Ep 6: Tracing the journey of turning an idea into a globally stocked ethical fashion brand with Akosua Afriyie-Kumi

In this episode I chat with Akosua Afriyie-Kumi. Akosua is the founder of A A K S, a fashion accessories brand that tells an exciting story of Ghana, and offers a different perspective of Africa as a whole. A A K S’s raffia bags are handmade by a women’s cooperative in Northern Ghana, and uses ethical processes inspired by old-age craft traditions. Through her brand Akosua wants the world to see how luxury and quality can grow from traditional designs and is using AAKS bags to change perceptions of Africa through fashion. She has been shortlisted as an emerging designer from Africa by Vogue Italia and has been featured in leading press titles and the A A K S collections are stocked in 20 countries and 70 stores worldwide.

Akosua always knew that she wanted own her own brand, but although she didn’t know the direction she wanted to go in, she knew she wanted to stand out. Living in the UK at the time it was on trips home to Ghana often and seeing the baskets along the road side, that she began to wonder why no-one was something new with the local skills. And that was when the idea for A A K S took hold. It took several years of research, finding artisans to work with and developing a good enough prototype before she had a saleable product. A A K S has distinctive brand aesthetic one that embraces colour, and genuine authenticity sharing the story behind scenes.

We talk about:

  • Moving from the UK back to Ghana to explore her idea and start her business
  • Her desire to build on traditional crafts and give them a place in the modern world
  • Finding weavers to work with and overcoming communication barriers to develop her design ideas
  • The process from concept to getting her first saleable bag, and how she plans and develops a collection
  • Building an authentic brand in a content noisy world
  • How she retains her ethical values whilst meeting commercial demands
  • The challenges of business in balancing passion and purpose with making a living
  • Her big break and her experiences of working with stockists
  • Creating a brand and developing her brand aesthetic
  • The relevance of having a website to attract stockists

“Mondays are my favourite days… I just love to wake up and actually work… its so nice to be part of this.” – Akosua Afriyie-Kumi

Links and resources mentioned in this episode 

Kingston University UK – https://www.kingston.ac.uk

British Library Business & IP Centre – https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre

Anthropologie – https://www.anthropologie.com/en-gb/

British Council – https://www.britishcouncil.org

Design Network Africa – https://designnetworkafrica.wordpress.com

Lagos Fashion Week – http://lagosfashionweek.ng

Pitti Trade show Milan – http://www.pittimmagine.com/en/corporate/fairs.html

She Trades – https://www.shetrades.com/en

UNHCR Weaving for Change – https://www.aaksonline.com/blog/2018/2/11/weaving-for-change

Where you can go to find out more about Akosua


Instagram: @a.a.k.shttps://www.instagram.com/a.a.k.s/?hl=en

Facebook: @aakshandcrafted

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android)

And before you go I have a favour to ask, if you could you take a few minutes to do the three R’s: that is rate it, review it, and recommend it to anyone you feel would benefit. It will really make a difference and I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again.

Tapiwa Matsinde

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