How One Designer Is Raising The Bar For Ethical Fashion

As a young?girl growing up in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana, Akosua Afriyie-Kumi spent a lot of time drawing, scribbling and creating art on paper. Now, as an adult, she?s using her creativity to design beautiful, woven bags through A.A.K.S Handcrafted.

Afriyie-Kumi founded A.A.K.S in 2013 after seeing a need in the market for fashionable, colorful and quality bespoke bags. ?My influences are the fantastic landscapes of African countries and sunshine,” she states. ?Fine artists such as Yinka Shonibare and good fashion photography also inspire my designs.”

The talented designer studied at Kingston University London and earned a BA (hons) in Fashion. The skills she learned in the classroom helped her to think creatively and outside the box. She has been able to apply and express her?artistic understanding of different cultures in her work through research and design. ?It opened my mind about art and design around the world. My design work is individual and stems from strong 3D experimentation”, Afriyie-Kumi concludes. Even as a student she made quite the impression, receiving award nominations, one of which was (and still is) the coveted Zandra Rhodes Textile Award.

In addition to its unique designs, what separates A.A.K.S from other brands is its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. Each piece is made from 100% natural materials, like raffia and leather, and Afriyie-Kumi hires local artisans to bring her ideas to life. ?I want people to know the skill set of great craftsmanship in Ghana and Africa in general,? she said. ?The plan is to have a permanent production base in the northern region of Ghana, in order to provide employment to the local community and ensure weaving as an art and technique can be passed on to younger generations.?

An A.A.K.S design

The A.A.K.S brand continues to grow in global recognition, and has been featured in several fashion and lifestyle magazines, some of which have included: Le Matin Newspaper Switzerland,? Styled by Africa, Nich Luxe Africa Magazine, Blanck Digital, Spice TV?Africa. She has also showcased her bag collections in Milan and London under the platforms IED MODA and Africa Utopia, South Bank Centre.

And who are A.A.K.S?s clients? ?The ideal A.A.K.S client is a young woman who loves to travel, and finds great treasures and mementos around the world; she uses her A.A.K.S bag on the beach and during?her travels or in her day to day life back home.?

Her commitment to her home country, Ghana and giving back comes from her parents. ?My parents are philanthropists?, says Afriyie-Kumi. ?They have helped build schools and funded a lot of underprivileged kids through primary school and university. This has always been part of my upbringing. My parents inspire me a lot!?

While her focus is on hiring local talent, Afriyie-Kumi has a global vision for A.A.K.S. Her dream is for stores all over the world to sell her bags, and as the brand expands, her clothing and print designs as well. ?I want people across the globe to recognize the brand due to my signature style.?

The A.A.K.S will launch in a few months, but right now, you can purchase bags at the Bread and Bromwell in Cape Town and on You may?also contact A.A.K.S by email to request a bespoke bag made just for you.

Image: Steve Morris

Rae Oglesby?is a freelance multimedia journalist and the founder + chief storyteller for?Oglesby Communications Consulting. She can be reached at?