Augustina is an example of perseverance. She studies fashion while working part time with us in the AAKS studio. She says working here has helped her to have a better understanding of material and discovered the « real life » of a fashion brand. It’s Augustina who creates meticulously each tassel and all leather weaving aspects of our bags. After a long day studying and working, she still finds the energy to look for inspiration to create new designs.
Sarah is the youngest in our team. This talented lady had just finished high school in Accra the capital city when she joined us a year ago. She is in charge of the quality control of our raw materials before it gets to our weavers. She also takes care of the leather and bag finishings which she says is her favourite work for its soothing aspect. When she’s not working on making your bag impeccable, she is reading books, her favourite hobby and spends hours reading every novel she can get her hands on!
Christabel is a tourism student at Kwame Nkrumah Science and Technology University in Ghana and has been working with us for two years now. She comes to the studio on a part time basis and takes care of all hand sewing of our bags. She is passionate about music and is a really good singer - not to mention her amazing dancing skills! You should see her dancing while stitching, its very impressive.
Yaw was the first person to join me at the studio when I started AAKS in 2014. He learnt how to sew when he was 20 years old and from then he hasn’t stopped. He is hardworking and takes care of all the sewing at the studio and also oversees the wetting process of our bags, to ensure they get the perfect shape. The coolest thing is that he designs his own clothes using African print fabrics and he looks amazing in it!
Monica has been working with us for a year and half now. She knows pretty much everything about AAKS and very meticulous. She studied Home Economics and majored in Fashion at Winneba University in Ghana. She is a pattern making genius and also takes care of the lining and finishings our bags. When she is not making magic in the studio, you can find her painting, drawing and designing clothes. And she also makes delicious cakes!
From New York to Paris with love!
After a stop in New York to attend NY NOW and a fortuitous encounter with the inspiring Iris Apfel, I arrived in Paris just in time for Maison & Objet!
For the second year in a row we showcased our bags at the not-to-be-missed Parisian design rendez-vous. We also presented our first home décor line - handmade by Malian artisans in collaboration with the UNHCR.
From a business-oriented perspective, participating in trade shows is an efficient way to drive sales for the brand. But for those of you who are used to traveling the globe to take part in such events, you know there is more to it than just financial gain. It is also a great opportunity to meet up with knowledgeable people with a keen eye for design and fashion products. At Maison & Objet, the various backgrounds of attendees opened the way for engaging conversations about the creative process and concept behind our hand-woven lamps and bags. If you have the opportunity to join in next year, I would highly recommend it! And yes, you will connect with buyers from top European stores too.
The Design Assistant will play an essential role in the day to day operations on the ground in our Ouagadougou office. He/She will oversee all aspects of the design project by working alongside artisans in product development of a home deco product, creation of three-dimensional prototypes, quality control, shipments, purchasing and managing necessary supplies for projects and liaising with artisans in various locations in Burkina Faso. He/She must be able to work independently, set up and run a design studio in Ouagadougou while working closely with the creative director of AAKS in Ghana.
He/She will gain an invaluable experience of working in a small international design company while learning about the fields of design, production and international development.
Fashion/Textile/Product Design Graduate
Knowledge of contemporary fashion design, trends, basketry, embroidery and hand
Knowledge and interest in Africa, women’s empowerment and artisans
High energy team player with willingness to pitch in wherever needed
Strong project management and organisational skills plus an attention to detail
Crafty-ness a big plus!
Ability to adapt to new cultures and simple living conditions
Computer Skills Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Excel and Word
Dates: Immediate / Full Time / Paid Role
Application Instructions: To apply, please email email@example.com with: (a) name of specific job title in the subject line (b) your CV, (c) a thoughtful cover letter.
We participated in a Start Up Night! Africa-London, an event that connects African women entrepreneurs to buyers, key influencers and investors from all around the globe. This unique event is brought by Lionesses of Africa and Standard Bank, a platform dedicated to fostering market access for sustainable and innovative businesses ran by African women.
While I was preparing my pitch I reflected about my journey as a fashion entrepreneur, the many challenges I had overcome and how central it is to meet people. Sharing my story behind AAKS is always exciting and hearing sound advice and feedbacks from people with different backgrounds is a real bonus. I also had the chance to chat with the other designers and entrepreneurs invited to showcase their work. Telling our stories as African women entrepreneurs and being allowed to do so in front of a receptive audience is genuinely beneficial. They say the future is female, don’t they?
Our lamps are handwoven with heart by refugee artisans in Burkina Faso. Practicing a time honoured Malian weaving technique, the artisans use a needle to wrap strands of organic cotton threads and leather around bunches of straw to create tightly coiled structure. It resulted in a beautiful range of lamps in kaleidoscopic yellows, rustics reds, and blues combined with natural tones. Depending on the size and shape, each lamp can take a weaver anywhere between 1 - 2 months to make! The collection offers open and semi closed shades. When lit, the crocheted surface gives a gentle glow to the pendant light.
