An African Minute: Sustainable Fashion From Ghana

Making headlines in sustainable fashion, AFIA is an award-winning clothing line for women produced entirely in Ghana. We spend an “African Minute” with AFIA’s President and Designer, Meghan Sebold

1. What prompted you to make use of West African traditional textiles in Ghana?

I fell in love with the textiles when I was abroad there. The vibrancy blows your mind. I love having the shop owners explain the symbolism in the fabric and what different colors are worn for. The textile companies are constantly printing new designs, so the options are never-ending. Every time I return to Ghana it's a whole new game. Fabric shopping is the best part of the whole process; I get very giddy.

2. The fusion between western trends and African fabric has become something of a global craze. How important is it for AFIA to maintain the cultural significance of the fabrics that you use?

Very important. We only use authentic Ghanaian textiles as foreign textile companies are imitating the prints, smuggling them into the country, and selling them for cheaper prices on the market. It's crippling Ghana's iconic textile industry. We know the authentic brands very well, and support the industry by fusing the authentic textiles with american styles and showcasing them in our market. The textiles are the main event in our designs.

3. How have you dealt with the "hippy" factor that is often associated with sustainable fashion?

I actually haven't really had to. AFIA gets press coverage from mainstream outlets such as Refinery29 and NBC's The Thread, and the outlets specific to sustainable design who have covered us are all very fashion forward. It's a very exciting time for sustainable fashion in New York because all the designers are cutting edge and have no remnants of a granola aesthetic. We collectively show that sourcing and producing ethically can be standard procedure and isn't a compromise of personal style.

4. You've described AFIA as a 'smart business initiative not a charity project'.  Why are you clear about NOT being a charity?

There's a place for everything and that includes charity, of course, but I believe business is more effective in building long-term lasting development. We call ourselves a sustainable business not just because we have a sustainable product, but because we work to build a company that can support itself and not continuously be looking for outside funding.

5. How has being a 'social business' impacted positively on local Ghanaian communities?

I believe going into business with someone is the most respectful way to honor someone's skills and support a foundation for economic growth. I hold the women at the cooperative to high quality standards and that's an act of respect. We are on the ground and engage as many Ghanaian craftsman as possible for various projects - sample sewing, pattern making, and accessories that include our beloved fanny pack, garment bags, bangles. And we pay significantly more than what they would make in the local market.

AFIA’s latest collection is available on their website or alternatively, visit their Twitter and Facebook pages for more info.

Check out more OKA’s African Minute interviewees- folks whose work reflects a new perspective of Africa:

Congolese superstar rapper Hugo Million

South African fashion designer Gareth Cowden

Nigerian songstress Zara Gretti

Zimbabwean celebrity hair and make up stylist Jackie Mgido

Kenyan comic artist Chief Nyamweya

Rwanda's fashion designer House of Tayo

Oli Benet and Senegalese skaters

Zimbabwean self-taught illustrator/activist Sindiso Nyoni

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