Interview With Miss Makeba Boateng Founder Of Fashion Forum Africa

Growing up in the fashion industry, one of the famous faces you can’t afford to have around is Mrs Makeba Boateng. I could literally stare at her till my eyes fell off. A decade later, Nothing has changed about how she carries herself glamorously.

Shooting and Having to interview her divulge another side of her being A  P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N-I-S-T .

  1. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Someone once said to me, ‘Makeba, you are like an onion. There is so much to you and every time we meet up, I learn or discover something new’. That was Ulla Holm, a teacher of Fashion and Communication from Denmark in Scandinavia. To speak of oneself is to give away a bit more of yourself and to hope in most cases that the person can empathize, identify and truly understand better.

 

I am the founder of Fashion Forum Africa and the CEO of Public Relations Consultancy MCPR Africa based in Accra with satellite offices in Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria.  I am a member of the interim board for the creative arts, which is part of Ministry of Tourism and Creative Arts. An active member of, Ghana Culture Forum, a creative arts association that are pushing Culture and Creative Arts forward within Ghana. I also sit as Head of Advisory Board of Models Union of Ghana/MODUGA.; The Voice of the Modeling Industry.  Currently, I am also a permanent judge on the Belinda Baidoo Model Search Africa, which airs on GH One TV at 4 pm on Sundays (repeated Mondays at 11 am).

 

  1. AS A WOMAN, WHAT IS YOUR INSPIRATION IN LIFE?

My inspiration as a woman is to be a good citizen of the earth and a strong role model for my sUn, my family and females in Africa and of African descent in general. I am an optimistic person and take inspiration from nature and GOD daily.

 

  1. WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER?

There have been many great moments in my career. I have lived many lives and have experienced many achievements and success, intangible rewards and profound and indescribable experiences to say the least. Meeting all types of influential, inspirational and motivational people along the journey have also added to these great moments.

 

One great moment was to be crowned as the original Miss Ghana UK in my late teenage years.  At that time, Miss Ghana UK marked the first African Beauty pageant of the African Diaspora communities in the United Kingdom.  It is not strictly related to my business focus right now but it did help me to understand my identity as a Ghanaian. It also prepared me for work and opportunities that I would gain within African dialogues and also business in my home country of Ghana.

 

  1. YOU ARE A WIFE AND A MOTHER, HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR WORK WITH YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?

I am a very spiritual person, so I try to be in solitude when I can.  I was a wife once for many years from an earlier age and my sUn, (yes sUn) is almost twenty years old so you can imagine he is independent. He is an extremely talented young man in Music and Art.

During his formative years, I didn’t find it too challenging raising a child, to be honest.  I just got on with it because that’s what we do as women, especially as a wife and mother combined.

I never saw my sUn as an obstacle as he was born out of LoVe, marriage and he was planned. As a woman, in particularly a wife/mother, we tend to be good organizers – it’s our GOD given nature.

 

  1. WHAT HAS BEEN SOME OF YOUR CHALLENGES WORKING IN AFRICA?

I am confident that most in particular entrepreneurs would agree that it’s hard to find the right dedicated people to work with in Ghana.  Loyalty and a dynamic team, with the right attitude that gives they all towards business and growth, is a rare thing although possible. There is a lack of consistency and professionalism in Ghana, which I hear is the same in our neighbouring countries and sadly throughout the continent.

 

There is a lackadaisical approach to work, which seems to be part of the current culture.  A common Ghanaian employee lacks enthusiasm and is unconcerned about business and growth of the employee or company. Regardless of the opportunities, personal growth, experience or financial gains that the employee could gain or earn with that employer or company.

 

  1. SHOULD WE EXPECT ANY THING NEW FROM KEBA CLOTHING/LIFESTYLE?

Keba Lifestyle brand is currently on hold although under this new lifestyle brand it is the sole distributer of the exclusive drink NeHo Likors from Togo.

 

Keba clothing has to its credit, the first to infuse t-shirts with African fabrics, which we created for Keba with the most talented designer CastilloRenee Q is recognized for this as the label made it their signature line and we LoVe how innovative she became with that style. Keba was probably one of the first to introduce African fabrics to Top shop’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Circus.