AAKS X UNHCR
The home décor project titled ‘Weaving for Change’ reflects the preservation of a timely honoured Malian weaving technique of the Tuareg community from Northern Mali, who are living as refugees in Burkina Faso. Behind every handcrafted lamp you will find a cultural identity of the Tuareg.
The design combines craftsmanship of unique artisanal skills and techniques in basketry; an important activity carried out by Tuareg and Fulani/Peulh women who weave with straw and yarn to make traditional basket lids for food platters used during celebrations in their communities.
The artisans use a needle and thread to wrap hand-dyed strands of organic yarns and leather around bunches of straw to create tightly coiled, durable lamps shades in an impressive range of patterns and colours. The result is a beautiful range of lamps in kaleidoscopic yellows, tone down reds, reds, blues and rustic oranges combined with natural straw and hints of vegetable tan leather, bronze and copper metal finishing. The collaboration of textures and tones is crucial to the cohesion of the overall design ideas.
Depending on the size and shape, each lamp can take one weaver anywhere from 2weeks to 1 month to make! The collection seeks to offer open and semi closed shades with direct light source. When lit, the handcrafted crocheted surface gives the entire shade an effervescent glow which captures the perfect equilibrium between light and shade.
Word by AAKS pictures by UNHCR
AAKS wishing you a Happy New Year!
We had a blast in 2017 and want to celebrate all of you - Our partners, followers and friends. Thank you to inspiring fashion influencers such as Parysatis and Celmatique who captured our brand stories through pictures, the coolest concept stores around the world stocking our bags such as Beymen in Turkey, Urban Outfitters, Ibu Movement , Papaya sunset in Senegal and United Arrows in Japan.
2017 has been so exciting. Thank you CNN, Vogue Italia, Design Sponge and Nataal for supporting emerging African brands, believing in us and helping us share our precious artisanal Ghanaian heritage stories all over the world.
Always remember we are spreading the love one bag at a time, with a little help from our wonderful artisans too.
We look forward to a more colourful 2018!
Do you remember our Weaving for Change Project in Burkina Faso?! Here is a little update on whats been happening.
I went back to Burkina Faso these past months to work intensely on this very special weaving project in partnership with the UNHCR. I have been developing a beautifully hand-woven lamp collection with Tuareg refugee women weavers from Mali.
Our first prototypes exceeded our expectations and we hope you will like our home decor product line as much as we do. It will showcase traditional Tuareg weaving techniques with a contemporary twist.
Make sure to follow our adventures as we will be sharing more of the project and journey in the coming weeks/months.
To know more about our work in Burkina Faso, read our first article just here. . . .
Words by Neith Assogbavi and Pictures by Wouster Elsen
Created by Mallie Gautreau for AAKS
Akosua Afriyie-Kumi’s ethical fashion brand AAKS has been producing handcrafted luxury handbags in Ghana since 2014 and these days she's spreading the love worldwide. The designer blends traditional African textiles and craftsmanship with contemporary designs – an approach that is a result of her experiences both at home and abroad as well as a reflection of how deeply interwoven she is with her canny business strategy and heartfelt creative vision. And as her blazing SS17/18 collection makes abundantly clear, she’s rather partial to African sunsets, too. . . Read more on Nataal.com
I got the chance to showcase my newest Spring/Summer 2018 collection of bags at Pitti Super tradeshow in Milan, a three-day event brought by Pitti Immagine and fully dedicated to women’s prêt-à-poter and accessories.
The tradeshow was indeed part of the Milan Fashion Week’s agenda and exclusively aimed at professional key players from the fashion industry. It attracted more than 4700 buyers from all over the world and surely boosted my brand visibility and sales opportunities.
I could not have been happier to present my work in such conditions and with the endless support from Style House Files/Lagos Fashion & Design Week - a fashion platform that showcases emerging brands from the African continent. Together, with three other incredible designers (Loza Maléombho, Grey, Gozel Green) I made the most of my Italian adventure and enjoyed being part of this dynamic environment.
words by Neith Assogbavi
WEAVING FOR CHANGE - BURKINA FASO
I am very happy to tell you more about my partnership with the UNHCR Refugee Artisan Project. A project I have been working on for a few months now. I had the chance to travel to Ouagadougou and Dori in the Sahel Regions of Burkina Faso to collaborate with Malian refugees who possess unique traditional skills of weaving. These crafts hold a great potential and we believe strongly that they should be brought to light.
Indeed international markets’ consumers are seeking more and more meaningful and authentic artisanal goods. This one of a kind collaboration aims at enabling refugees to become self-reliant and earn decent income while sustaining their artistic traditions.
Our collaboration will consist of a home interior line mixing traditional weaving techniques and contemporary designs.
Merging my expertise as a designer with their exceptional skills and motivation is a new step in the development of my brand and I am looking forward to sharing more with you once launched at the end of 2017!
In the mean time here is a snippet of the beginning of our collaboration.
Words by Neith Assogbavi