Fashion Capital: How Accra Became Central to “Made in Africa” Fashion

Words by The Folklore Team

As the first West African country to gain its independence from Britain in 1957, Ghana has always been at the forefront of revolutions taking place on the continent. The sense of pride and freedom that came with independence ushered in a wave of creativity that saw young Ghanaians find new ways to express themselves and their newfound way of life.

From trailblazing photographer James Barnor, who became the first full-time newspaper photographer in Ghana in the 1950s, to pioneering designer Kofi Ansah, who once made a garment for the UK’s Princess Anne after his graduation from the Chelsea School of Art in London, Ghanaian creatives have been sharing their talents with the rest of the world without diminishing their African origins. What they, and many other creatives who either studied or worked abroad, have in common is that they returned home to Ghana to continue their work.

Today, Ghana’s capital city Accra has become the homecoming spot in Africa for a number of reasons. From the annual Afrochella festival – an end-of-year music and cultural event that takes place in the city, to 2019’s much-publicized The Year of Return, the celebration marking 400 years since the first ships left for the transatlantic slave trade, which invited the descendants “come home”, taking pride in one’s heritage has been central to the rise of Ghanaian creativity.

For George Tetteh, the founder and creative director of Accra-based brand Atto Tetteh (which is available for wholesale on The Folklore Connect), his first visit to the historical site of Fort William was enough to inspire his SS22 collection, titled “Back to Basics”. Built by the British in the 18th century in Anomabo in Central Ghana, the fort stands today as a symbol of resilience, and evokes a sense of curiosity, nostalgia and pride for young Ghanaians. Tetteh used an illustration of the landmark as a recurring pattern on shirts and dresses, alongside tie-dye jumpsuits, pinstriped pants and crochet separates. The latter was crafted with the help of Redwool, a brand in Accra specializing in crochet pieces made by hand.

Employing local makers and artisans is essential to the work of many designers hailing from Ghana. It is the same philosophy that sees Phyllis Taylor, the founder of SIKA, design her collections at home in London but has them all made in her second home in Accra, using a team of talented tailors and seamstresses to create her wax prints skirts dresses and jackets. With the belief that successful garment production should have social and environmental responsibilities at its core, SIKA makes paying fair wages, creating employment and making a meaningful difference within the Ghanaian community part of its brand ethos.

SIKA has also run production bootcamps in the past, a program aimed at new clothing and accessories designers looking to establish reliable production and manufacturing teams in Accra. While China has long established itself as the largest textile manufacturing industry in the world, Accra’s textile industry has steadily grown due to the demand for authentic and high-quality Ghanaian fabrics that emerging brands require for their collections.

Many Ghanaian designers cite their city and culture as a frequent source of inspiration. Ajabeng designer Travis Obeng-Casper looks to the streetwear scene in Accra, and the lives of everyday people. “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, how they wish they’ll live and also the do-it-yourself aesthetic of the streetwear scene,” he says.

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