The label also received a visit and credit by the late Kofi Ansah for creating the innovative and patriotic Ghanaian flag corsets and blouses for women.  The label also received a certificate of recognition at the Miss Ghana national pageant for winning the Miss Ghana Spectacular Gown of the Year 2003. We shall see what the future holds

  1. AS AN ICONIC FIGURE IN THE GHANAIAN FASHION INDUSTRY, HOW HAVE YOU INFLUENCED THE FASHION SCENE?

Thank you for that accolade, that’s kind of you. I hope my influence has been that of virtue, of motivation, aspiration towards Fashion Unity and togetherness. I believe my influence has been as a connector.  Do you know of the writer Malcom Gladwell? He claims that there are three kinds of people:  Mavens, Connectors; and Salesmen, who each play a critical role, in word-of-mouth epidemics.  Yes, epidemics that influence our tastes, trends and fashions.  These people are all around us, yet we don’t give them credit for the role they play.  I am sure you know all too well that word-of-mouth is still the most powerful form of communication.

I am a connector.  I know a lot of people.  And a lot of people know me.  I maintain my relationships.  My iphone is priceless.  It contains all types of diverse people in Media, Fashion, Art, Culture, the Creative Arts and business, spanning Africa, UK and USA.  I introduce people to people.  I’m known for that.  And I make things happen, because I’m organized and resourceful.

I would say what makes me unique, in the words of Gladwell, is that ‘I give numerous people access to opportunities and worlds which they don’t belong in’.

  1. YOUR TOP 3 FASHION BRANDS IN AFRICA

This is an impossible request. It’s so easy on the continent for people to discover or stumble across new or different labels of all types of apparel, accessories and adornments.

In Ghana, I have always enjoyed rummaging through the rails of beautiful dresses at DUABA SERWA, I take pleasure in trying on exquisite romantic gowns at VH Mode by Vanessa Harrison. I really do like the classy Charlotte Privé label. For one of a kind accessory I shop at A-KINKO, or hunt for fibre glass jewellery brands Joansu or Seiwa Akoto Collection, which both pop up in Ghana once in a blue moon.

 

Now you’ve got me started, have you seen the beautiful beads at Sun Trade or wearable art by UNKOWN COLLECTION?  One of my guilty pleasures is adapting gold plated decorated regalia with Budding Tree Jewelers for those ceremonial but fashionable occasions. And when you just want that simple but stylish leather sandals or accessory then one place to try is SOL Inspiration.

 

  1. WHAT FASHION BRANDS ARE TO BE WATCHED FOR IN 2017?

Totally Ethnik, Christie Brown, Studio189, Bakers-Woode, Papa Oppong, Osei Duro, Lumiere Couture and Raffia  

  • TELL US ABOUT FASHION FORUM GHANA AND WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS

Fashion Forum Ghana’s (FFG) is a subsidiary of Fashion Forum Africa (FFA). It’s registered as a Non-Governmental Organisation in Ghana and has created quarterly talk series in March, June, Sept and December months in Accra.

 

FFG’s long term goal is to provide the Ghanaian Fashion Business Community with a fully stocked library of reference materials inclusive of books, magazines, videos, tutorials, national and international registry of designers, media, legal resources, funding sources, and other fashion targeted businesses to aid in the potential growth of individual businesses and the collective industry.

 

FFG aims to establish and redirect the Ghanaian fashion industry with respect to both design and best business practices. By providing a forum to discuss and debate the challenges experienced by all members in the industry, It intends to identify challenges and to find creative solutions to strengthen the fashion business community, ensuring Ghana’s recognition in the world of fashion, design and creative arts.

FFG5, takes place as part of the Ghana Culture Day celebrations on Tuesday 14th March at the National Theatre, Accra/Ghana. It’s a good place to network, share ideas and see the efforts of the Culture and Creative Arts industry in Ghana.

 

  • DO YOU THINK THE GHANAIAN FASHION SCENE HAS DONE A LOT IN TERMS OF MARKETING AND MERCHANDISING?

I believe we have come a very long way indeed although we need to be more united as a fashion business community.  A lot of us have credible experience and knowledge to move the community into industry but unfortunately many of us are working in isolation due to bad experiences in Ghana.

We have many pioneers like Joyce Ababio, Nora Bannerman, Cadling Fashions and the new school like Studio 189, Yvonne Ntiamoah of Radford University College and Elle Lokko who have great expertise in this field whom many entrepreneurs and students can learn from.

 

  • OVER THE PAST YEARS, WHAT HAS BEEN A REVOLUTION IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY IN YOUR VIEW?

 

I would say since Papa Oppong hit the scene, there has been a new breed of males into the fashion scene, which has brought in a renewed energy.  He is a revolution in Fashion and I personally see Papa as crucial to Ghana Fashion as our late Kofi Ansah. There has not been any male that has captured all our fashion senses as Papa Oppong.

