Ethical luxury that empowers: Akoma

The rise of luxury brands focusing on improving their impact on people and the planet, while creating beautiful, desirable products is slow, but undeniable. Consumer consciousness is increasing and many major fashion houses are creating sustainability plans that aim to achieve well-defined goals while being more transparent with their supply chains. Luxury fashion is thus undergoing a transformation to a more mindful, ethical system.

Akoma is a brand that embodies the appreciation of the people of Ghana and their beautiful craftsmanship. Founded by Stephanie Theis Fajardo, their tailored and made-to-measure outerwear is made from traditional handwoven cloth from Africa- primarily the kente, while their production entirely meets fair trade standards.

The Kente cloth said to date back to the 12th century possibly, is woven by the Ewe and Ashanti peoples of Ghana, on a horizontal strip loom. Each colour and design woven has deep symbolic meaning rooted in social, political, moral and religious beliefs. Originally strictly limited to the royal courts as an important ceremonial cloth, the Kente has become more accessible, though continuing to be associated with wealth and power while being a symbol of African heritage and pride. (Micots, 2018)

Akoma is focused on creating responsible, sustainable products that help uplift the artisan community by bringing the spotlight on their untapped talent. Travelling around the world and encountering different people and cultures, cumulatively help inspire Akoma’s philosophy of combining the old and the new.

“Akoma is a work in progress too. Every day we learn something new, how to improve our supply chain etc. But what makes us unique are without a doubt, our fabrics which are so rich in culture and made with ancestral techniques. We enhance their essence and present it in a versatile and feminine way that’s appealing to the modern woman.”

To source handwoven fabrics from Mali and Burkina Faso as well, Akoma partnered with the Ethical Fashion initiative, a UN initiative that helps connect artisans from marginal communities with the luxury fashion industry, thereby fostering ethical, sustainable production and collaborations.

“At Akoma we believe in “buy less, choose well”. That means not keeping up with every single trend, but it also means owning your very own style, forcing you to get a lot more creative with the items that you have at hand.”

Akoma aims to integrate sustainability in not just the choice of fabrics, but in all the practices of the business, including the supply chain. Focusing on creating a cohesive circular economy, Akoma is working on prolonging the lifecycle of their garments by introducing different services including up-cycling, customization and swapping.

“If you buy into fast fashion, you are feeding into a whole ecosystem of disregard for basic human rights and our environment.”

Akoma is also working on integrating more technology to the brand that will help it create a community and network of people able to connect with one another, for up-cycling and swapping opportunities, fueled by empathy for the environment and the people making their clothes

“I really want to create something that makes people feel good, it’s not just the fit and feel, but the energy that goes in and the positive impact each one of our garments promotes. It’s really about empowering others, whether it’s the weavers who create our beautiful fabrics, or our customers who showcase them to the world.”

Proving that it is possible to empower communities and artisanal talent through production that is sustainable, transparent and mindful, Akoma has shown that it is time for fashion to be slowed down and brought back into the hands of the craftsman.

Bibliography:

Micots, C. (2018). Kente cloth (Asante and Ewe peoples). Retrieved from Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-africa/west-africa/ghana/a/kente-cloth

Author Nayanika Bharadwaj

Designer, artist, illustrator and writer passionate about sustainable design and living. Recently graduated with a degree in fashion from NIFT, Mumbai. Currently living in Chennai, India

More posts by Nayanika Bharadwaj

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