With the goal of introducing the world to the weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana, Ghanaian native Akosua Afriyie-Kumi moved to London in pursuit of her fashion dream. Today she is the creative director of her own luxury, handmade accessories brand A A K S, which is not only capturing international attention but is also providing sustainable employment for African women. Here we get to know Afriyie-Kumi a little bit better
What's in the name A A K S?
A A K S is my name, my initials of Akosua Afriyie-Kumi and the ’S’ is for siblings. We are a family of 8 and every single one of my siblings have contributed in a wonderful way towards my growth as an individual and also my brand, especially during my transition to Ghana.
What was your vision behind the A A K S brand?
A A K S is a luxury accessories brand that creates handcrafted quality bags in modern styles whilst maintaining the spirit of Africa through traditional methods of weaving with bright exuberant colours. Our design philosophy prioritises attention to detail, authenticity of technique and ethical values to shape a truly unique product.
Where did the inspiration for your SS15/16 collection come from?
Our Spring/Summer 2016 collection was inspired by Luis Barragan’s architectural shapes and photography - depicting the balance between structure and fluidity. These influences pulsate through the collection with contrasting colours and defining contemporary ease; in shades of delicate pinks, midnight blues and vibrant reds. The bags are made entirely from raffia with leather finishes and fringe details creating a crisp palette which brings dynamism, desirability and play into the colourful summer spirit. This pays homage to the heritage of the brand and, ultimately, brings my vision and that of traditional hand weaving to life.
Do you have a favourite piece in the collection?
I have many favourite pieces in the collection but the Baw Pot bag stands out for me. Its playfulness and difficulty in construction is key. It has been the most shared and popular piece on our website to date.
Can you describe the fashion scene in Ghana?
Ghana is a burgeoning creative hub and the taste for new products is growing. The potential for the Ghana fashion and textile industry to be on the map both as a producer and ultimately a consumer of luxury goods is growing steadily. There are great skill sets here which haven't been explored fully and artistically. For example traditional dying art techniques such as resist dying, hand weaving, batik making are being revived on an international level and its appeals to new african consumer. Also it's about time that African fashion be at the frontiers of these techniques and bringing a new twist to these traditional methods. now is a unique time and space to be experiencing this first hand and I am curious about how we are going to push the existing boundaries to support the industry and employment in Ghana.
What can be done to nurture fashion talent in Africa?
To be able to nurture young fashion talent on the continent there needs to be support from the government, change in consumer perceptions of Made in Africa products and education in general. Education can play a key role in the formal training of young people to see fashion and its associated subjects as a viable alternative to the traditional revered subjects such as medicine and law, which most African parents want their children to pursue.
The government can also help with polices that assist in reducing the influx of cheap imports which is currently killing the textile industry in Ghana for example. There also needs to be a redefinition in our consumption values which seems to put an over halted perception on European brands and fashion. On the one hand, African fashion design need to be more fashion relevant in this area of fast changing trends of 'millennials' who demand contemporary designs and quality finishes albeit with an African aesthetic that can compete with European brands on the cool and trendy spectrum. This may take a few years but I feel we now have brands on the continent who are consciously moving this agenda forward and the future looks bright.
Who are some of your favourite designers from the continent?
I am very much inspired by fine artists, photographers and architects on the continent from Yinka Shonibare and David Adjaye to El Anatasui whose works are inspired by African culture but have a diverse twist and view to it.
What can we expect from you next?
We just launched our spring/summer 2016 collection and currently secured a major stockist in the USA that we are producing for. We have also launched our first online store which is a big milestone for us as it has elevated our brand to reach to a global audience.
How can people connect with you?
I love connecting with people and they can reach me via my various social media pages
Instagram - instagram.com/a.a.k.s
Facebook - facebook.com/aakshandcrafted
or on my website aaksonline.com
See the full A A K S SS15/16 lookbook below