With a passion for art and design from a young age, Ghanaian designer, Akosua Afriyie-Kumi is the proud owner, creator and designer of A A K S. Colourful and charismatic, these African-inspired bags are a bold, vibrant choice to accessorise a confident look.
A A K S is a luxury accessories brand that creates handcrafted quality bags in modern styles whilst maintaining the spirit of Africa through traditional methods of weaving with bright exuberant colours. The design philosophy prioritises attention to detail, authenticity of technique and ethical values to shape a truly unique product. Each collection silhouette tells a different story through detail, colour and shape.
Designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi maintains control over every stage of the design and production process to ensure that the end result is imbued with the spirit and soul worthy of the A A K S stamp. In-between her packed schedule, we had the chance to ask Akosua about her designer range…
Tell us about AAKS – where did it start and how did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in beautiful, sunny Ghana, scribbling in my note pad after school; I had a knack for art, colour and patterns. Coming from a family of five, with siblings that were into Maths and Science, I loved art and this is where my heart laid. This was a sign for me and it was something I knew I had to pursue further in my studies.
I left Ghana for London to expand my knowledge in art and design and also to be around other creative individuals to learn and develop my art. Through studies and a great wealth of experience in London, I established A A K S after seeing a gap in the market for beautifully handcrafted bags.
I knew I had something great to work towards that would explore different areas of art, design and ultimately break the mould of local sourcing and skills in creating a luxury product in Ghana. I wanted to contribute towards the early development of fashion design and textiles in Ghana.
Can you introduce us to the range with a few key pieces?
Our recent collection explores the finite shapes of eight exuberant hand-woven bags that complement and convey a sense of spontaneity. The celebration of the design process embraces an unusual colour combination which brings to life the impeccable craftsmanship of artisanal work in Ghana through unique stylish pieces.
Our key pieces are the Palma Colour Block Crossbody Bag, our Are Tassel Clutch, Manni Colour Block Tote and Sese Bag, which incorporates our classic silhouettes. All our pieces are finished off with vegetable tan leather handles with cotton/linen drawstring inner linings.
What should DECO readers know about Ghanaian hand-crafted art?
All products that are handmade in Ghana use highly labour-intensive methods, which are sometimes overlooked. It takes approximately one week to make one hand-woven bag or five days to weave a hand-spun small cloth.
Tell us more about the weaving techniques that your range champions?
The community that I work with to produce our bags uses a traditional weaving technique that has been passed down through generations in Ghana’s Northern Region to produce the main body of our bags. There are no machines used in the weaving process because the bags are hand-woven by individuals.
The weaving process starts by twisting raw raffia fibres after they have been ecologically harvested. We also dye all our materials and then weave our 3-dimensional shapes all by hand. Our single and double weaving techniques which is also done by hand is what our craft entails and each bag retains an inherent uniqueness.
The colour palette is electric and inherently African – how you achieve such vibrancy?
Colour has always been at the heart of my brand. We draw our seasonal colours and inspirations from photographs and paintings by creating mood boards which depict our key shades for the season. Our colour vibrancy is achieved by mixing many blends of natural colours together in a boiling dye bath.
It also demonstrates how colours are evolving and which colour shades harmonise or result in fascinating contrasts. Our palettes are bold yet sophisticated as they speak softly-exuberance with an unusual finesse.
Who do you imagine your typical customer to be for different products in the range?
My client base is diverse. Most are style-conscious women who care about quality, attention to detail and want something a little unusual than what’s currently being offered and ultimately want to promote products that are made in Africa. Being handcrafted, our bags are certainly a bonus as it means you get a one off design piece. We currently sell in major cities across the world, from New York to London to Johannesburg. So it tells me there is a wide geographical appeal for our products that I’m excited about when designing to meet their needs.
What sets you apart from your market; what is special about AAKS?
We strive on being a transparent, sustainable brand that designs small capsule collections so we can focus on quality and authenticity. All our bags are hand-woven by craftsmen and women using organically-sourced materials. Our weavers are directly paid fair wages. In the long run we hope that our brand will go some way in contributing to the revival and sustenance of weaving as a thriving art.
Which designers inspire you – internationally and from our own rich continent?
Ghana is a country of varied inspirations, colours pop through every street corner of mis-matched paint jobs and architecture. I tend to seek inspiration from everything around me, be it in nature or paintings of fine artists to interior designers. El Anatasui is a favourite from Ghana; his contemporary sculptures resonate with me. Stephen Burke and Alexandra Kehayoglou‘s works also allow me to think creatively in a more contrasting way.
We work hard to source 100% locally made materials for our collection. That is our goal.
Our Fashion Issue is now on shelf – how is AAKS inspired by fashion and the latest trends?
Through reading fashion issues such as ELLE and ELLE Decoration, I am able to harness key market trends and adapt to our emerging consumer needs and position our brand for success.
Sustainable design and practice is important to DECO – how do you work this into your business?
We work hard to source 100% locally made materials for our collection. That is our goal. We are on our way to making this happen. Sustainability is always at the forefront of my mind and should be of concern to all in fashion. We use organic dyes for our dye making processes, we source our raffia which forms 90% of our bags locally; this is an inherent part of our business to help the community and especially farmers. We are constantly attempting to make our workspace environmentally friendly too.
Finally, where can South African DECO readers shop for your beautiful wares?
To name just a few local stores, my bags are currently being stocked in Kisua in Johannesburg and Bread and Bromwell in Cape Town. I also stock my bags in 27 stores across the world; Anthropologie and Oxosi in America, the UK, Canada, Ghana and Kenya. The full list of stockists can be found on our website.
All imagery © A A K S.
If you want to get your hands on your own A A K S designer bag, go to aaksonline.com. Keep up with A A K S by following them on Twitter and Instagram. While you’re at it, you can give their Facebook page a like too.
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