Ghana’s Fashion and Design Week

In October, UAL graduate Sicgmone Kludje headed to Accra for Ghana’s Fashion and Design Week (GFDW) here are some of her highlights of the event.

Following the success of Accra’s inaugural GFDW in 2012, the event has now become an annual showcase of Ghanaian creatives who are making Africa an up and coming global contender in the fashion and creative business industries.

Sicgmone said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect before I arrived in Accra, but I was looking forward to seeing what this years designers and exhibitors had to offer to the African fashion market.”

The event is split into three sections: a runway of catwalk designers, an exhibition of fashion  accessory designers and educational seminars.

Sicgmone said: “On the first day of the event I attended morning seminars on Fashion and Design education led by Yvonne Ntiamoah, Head of Fashion at Radford College University, who I was lucky enough to interview.”

Yvonne

Yvonne Tiamoah, Head of Fashion at Radford College University, speaking at GFDW

Yvonne studied Fashion Design at University College of the Creative Arts in Epsom. On graduating she was head hunted for the UK Graduate Fashion Week, and went onto work as a fashion designer for 15 years in London before returning to Ghana in 2011.

Not only has Yvonne supplied luxury stores such as Harrods, but she also won the prestigious Professional Ghanaian Award for Designer of the Year in 2006, and has worked with organisations such as the United Nations’ Catwalk the World team.

Speaking on GFDW Yvonne said: “My main hope is that African designers will begin to sell their ideas to the international market and take more innovative risks. In terms of the Ghanaian market I believe that the textile industry needs to start supporting the local designers here, this is the only way the fashion industry will progress.”

“For years we have been printing the same designs on cotton, why not experiment with different kinds of material such as leather, Lycra or PVC? I believe that education is vital for teaching my students that having a degree in fashion will give them the knowledge and technical skills to survive in this industry.”

“I really admire the Shades of Noir concept and I am glad that this issue is being addressed within higher education and design institutions. Having studied in a London fashion school it’s definitely something that you noticed, that there is a lack of role models of colour from lecturers to industry leaders.”

“Hopefully groups such as Shades of Noir are raising awareness of this issue, which will inspire the next generation of designers, and we will see significant changes within higher education and the fashion and design industry.”

Sarah Ama Duah's Collection

One of Sarah Ama Duah's pieces from her MOLD Collection

Over two days 15 catwalk designers took to the runway at GFDW, one of Sicgmone’s favourites was German/Ghanaian designer Sarah Ama Duah with her collection “MOLD – The bag I carry inside”.

Sicgmone said: “Her collection included knitted garments worn in layers and detached sleeves with honey comb knitted structures. An interesting piece from the collection was a cobalt blue knitted outfit with the sleeves draped separately from the models arms; there were lots of interesting compositions used in her catwalk show. The garments were more like moving artistic objects.”

Sarah was recently tipped as “one to watch” by Vogue UK. Her latest collection “The bag I carry inside” is a nod to personal baggage – unrealised ideas, thoughts and wishes that live on in the subconscious mind. Her garments push pattern cutting boundaries by transforming unconventional materials into wearable garments. Sicgmone interviewed Sarah to find out more about the concept behind her innovative collection.

Sarah said: “I thought of inner structures, like unrealised ideas, wishes and thoughts that you can carry inside for a long time. My collection starts when they become visible on the surface, I translated them into knitwear structures. In this project I wanted to work with something old and something new, I collected the knitwear clothes from vintage markets and combined them with new fabrics to create my own material.”

“Right now, I am not a label. In this phase I work from the fashion perspective, where my priority is to refer to the human body and to create something that can be “worn”. But I also love to stage my “dresses” as objects. I have an artistic approach to fashion and I am not sure where this will take me, but I am excited.”

“I am looking forward to an African textile industry that can offer a bigger palette of different fabrics, so that African designers can work with African fabrics that are innovative and at the same time support the local industry.”

Please visit Sicgmone’s blog for pictures of collections from Modella B, Trish O Couture, 1981 Ameyo, Emefa Cole, House of Marie and Tuedor & Wright.

Alongside the catwalk shows was the Trade Exhibition Hub, a unique showcase of fashion accessory designers, where Sicgmone caught up with Frema Oppong, Creative Director of Ntaadepa.

Tonisha Tagoe from Umedia Films, wears a jumpsuit by Ntaadepa

Tonisha Tagoe from Umedia Films, wears a jumpsuit by Ntaadepa

Ntaadepa were chosen to exhibit at GFDW as part of their emerging homegrown labels category. Frema founded the Ghanaian clothing line in 2012, and produces collections consisting of wax prints mixed with other manmade and cotton fabrics.

Frema said: “‘Ntaadepa’ simply means good clothes in ‘Twi’ it’s a term my friends always use to give me because I was always sewing and designing clothes. After completing my degree in Textile Design at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology I decided to set up my own clothing business, and I have been in the industry for just over a year now.”

“I hope that more designers will continue to promote the use of African prints within their designs. At the moment, most Ghanaian businesses have introduced a concept called “Friday wear” that means colleagues have to wear an African printed clothing every Friday.”

“I think this is a great concept because designing in Ghana I have found that a lot of the younger generation are more inspired by European styles and American culture so don’t necessarily want to wear printed cloth. Which is fine, but I feel as Ghanaians we design such beautiful textiles which we should embrace.”

“As for Ntaadepa, I hope to eventually expand my network within the African continent and hopefully Europe. My dream would be to eventually mass produce my clothing and be shipping my garments to boutiques internationally.”

Sicgmone at the VIP event
Sicgmone at the VIP event

On her GFDW experience Sicgmone summed up: “I discovered some amazing designers and artists such as label 1981 and Sarah Ama Duah that are really pushing the boundaries in terms of what we consider to be African fashion. Who are incorporating their backgrounds studying and living in Europe with their Ghanaian heritage to form a new design aesthetic, which is exciting to see. Along with Ghanaian based designers such as Frema Oppong, who encourage the use of traditional African textiles within the designing process.”

“With social enterprises and creative partnerships continuing to draw inspiration from the African continent, as well as other support structures such as Radford College, I can predict the Ghanaian fashion industry will only continue to progress further.”

“For the final evening of GFDW there was a VIP champagne reception at Villa Monticello. I decided to wear my own designs, a light gold and creme Lurex knitted dress, with a viscose and silk knitted gold broche necklace (pictured above). I was glad to have an opportunity to model some of my designs, and hopefully next year I can showcase my knitwear designs on the catwalk!”