Six years ago, Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, traded her life in Ghana for the pursuit of fashion in London. This “fashion super woman” has always had an affinity for drawing, which inspired her to harness her skills at Oxford Brookes University. Through her foundation degree, her love for fashion grew and she majored in it before completing her BA Honours in Fashion at Kingston University. Akosua’s work (graduate collection) has been featured in and she is currently working with up and coming designer William Tempest. one small seed recently caught up with her to discuss the fusion of her old roots with new beginnings.






one small seed: Many would say that where you are now is quite a stark contrast – in many ways – to living in Ghana. How have you managed to integrate the London fashion scene with your traditional African roots?

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi: If you ask any of my friends in the UK they will tell you how much I love Ghana. I have practically educated my whole university and work colleagues about the wonders of Africa and to feel more at home about where I come from. I marry the two together by not ever forgetting where my origin, always including a little part of where I come from in my work. Thus having bright colours in my work is something I tend to do mostly. When I think of Africa, I think ‘happy and bright’ – so that is portrayed a lot in my work.


Talk to us about your style; where do you draw your influence from and what makes you work unique?

When I am starting research for a collection I have a few key words or ideas in my head. It’s mostly fun, thoughtful and bright. I am a happy person and try to bring that through in my art.  I am very relaxed and love technology so anything to do with the sciences or something ‘out of this world’ you would see me looking closely and wanting to adapt it somehow in my work. I love looking at works of new designers too it a bit of a motivation for me to do well. Hence using Yinka Shonibare in my last collection was to ‘come back to earth’ as most would say. I wanted to connect with something I was familiar with and using a fine artist from Africa was a key solution.


The perception of Made in Africa garments overseas. What is it now and will it change?

I feel Africa is a slow developing continent and things will change slowly but surely in the near future. Great things are coming from us now and I am happy to be a contributing hand so I think it will change soon.


We’re beginning to see some young talent coming out of UK; Gareth Pugh, William Tempest, Christopher Kane, these are potentially some names we might see dominate the scene in the future. What’s the feeling for somebody who just graduated from fashion school? Is it more ‘get experience’ or ‘start my own thing’?

I think gaining experience is key but sometimes others are very level headed and go out and make it. My up bringing is to gain as much knowledge through experience and put it into something of your own and make it work but if that something doesn’t work out your experience is always there to get you something else.


What can we expect to see from you in the near future? A London Fashion Week appearance maybe (solo)?

I am hoping to gain as much experience and contacts by working with William Tempest and hopefully in the future set up my own company in Ghana. I am hoping to do charity work as well. It’s a thought I have always had and I feel if the money goes to my home country that would be amazing, so I want to set up workshops where children can come in and learn a trade like sewing, pattern cutting or designing and hopefully get employed by myself or someone else in the fashion business but they leave with a skill in hand which they can fall back on in the future.


To our designers here in South Africa and across the African continent, what can they do to give themselves as much exposure as possible without compromising their art form?

Designers should explore more on traditional art and have a great, modern take on it. A great example will be the African print; it’s widely used by a lot of designers in Africa and around the world but some designers have taken a modern take on it which is proving very popular. Jewel by Lisa has emblemised the African fabric, Suno has made great digital prints out of them and I think this is the way forward. Take traditional values and create something exciting out of it to appeal to greater, modern audiences out there but still keeping in mind not to compromise entirely on traditional values.


Interview by: Tebogo Mohlahlana, originally published on in March 2011.

Photographs courtesy of: Lucy Davenport