Today's Behind The Scenes is a total treat.
Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, designer of A A K S, is giving us a look at the handbag line's production on her family farm in Ghana.
I had to get to know the gal behind the line and I'm so glad I did. We've shared thoughts on London, bonded over "Americanah", and I'm hoping you'll love her work as much as I do.
Gals and gents, this is Behind The Scenes with A A K S:
Let's start here: You'll soon be able to tell that Akosua is a photographer. A really good photographer.
Based in Ghana, she spends a lot of time traveling around and taking photos. On these photography trips, Akosua's bought a lot of basket bags for friends and family– you know these bags. They're cute, make great gifts, but aren't the most practical for everyday use – especially if you're a stylish girl with places to go and a camera to carry.
Akosua decided that she wanted something that had the same look of a basket bag but would travel easily and was foldable, kind of like a leather bag would be.
Commence research and sourcing phase of production:
"I settled on raffia after reading about fibers. It was the most difficult fiber to find in Ghana. I traveled throughout the country then found it serendipitously on our family farm in Southern Ghana. The softness and strength was key. I started looking into its benefits such as the fact that it's an organic, natural fiber which is renewal and biodegradable. The quality and inherent ethical values is very much in line with the vision and ethos I had for my brand from day one."
Producing the bags on a local level – literally on her family's farm – was super important to Akosua. Aside from the positive environmental aspects of keeping production close to home, there was something else she was eager to showcase – the work of local Ghanaian artists:
"I wanted to show another side of Ghana and show what the country can offer in terms of ideas and skill set which can compete on an international level. I want to show that we have a lot to offer in terms of using traditional methods and modernizing them to become something fresh and new. It's time for African fashion to be on the map for quality work."
Well, you've got our attention – that's for sure.
The design process is a collaborative effort between Akosua and her weavers. It takes weeks of hard work and incredible attention to detail, and to craft:
"I'm an avid sunset photographer so I normally pick hues from pictures I've taken. I draw my bag designs from photographs, historical and contemporary fine art, fashion photography, and architecture."
"After drawing and deciding on a set of ideas, I take my design sheets with spec measurements, colorways, and finishes to my weavers where I brief them about my inspirations and ideas for the season. The weavers bring their technical ideas and thoughts of how each bag should be executed. We begin by twisting the raffia and dyeing the strands with organically certified dyes that dry in the open sunshine. Preparation normally takes three to four weeks before weaving can begin.
Weavers then start making three dimensional l shapes of my designs, followed by samples. I bring the samples to my studio – a 12 hour drive from the weaving community – and start putting together finishing touches like linings, trims, labels, leather handles, and buckles. I go through each piece to approve quality, and then I pick the final pieces."
The one thing she wants people to know about her line:
"I would love people to see A A K S as a signature style of bags that will be around for a long time, and to see the creative work making a positive impact in Ghana and around the world."
Just for fun:
What's one book everyone should read?
"Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'Americanah' – it's the funniest and the most well-written book I have ever read. It spoke directly to me. "
If you weren't living in Ghana, where would you live?
"Somewhere exotic. Probably on an island with unbelievable sunsets and beaches."
Shop A A K S here (email Akosua to place an order)
Learn more about the A A K S philosophy here
Thanks to Akosua for her time and for her incredible work, and thank you for going Behind The Scenes!