I first came across Akosua Afriyie-Kumi and her awesome, bespoke handcrafted bags – A A K S handcrafted, over on Instagram, and immediately liked her style and substance. A A K S was established in 2013 after seeing a gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted bags, woven in dream colour schemes – chic in style and with social impact in mind. Based in both Ghana and the U.K., the pieces incorporate the best of both Akosua’s worlds and are hand crafted by the best artisanal weavers, all whom she knows first hand. The brand reflects her profound commitment to sustainability and ethical practices throughout the production chain. Future plans include a permanent production base in the Northern Region of Ghana, which will provide employment to the local community, ensuring the continuity of weaving as an art and a technique that can be passed onto the younger generation. It is also hoped that over time weaving will become a major source of income for these local communities of women. With the recent inclusion in Africa Calling, curated by Kathy Shenoy – entrepreneur and Director of Shake the Dust, as part of London Fashion Week, Akosua’s dream of becoming a major African brand with a strong global presence is looking promising. New ways with weave indeed. x
I asked Akosua some questions to get the lowdown on her life..
Tell us a little ABOUT your background. What led you to start AAKS handcrafted?
I was born in sunny Ghana, lived the best possible life and moved to London to study Fashion, after graduating I worked with some great fashion and print designers for 4 years. I started A A K S as I wanted to introduce the rest of the world to traditional handcrafted, products from Ghana and print clothes with a modern twist to show off the level of skill which was not being recognised. I wanted to create something that customers could appreciate and also tell a story.
Was there anyone that INSPIRED you from the beginning. Who inspires you now?
I went through waves of different journeys of inspiration in my life. Growing up I was inspired by modern and traditional African art, in my teenage years and throughout university I loved conceptual fashion designers and fine artists such as Hussein Chalayan and Yinka Shonibare. I am now really inspired by Sunset Photography, but ultimately I am inspired by my family – they believe in me and that is extremely powerful and helps me to evolve as a designer everyday.
Favourite COLOUR or combination of colours?
I love Yellow! I love it so much I painted my office bright yellow. Funny enough I am holding onto this colour to use in one of my collections to come.
You have an hour to spare on the internet, what sites and blogs will you be SURFING?
What’s the best ADVICE you have been given?
To be brave and believe in what I can offer as an individual…hopefully I can inspire others along that journey.
Sunday morning RITUAL?
Golf, Oats & raisins make me very happy. 🙂
Best LONDON bits?
Richmond in the summer at a hidden hang out called Petersham Nurseries. Its the place to relax , smell the freshness of greens and drink lovely juices with delicious home made cakes and salads. Also the views from the Shard is a must or cycling through Green Park!
Tips for freshers travelling to Ghana.
Live like a local, trek through Kakum National park if you love heights. Learn the Language and dance Azonto ! (azonto is a dance craze in Ghana)FOOD from the GODS?
When I do cook it has to be a good Ghanaian beans stew with fried plantains, so yummy. I can eat it at least 4 times a week!
What would be your ideal COLLABORATIVE PROJECT?
A A K S and the Man Repeller do Africa!.. to create a beautiful handmade bag which will be stocked in African inspired stores such as Merchant on Long st in Cape town! I think it will be a very fun collaboration.
You recently took part in The Ethical Fashion Initiative showcase in Milan, working with two of my favourite humans as your mentors – Duro Olowu and Zoe Bedeaux. Tell us a little bit about this experience and how it has helped your brand.
Wow, it was a great experience for me first hand as I got great advice from Duro Olowu, the famous Nigerian designer, he inspired me to be me and look deep into my research for what I am good at, he was extremely impressed by my bags and named it Accra meets St Tropez, which was the perfect twist really! Zoe Bedeaux was fantastic too, she helped me to streamline my collections, always think of the customer and their experience once the collection has been bought. She has a very strong opinion and is not afraid to use it and I love that about her.
What an amazing privilege to work with these two fashion legends so early on in your career.. the future looks bright. For more AAKS handcrafted in your life visit her website, pinterest, facebook and twitter.