In this ESSENCE Fashion House discussion, journalist Nana Agyemang who is also the Chief Executive Officer of EveryStylishGirl, assembled a diverse panel of African designers, fashion experts, and entrepreneurs. The Ecosystem of African Fashion included CEO of wholesale platform The Folklore, Amira Rasool, Barkue Tubman, Chief of Staff and Diasporic Engagement at Essence Ventures, and founder and creative director of fashion brand Chocolate, Kwaku Bediako.
Throughout this conversation, they each underscored the interconnectedness of Africa within the global fashion industry.
“Part of my responsibility at ESSENCE Ventures, and just really in my life – and I think that’s why this all works for me – is I feel like it’s so important that we connect,” Tubman said. “With each other, for everything. I think we know our influence in fashion and one of the things we hope to do and will continue at Essence Ventures is to connect the disconnected. Diaspora and fashion, entertainment, culture, and economic inclusion are some of the pillars that we’re going to use to do that. I’m a huge fan of African luxury because I feel like Africa is luxury.”
Bediako highlighted how imperative it is to not only connect Africa with different cultures around the world, but to also connect different cultures within Africa. In fact, Caroline Wanga, who moderated We’ve Been Here Before: 50 Years of Hip-Hop Fashion, was wearing a custom Chocolate during the conversation. The piece was filled with bright colors and various textures. Bediako is also celebrating Chocolate’s 10th anniversary while Rasool celebrates the fifth anniversary of The Folklore.
Rasool plays a pivotal role in raising the profiles of diverse brands by securing placements with retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks, and Bloomingdale’s.
“They always ask me the most difficult part of running this business, and no offense, it’s working with the brands,” Rasool said. “Y’all are creative, so y’all are sensitive about your business. It’s also the most rewarding part and what actually inspired me to start The Folklore is when I took a trip to South Africa. I’d never been there before, I was in undergrad, and I just fell in love with the town that I was in. I’ve been in the fashion industry for a while. I was in the media originally, knew all of the European and American brands, but didn’t know anything about the brands I was discovering in South Africa.”
Although Basool and Bediako have different careers and passions, Tubman emphasized that their respective efforts significantly influence African culture and success.