspora fashion designers. The opportunity provides mentorship, networking and market access opportunities. With Boyedoe’s acceptance and feature at Portugal Fashion, it means they've been added to a growing list of ADJOAA brand partners  that have participated in this much-lauded fashion event in the past including ABIOLA OLUSOLA, BLOKE, THE CLOTH, Duaba Serwa, KENTE GENTLEMEN, OLOOH, SARAYA and Yeside Laguda. What makes Boyedoe stand out from the crowd and from other African clothing brands is their innovative and sustainable use of textiles and design through a unique cultural lens.   

Deconstruction: Sustainable fashion and breaking down convention

Boyedoe is a sustainable African clothing brand that transforms the discarded textile, deadstock and deconstructs it into new work of wearable art. Their material of choice is discarded or unsold denim, which is given a new lease on life to create masterful high fashion garments like the Wabi Sabi Osabarima Jacket and Okatakyie Cloak. Many brands talk the talk when it comes to being sustainable designers, but this Black clothing designer also walks the walk. Of the materials used in garment construction, 80 percent of it is recycled, while 20 percent of it is sourced ethically and sustainably. In a world which, at times, seems focused on hyperconsumption and discarding things as quickly as they appear, this sustainable clothing label proves that the discards of our consumption can be glamorous while still being practical and wearable. 

The pieces that Boyedoe creates make use of bold patterns, textures and colours, like in their Busumuru Blazer and Opemsuo Smock Dress. They also defy gender norms and are made to strike a fine balance between masculinity and femininity. Boyedoe’s garments are made with the human body in mind. Denim is usually thought of as a restrictive fabric, but that idea is turned on its head and is used to enhance the body and allow for freedom of movement. But how does this relate to culture? Boye-Doe has cited that the concept of deconstruction and reconstruction is related to sun-sum (spirit), the spiritual practices of the Akan people who reside in Ghana and other African nations like Togo. Sun-sum relates to how one (an individual) can relate to many (nature, community, the world). Here, fashion is used as a medium to reach ancestors, culture and sense of self. It’s all about using modern means to connect with traditional values and help bring them into the future. 

Reconstruction: Honouring the past and building a future through fashion   

To build your own future, sometimes you have to break down the status quo and build it up again. The innovative use of textiles, tools and creative innovations in Black-owned businesses help build a new version of the future, stitch by stitch, seam by seam. It takes a healthy rebellious streak and independence to accomplish this creativity in fashion. Afterall, Boyedoe’s popular patchwork denim shirt and jacket are part of the Odeneho collection – Odeneho being an Akan name that means ‘one who is independent’. Events like CANEX presents @ Portugal Fashion gives an opportunity for Black clothing designers to show impeccable craftmanship, invigorate cultures and raise awareness of them not only among those who are part of the culture, such as the Akan people, in the case of Boyedoe, but also for others who are experiencing it from the outside. 

This sustainable brand’s eclectic approach to fashion includes the interweaving of folklore into the concepts and meaning of their garments. A prime motif is the mythical Sankofa bird, which makes frequent appearances in traditional Akan art. The word Sankofa originates from the Twi language in Ghana and loosely translated, means “to go back and retrieve” or to go back to seek something and take it. It is based on the idea of returning to one’s roots in order to move into the future. After all, strong growth comes from a strong foundation. For this Ghanaian sustainable fashion brand, it refers to using the traditions of the past to create new meaning and pathways for the future and the meaning of this concept is interwoven into the fabric of how most Ghanaian sustainable fashion brands operate, from the use of sustainable materials to using fashion as a way to establish self and connection with the wider world. 

Cultural Construction: The importance of international collaborations

The Sankofa bird is linked to the idea of renewal and creating something new and innovative using old traditions. When this is combined with the concept of sun-sum, it makes the inclusion of African fashion brands in Portugal Fashion even more poignant. It shows the interconnectedness of humans as the only beings on earth that tell stories to understand ourselves, our past and our future in our own special ways. Boyedoe’s mission to be an innovator in ethical fashion is also based on traditional values and has been successful. Boyedoe’s inclusion in Portugal Fashion is evidence of their universally appealing designs such as their bestselling Busumuru Shirt and Trousers in lemon green and black. The multicoloured and eclectic lens through which accessible Black-owned luxury brands view fashion and the world, gives an insight into how we are constantly going through cycles. At any given moment, we are breaking down our ideas of culture and society and reconstructing them in a way that makes sense to us.  

There are many ways to explore identities and stories. The opportunity to display African fashion internationally through CANEX presents Africa @ Portugal Fashion solidifies the connection between cultures. It celebrates and honours cultural similarities and differences through a common medium: fashion.

To see this innovative fashion label for yourself, shop Boyedoe and discover 100+ more black owned designer lifestyle brands at ADJOAA 

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