Destination wonder: a journey through Ghana’s feelgood fashion world
With Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Accra’s fashion week cancelled due to coronavirus, photographer Carlos Idun-Tawiah captures the talent of the new wave of designers who would have been showcasing their work
Against the backdrop of West Africa’s heritage, Ghana’s fashion scene is culturally rich and diverse. Nestling between Togo and Ivory Coast, it oozes with vital energy. It was once home to the celebrated Yaa Asantewaa, queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante (Ashanti).
As Ghana’s history continues to unfold, its precolonial past has woven its essence into the work of its modern artists. Today’s generation of designers explores the depths of the nation’s heritage, without trivialising its value. Through experimentation and by devoting their tradition to the streets of Accra, young designers are bringing Ghana’s colourful culture into sharp focus.
With Accra fashion week postponed due to Covid-19, Mercedes-Benz has worked with five next-gen designers and the photographer Carlos Idun-Tawia to showcase Ghana’s emerging talent and the country’s tradition of sharing skills from one generation to the next through storytelling.
Chloe Asaam uses ideas and experimentations to create timeless pieces for women who want to stand out. “I’m inspired by many things, but usually I draw from the women in my life – the matriarchs in my family and community,” she says. Imbuing a versatile spirit, the label designs clean-cut staples that exude comfort and fuss-free wearability.
On the subject of working as a creative in Ghana, Asaam thinks that “the dynamics of practising as a fashion creative in Accra is both exciting and frustrating. From access to support, sourcing material, visibility and making a living… basically getting access to things that can help you grow your craft.
My colleagues and I often have conversations around possibilities. Things we could do if there weren’t so many constraints. But we find a way to make do with what we have. And I think there is beauty in that – to be able to make magic with limitations.”
Menswear label Atto Tetteh belives Africa has a story to unfold. “Ghana is an incredible place where you find inspiration everywhere. The most thrilling aspect of being a creative in Ghana is the freedom to create and the vast pool of inspiration all over the country.”
Crafting sharp tailoring and bold colour-blocking, the label seeks to provide quality clothes with a cultural appeal. “Tradition plays a pivotal role in the sense it is easy to draw inspiration from our local fabrics and symbols, as well as our local colours.”
Founded as an accessories line in 2012, Larry Jay is a unisex Ghanaian ethical label that seeks to celebrate 70s culture with an aim to craft timeless and unusual staples that represent both genders. “I am generally inspired by nature, multiple African cultures and arts,” says Jay. “However, the timeless style of my parent’s fashion from the 1970s and the community environment where I was born and bred is a big influence on my design aesthetic, that makes it unusual and timeless.”
As an Islamic devotee, the designer is keen to reflects the concepts in the garments. “My traditions are rooted in Islamic ideals and culture. I allow myself to be influenced by this and it reflects so much in the clothes I make.”
Hassan Alfaziz Iddriss’ brand, known as Hazza, is a contemporary uniform of gender-neutral clothing based in Ghana and inspired by heritage and culture. “As an ethical fashion brand, our clothes are made using eco-friendly materials that are mostly not readily available in the market and are scarce now.”
“The few that are available do cost more so we had to improvise through the usage of discarded materials and lots of DIYs.” Established in 2013, the brand prevailed against the financial odds that came from the pandemic. “Our brand went on a hiatus to re-strategise. For us this would have been a good time to launch our new collection, but we look forward to a show when we all can travel again.”
Gucci fellow and Naomi Campbell aficionado, designer Steve French has always used his fashion to tell stories and mark profound statements. “I think the most thrilling aspects of been a creative in Ghana is being able to produce amazing stuff with little resources. Also, most creatives have a deep connection to a land that is so beautiful,” he says.
For his SS16 collection, he impressed the world while dealing with mental illness, which turned out to become something Naomi Campbell wore for Essence’s 50th anniversary issue. “Tradition cannot be changed as it is old, authentic, genuine and beautiful and we don’t alter we just add,” he reflects. “As a designer, I am usually drawing inspiration from my history, culture and music.”
French’s label is contemporary and is characterised by abstract patterns and distinct silhouettes.
Written by Chidozie Obasi