The textiles come from the markets in Accra, Ghana, the designs from the U.S.. Women in a cooperative who are paid three times the usual wages sew some of the garments, and the rest are made by men and women at a women-owned factory in Accra under the watchful eye of Linda, the boss. The finished product is brought back to the U.S. (and soon to Australia!) and sold to conscious and fashionable consumers like you and I.
That’s the story of AFIA, the brand conceived and run by designer and businesswoman Meghan Sebold. The line’s “urban indigenous” aesthetic fuses the vibrant, traditional textiles of West Africa with American trends. Meghan picks the cotton wax textiles by hand and believes passionately in showcasing and promoting Ghana‘s iconic industry; an industry that is in grave danger due to competition from the imitation prints that are flooding the world market.
With a degree in economics and international relations, Meghan thought she was destined for a life of development work. During her semester abroad in Ghana in 2006, she conducted research on the textile industry there, and the seed for Afia was planted. She was determined to both promote the textiles and connect the skilled seamstresses she found in Ghana to a larger market.
“I wanted to transfer to design school, but my parents said no,” Meghan told me. “I’m glad I didn’t, because it turns out that design is only about 3% of the work.” She learned about fit, pattern-making, and sewing on her own, sans-formal design education.
In March of 2011, Afia raised enough money through crowd-funding to launch the first collection, which was unveiled that May.
The name Afia comes from the Ghanaian name for girls that are born on Friday, as Meghan herself was. I didn’t know this, but throughout the 46 different tribes in Ghana, there are a few variations of baby names for girls and boys according to the days of the week they were born on. Incidentally, Kofi Annan was born on a Friday.
Next up for Afia? Look for some slightly edgier styles on the runway in October at Ghana Fashion Week, sponsored by Vogue Italia!