An Exclusive Interview with “A A K S” Sustainable Fashion Brand – Behind the Innovation of Woven Heritage Bags Made in Ghana

Ghana Fashion & Design Week ETHIKHA went behind the A A K S brand to find out what it takes to impact lives through fashion and design, and the importance of Innovation in our heritage craft skills to design and produce sustainable “Made in Ghana” quality products.

Q. As the Designer behind A A K S, what inspired you to create a sustainable fashion accessories brand?
I grew up in the beautiful sunny Ghana; art was a love from an early age even though I also harboured a dream of being a pilot. Being top of the art class almost every year was a sign to me to pursue art in some form. So I left Ghana to London to study and expand my knowledge in art and design, be around other creative individuals to learn and develop as much as I could.

Like so many 20-somethings, it was a very intense period of my life. I was in a transition, coming from a family of entrepreneurs I felt this deep need to figure out who I was and where I was going, whose footstep to follow. The defining moment came when I thought, “Now is the time to make or break, to put myself out there and see what I am made of.” I knew I wanted to go out on my own and pull together all my passion and talents to create something unique that would be fulfilling both personally and professionally.

My main aim of studies in the UK was to broadened my mind in my field, gain a wealth of experience and finally come back to Ghana to support the creative art and design industry and build a luxury African brand. This happened quickly after seeing a gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted luxury bags that will utilise locally sourced materials such as raffia coupled with traditional art of weaving, I knew I had something great to work towards and made the big move to fulfill my ultimate dream of owning my own fashion brand and igniting sustainable jobs in Ghana and Africa as a whole.

Q. Your background as a designer begun with designing clothing, how did you transit from clothing design to designing handbags and why?

The transition into designing handbags came almost naturally to me after seeing a gap in the market for handcrafted bags utilising traditional methods of weaving and craft. I moved to Ghana to pursue it.

 Q. Your design process uses traditional Woven Heritage craft skills unique to the Northern region people of Ghana, why did you choose this design direction?

I traveled through out Ghana trying to find the perfect place to make my hand-woven bags. I stumbled across a small community on my travels that had the perfect tranquil setting. I could see myself living there and making bags for a lifetime. I decided to test the weavers skills and see if they could achieve what I vaguely had in mind at the time.

This was a tough journey, as the weavers had never used raffia that is a material that has great ethical value that I wanted to push forward in my brand. We started from scratch; I spent a year teaching weavers how to make the products to a standard and quality that I could tick off as luxury. The weavers on the other hand have taught me to slow down and appreciate their art and also the time and difficulty it takes to achieve a handmade product. I am also a keen learner of the art of weaving and in a great community of very talented women.

Q. Your work projects unique weaving design skills, and bold mixing of colours, is this a difficult process to achieve?

It is a design process which I have learnt over time through high school and university to incorporate into my work. I have a love for colours and every process of creation comes with difficulty especially when it hasn’t been done before. I enjoy playing around with colour and shapes and my weavers are understanding and very experimental enough to allow me to explore different ideas

Q. What type of materials goes into the weaving and making of the products, and where do you source these materials?

A central tenant of my business philosophy is to preserve traditional techniques by combing them with modern design and usability. I wanted my dream basket bag to be almost foldable, more colourful with blends of colours that were tasteful and modern and completed to the highest standard of quality. Raffia is the only material that allows me to achieve these goals.

Initially, raffia proved to be the most difficult fibre to find in Ghana. Serendipitously, after travelling throughout the country in search of the elusive fibre I found it on our family farm in Southern Ghana. It was being grown minimally and only sold to string bead vendors. I immediately knew this was the perfect material once I felt it! The softness and strength was key and then when I started looking into its benefits I was completely sold on it. The fibres being an organic, natural, renewal and biodegradable fibre was an inherent ethical value, which was attractive to me and very much in line with the vision and ethos I had for my brand.

Read Full Interview Here