Ghanaian Fashion designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi wants the world to see how luxury and quality can grow from traditional designs and is using A A K S to change perceptions of Africa through fashion. A A K S produces raffia bags handmade by a women’s cooperative in Bolgatanga, northern Ghana. The brand produces luxurious handmade accessories using ethical processes and age-old craft traditions, not often seen beyond the borders of Ghana. I interview this burgeoning Designer who has showcased internationally in Milan and London.
How does the textile and materials determine the design of each bag?
The textile and materials plays a huge part in my design and branding. A A K S is synonymous with the raffia material and creating a new wave of basket bags for the stylish individual on her world travels. I have always been into natural basket bags products and an avid collector since childhood. I gave them as gifts and used some as storage. I have always wanted to create my own basket bag with a twist, a bag that was foldable almost like a leather bag so I could travel with it. I wanted something colourful to reflect my energy and colourful upbringing.
After much deliberation and research I settled on Raffia after reading about fibres online and it was the most difficult fibre to find in Ghana. I travelled throughout the country then found it serendipitously in our family farm in Southern Ghana. It was being grown minimally and then sold on to string bead vendors and others to basically tie animals on small farms. I knew this was the right material once I felt it! The softness and strength was key, then I started looking into its benefits such as it being an organic natural fibre which was renewal, and also biodegradable. This quality and inherent ethical values was very attractive.
How has your past London design experience influenced your brand?
My education and design experience in London inspired me to develop my skill set and have the freedom to be creative without any boundaries. Kingston University where I studied, has a great support system of tutors and mentors and they do invest in creative students. They helped me to stay true to my art.
Growing up in Ghana and an interest in art and design is usually frowned upon as most parents want their children to be doctors or engineers. Luckily I have a very supportive family who felt London could be a great stepping stone on staying true to what I love, exposure and also be around other creative minds.
Thus I have had the opportunity of exploring my ideas and processes through teaching, travel and research to create a collection. I also found a balance between thinking creatively and communicating it through design theoretically. I was also able to bring my cultural background and understanding into my designs and hence some authenticity which I love.
How can we get our hands on A A K S in the UK, and what is the price point?
Customers can purchase my products through stockists around the world and also via my website enquiries page A A K S. I am hoping to add an e-commerce element to the site this year. Stockists in London include Styled By Africa and Shake the Dust. In Cape Town A A K S is stocked at Bread and Bromwell and in Paris Owl Paris & Appalachia. My prices range between 70 pounds for a small clutch bag to medium size shoppers of £190 – £280.
What is the future for A A K S?
I would love to move into clothes and print design sometime soon as it’s been a great passion of mine. Nonetheless, I am very keen to explore the accessories and home interior area in fashion too. Bag design is still a new venture for me as I only started my brand 5 months ago and I am enjoying it so far and will be doing bags for some time now before anything else.