 

  • IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO CHANGE ONE THING IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD THAT BE AND TELL US WHY

I would like to change some of the players in the fashion business community here in Ghana.  We have many talented people and so many who have paid their dues in such a positive way through the years who are not being credited for their vast contributions to the fashion business community.  I feel that there are far too many people who have jumped on the bandwagon of fashion in the last few years and claim to be influences, trend setters or fashion professionals.  These people do not belong in key areas of fashion yet they pretend to be and unfortunately the masses do not know any better so are non the wiser, and shower them with praise without these people having credibility or substance.  I think many people need to get educated and not just relay on their own understanding or only their own experiences of the fashion world.

 

  • WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THE YOUNG WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET INTO THE FASHION INDUSTRY?

Get educated and get some hands on experience as an apprentice or intern so you understand and hopefully master the field that you want to be in. Join a reputable association, club or membership of your field and let them guide and support your dreams and goals. You must have thick skin in fashion generally and the right attitude.  Fashion can appear frivolous on the surface but know that there are different levels of fashion, which can vary in different countries.  You must always strive for excellence and it’s imperative to keep your feet on the ground and a level head.  Do not be taken up by fashion’s fantasy or people’s perception of its world, or you could get swept away and disillusioned.  Do not forget that fashion is a professional career, it’s not all about the glamorous side, its big business if we can get it right.

 

  • WHAT WAS IT LIKE, SHOOTING FOR DEBONAIR AFRIK?

It was a fun experience, I really admire what Stefania Manfreda has been doing within fashion over the years and she is always a delight to collaborate or talk with.  Her energy along is captivating which I believe goes with her outlook on life.

Faith Senam is a new contender within fashion in terms of my generation here in Ghana.  I have worked with her briefly on a project last December and I found her to be extremely professional. I also enjoy reading her column in B&FT when I get the chance.

It was a nice surprise when I was told who I would be sharing the cover page with. These women are good people trying to do good in fashion in Ghana for a potential industry that we are passionate about as well as believe in.

I found the Debonair Afrik Crew very friendly and easy to get along with as well as time conscious. It was my first-time experience with a full male crew. I really enjoyed the day’s shoot in the heart of James Town, a part of Accra I really only venture to for James Town Café, and for the popular, Chale Wote Street Art Festival. It was really cool to explore the tiny tight streets at lunchtime in search of kenkey, choffy and fried fish.

 

  1. IF MAKEBA IS NOT WORKING, WHAT WILL SHE BE FIND DOING?

This is a tough one as the lines between my personal and business life are blurred.  After working hours, if I am not at attending an event, a launch, a soiree or social dinner then I must be sleeping.

Now-a-days I crave for ‘me time’, I like to watching movies or documentaries, going to places of creative interest or the theatre.  I am also an artist so at times I create crafts and pieces of art.  I enjoy reading so my home is full of books and I enjoy drawing, meditation and horse riding when the opportunity allows me to.

 HOT SEAT QUESTIONS:

  • WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY STYLE CRUSH? I admire many personalities rather than celebrities. I do like Beyonce Knowle’s work ethic, her hard work and professionalism.  In Ghana, personalities I admire are many women including broadcaster Anita Erskine who I find to be very inspirational.  I must give kudos to Yvonne Ntiamoah of Radford University College who has made the fashion department a force to be reckoned with. I also admire pioneers in fashion and production in Ghana like Nora Bannerman and also Madam Majorie Abdin of the credible Jack and Jill.
  • MOST EXPENSIVE ITEM YOU OWN AND HOW MUCH? A tough question, which I have not really thought about. As a mature woman, over the years I have purchased and acquired many expensive items including Jewelry, vintage clothing, accessories and art. One item I recently purchased as a birthday gift for myself last year was real pearls.
  • MOST TERRIFYING MOMENT BEING AN INFLUENCER – I would say dealing with people who are not clued up about business or growth as well as those who are either not educated, experienced or knowledgeable in the professional world of fashion and creative arts industry.

Like I said there are different levels of fashion.  An old boyfriend once said, find your place and fit in. Sometimes it best to stick with people who see the bigger picture, who are in it for the long haul, who are selfless but ruthless in the pursuit of fashion excellence for Ghana and the rest of the continent.

You know the saying, you can bring a horse to water but you can’t force the horse to drink.  Work with those who are striving for the same things as you and see the greater good in Unity, Positivity, collaboration and transparency towards the industrial growth of fashion in Ghana.

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