The Q&A: Travis Obeng-Casper of Ajabeng
Words by The Folklore Team
For Travis Obeng-Casper, the founder and creative director of Ghanaian luxury brand Ajabeng, which he launched in 2018, his role is all about telling African stories through thoughtfully designed, minimalist clothing.
With a focus on expressing individualism and breaking free of the traditional mold, Obeng-Casper takes his inspiration from the everyday lives of African people, architecture movements and the DIY aesthetic of Accra’s streetwear scene.
“I mostly get inspiration in the city when I go to Makola market. I get inspired by the everyday lifestyle of the people; how they live and how they wish they’ll live,” he says.
For Ajabeng’s recently unveiled AW22 collection, titled “Ghana Awake”, Obeng-Casper looks to the work of Ugandan-Sudanese photographer Richard Lodikan Wani. Drawing on the artist’s images of Sudanese subjects set against the backdrop of urban landscapes in South Sudan, “Ghana Awake” similarly attempts to highlight and celebrate the simplicity and sense of worth imbued in all Ghanaians.
This is reflected in the relaxed and oversized silhouettes, which nod to the “Obroni wawu” clothing, a term for secondhand clothes in Ghana that literally translates to “dead white man clothes”. Seen as an imported way of dressing, the new Ajabeng collection hopes to subvert the meaning for a new generation, and reimagine everyday Ghanaian garb in a modern, culturally aware and ethical way.
To tell us a little bit more about the man behind the brand, lessons learnt and the “Ghana Awake” collection, Travis Obeng-Casper answers some quickfire questions for The Folklore Edit.
Ajabeng’s AW22 collection “Ghana Awake”
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I would describe myself as a highly creative individual who is passionate about fashion, and happiest when creating. In my creation I want to represent Ghana and Africa as a whole in the simplest way possible.
What is your brand ethos and how is that reflected in each collection?
Ajabeng is a Ghanian unisex brand that fuses four design elements which I’m very passionate about, African art and culture, minimalism, art deco architecture, and elements of Accra’s streetwear scene. An important aspect of Ajabeng’s aesthetic is that it seeks to be experimental yet traditionally equal in measure. One of the ways that people might see this is that our designs whether womenswear or menswear are womenswear inspired, whereas construction of the garment weighs heavily from menswear tailoring.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about the fashion industry or in your career so far?
For me what I’ve learned so far is that staying true to yourself and knowing what you are about is extremely important. You must also be intentional in creating strategic relationships, as I believe businesses thrive on relationships.”
Tell us about the new “Ghana Awake” collection
The “Ghana Awake” collection is Ajabeng’s third full collection inspired by the work of Ugandan-Sudanese photographer Richard Lodikan Wani. Wani’s work captures his pride and humanity as a result of their self-worth as compared to their material and monetary possessions. The “Ghana Awake” collection spotlights and celebrates the effortless beauty, richness of spirits and sense of worth that characterizes everything Ghanaian.