In the vibrant landscapes of Ghana, the significance of basket bags go beyond function—they symbolize generations of stories and heritage. AAKS's founder Akosua Afriyie-Kumi envisioned a unique intersection of tradition and modernity influenced by memories from her youth in order to bring the bag brand to life. "AAKS was born from a childhood steeped in the beauty of Ghanaian basket bags," she recalls, "I had a desire for these bags to be softer, foldable, and adorned with contemporary colors and detailing."
Navigating life between two different continents, she carved a unique space for AAKS in the fashion landscape. "My experiences in the UK and Ghana have deeply influenced my entrepreneurial perspective. In the UK, I honed my understanding of modern aesthetics and design, while in Ghana, I embraced traditional techniques and the essence of slow fashion," she shares. It's evident that her rich experiences have developed a fusion of influences that have shaped the brand’s design philosophy.
Sustainability stands as a cornerstone for Afriyie-Kumi. Beyond mere environmental considerations, it ties into the very fabric of the brand's ethical stance. "AAKS ensures sustainability by sourcing organic, eco-friendly materials for our bags. We collaborate closely with skilled artisans who use traditional weaving techniques, fostering local craftsmanship and fair wages," she explains. Their approach isn't just about producing the right materials—it's a broader vision of practices that engages both the community and the environment.
It's clear that AAKS stands for more than just fashion; it embodies a commitment to transparency and resonating a purposeful message. "We communicate sustainability's importance by openly sharing our ethical practices, emphasizing fair wages, eco-friendly materials, and preserving traditional craftsmanship," she shares, conveying the depth of the brand's mission.
The collaboration with Malian refugees in Burkina Faso remains a defining chapter in their narrative. It began as an initiative to uplift and recognize the talents of marginalized artisans and preserve tradition “Witnessing the resilience and skill of these artisans in the face of adversity sparked the idea to create a meaningful partnership that would not only provide economic opportunities but also celebrate their talent through AAKS products,” she recounts. The partnership led to 3 handwoven unique lampshades using cotton threads, straw and bronze metal–all locally sourced and finished in Burkina Faso.
When asked about where she draws her inspiration, her answer speaks volumes of her connection to her roots and surroundings. "I find inspiration in the world around me, drawing from nature, photography, and the diverse people and cultures I encounter during my travels across Africa and Europe," she elaborates. On the topic of milestones, she reminisces about the partnership with renowned U.S. retailer Anthropologie early in the journey. "The team contacted me to sell my first collection of bags in their stores just 4 months after launching AAKS." This achievement served as a significant affirmation for Afriyie-Kumi, underscoring her brand's promising direction.
A blend of function and tradition, the Baw Pot bags emerge as her favorite, "Our signature design is our Baw Pot bags. It is inspired by African traditions and the notion of using clay pots for cooking in homes all across Africa. With our recent design the Baw Pot Wavy I normally style it with either denim jeans, a colorful print top, white shirt or a summer dress."
Looking ahead, she hints at her next project which highlights another Ghanaian tradition–Kente Fabrics. These fabrics originate from Kumasi, the birthplace of the Afriyie-Kumi. They also include intricate designs and vivid hues that bear profound meanings, frequently representing diverse facets of life and tradition. “I would love to explore incorporating Kente Fabrics techniques into our designs to celebrate this cherished tradition and bring its beauty to a wider audience, just as we have done with Ghanaian baskets.”
Her journey has been one of introspection and growth. Leaving us with a nugget of wisdom, she advises, "I would tell my younger self to embrace the power of beginning and not get too caught up in the planning stages."