As reported by Mercedes-Benz on Vogue.com these five Ghanaian designers are not to be missed, despite the lack of physical shows this season. The through line between these emerging talents? Their distinctive brands all focus on innovating traditional Ghanaian textiles, implementing eco-friendly production methods, and celebrating a sense of Pan-Africanism. They all design and create out of Accra, partnering with local creatives there to source their unique textiles. Even though their fabrics are traditional, their designs are anything but—their works take cues from the streetwear movement, modern and abstract art, and even the city of Accra itself, making for collections that are contemporary but infused with a culturally rooted spirit. As French calls his vision below, they’re pushing forward “fashion with a cause.”
Below, meet the five designers who are reinventing Ghanaian traditions.
Larry Jafaru Mohammed who was born and raised in Accra, began his career designing his accessories line in 2012. He pivoted to ready-to-wear around 2016, and launched his label a year later.
Larry Jay is an ethically made, unisex collection that draws inspiration from African culture, textiles, and nature—combining them with modern, streamlined silhouettes. Mohammed recently debuted his spring 2021 Nomad collection. “It emphasizes tradition and comfort,” he says. “It’s inspired by travelers who like to explore, learn about people and their cultures, and have an appreciation for nature”.
Steve French is originally from Axim, the western part of Ghana, but is now based in Accra. He grew up with a fascination around fashion.
French is a contemporary womenswear designer who “honors traditions to create new artistic expressions with clothing,” drawing from the female form and abstract patterns in particular—think lots of feminine gowns and skirts, done in vibrant colors and artful prints.
For his latest collection, French channeled his childhood memories from his time in Axim. “I [grew up around] seamstresses, and I feel like that’s a tradition that’s now been transferred onto me to tell,” French says.
French has found hope in peace in slowing down and focusing on his art. “I’ve been documenting a lot during this time. Researching and exploring new things that I had never thought of in this time of stillness,” he says. “I took this time to actually pause and reflect on myself as an artist, and I’m seeing fashion in a new way.
Hassan Alfaziz Iddrisu who is from Kumasi, but now based in Accra—got his start in fashion by dealing secondhand vintage wares in Accra. “I’m a lover of rare things,” he says. Hazza is his ethically made, unisex sportswear brand fusing African pride with traditional production methods. Iddrisu’s relaxed tailoring and smartly cut pieces are often made with repurposed fabrics. The designer’s pieces for the Mercedes-Benz shoot are a mixture of his recent spring Afrafradom collection, as well as some pieces from his university graduation collection. “I work a lot with tie-dye and screen printing,” he says of his pieces, adding that an eco-minded approach has been ever present in his designs.
Hazza is inspired “by the people around me—our lifestyle and our culture,” he says. “When I want to get inspiration, I go to the places that people don’t really want to go, like the slums or the non-bougie places. From where I’m coming from, I’m connected to those places, and that’s where you’ll find the real culture of Ghana.”
Atto Tetteh who is Fante and Guan, actually studied insurance in school, but decided to follow his true passion and launch his own menswear line in Accra. “I felt that I had something to contribute to the creative space in Accra,” he says.
Tetteh offers sleek menswear pieces—though they can be unisex—with a focus on reinventing traditional African patterns for the modern man. “My brand is a contemporary streetwear brand, for men who are cosmopolitan but want an African aesthetic,” he says.
Tetteh’s new collection is called S Theorem. It “tells a story about how we are all very different and unique, and how we should appreciate each other and our differences,” he says. “Ghana is upbeat—there’s always movement, color, and a sense of happiness. All of these things influence my design.” The designer used fabrics for the line that are all handmade in Ghana.
Like many creatives, Tetteh has sought to find hope and optimism during these difficult times.
Chloe Asaam, who was born and bred in Accra, decided to pursue fashion after growing up around the city’s massive second market. “There’s a huge secondhand market in Accra, and it really takes away from the work that we do as young creatives,” she says.
Chloe Asaam is a womenswear label fusing Ghanaian prints with strong, interesting shapes. They’re basics, but never basic: She enjoys reworking everyday staples, including ruffled tops, high-waisted trousers, and dresses.
This is Asaam’s first collection and it’s inspired by “the moods and sentiments that we’ve had during the pandemic,” she says. “I used color schemes or words that speak to the things that we gravitate towards when it’s a crisis, or when we are feeling a bit agitated and uncomfortable.
Asaam says the women in her own family are her muse. “I tap into the matriarchs in my family and my community,” she says. “I find women to be really powerful, especially in a local context, because they keep us together and are really nurturing and strong at the same time.
Photography : @carlosidun
Assistant producer: @thefiifiabban
Production Coordinator : @nana_poley
Location Supervisor: @sarf_bort
Hair Assist: @strandsnmirrors
Fashion Director: @akweah
Fashion assistants @prince_suasie @bernicebuo
Set design : @jojotemmeng