Whenever the topic of fashion pops up, the first thing that comes to the mind of a budding entrepreneur is hardly footwear. As the Ghanaian fashion industry grows, many young talents are giving other sectors beyond clothes a shot. One of many such people is Afia Agyakoma Bonsu, the creative director of the Afia Agyakoma Footwear brand.
The Afia Agyakoma footwear brand, established in 2018, is a Ghanaian brand that specializes in handmade Macramé footwear.
Led by Afia Agyakoma Bonsu, the brand’s vision is to bridge the gap in the footwear market and create authentic handmade footwear to encourage Ghanaian women to wear and express their confidence with made-in-Ghana footwear.
The brand is known for creating simple, timeless and colourful pieces from stylish slippers to stunning heels for the everyday woman. We have also seen quite a number of celebrities and influencers from the likes of Lydia Forson, Nikki Samonas, Deborah Vanessa, Jackie Appiah, and Y’akoto adorn their feet with the stylish brand.
In an Instagram live chat on Melange Africa, the creative director talks about her journey as a creative entrepreneur and the current Afia Agyakomacollection.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)
MA: Tell us how the Afia Agyakoma brand came about.
Afia: I have always loved fashion and I always dreamt of being a fashion designer. But after senior high school, my mum wanted me to study nursing. After a series of conversations with her, I wasn’t able to convince her so I ended up in nursing school.
Along the line, I said to myself that I must do something fashion-related. If I wasn’t going to do clothes, I’m either doing bags or footwear. I studied Home Economics in Senior High School and in one of the courses which is General Knowledge in Art we were taught macramé, so I already knew the weaving and techniques.
Making a bag can take 6-5 days and I couldn’t do that, so then if I wasn’t going to make clothes or bags, I’m definitely making footwear. And then I started, So I made a few, showed them to my friends and they loved it.
MA: So did you acquire any skills aside from the skills you picked from Senior High School?
Afia: No, it was just the skills I picked up in SHS. Every other thing I learned on the job, from material sourcing to finding shoemakers and running the business. I learn as I go.
MA: Do you recall one of the first designs you created?
Afia: I actually do. It was the Osagyefo Birk slippers. This Birk slipper had a black outline and then colours in between. I remember that design because it’s actually the footwear that actually made people aware of my brand. It’s the first picture I posted on social media and the response was very impressive.
MA: Take us through your creative process when designing.
Afia: If I’m designing a collection, I just have to come up with the name of the collection because once I have the name figured out, every other thing is simple So I’ll find the name first. For example, I did a collection called “Brighter Days”, so the name meant that I was doing bright colours, playful crystals and beads.
Recently we did “The Strong Woman” collection and I decided to do complimentary colors because I was thinking that it would be a design that every woman can wear and pair with any outfit. But if I’m creating a random piece, inspiration comes from anywhere maybe something I saw. It could be anything.
MA: As a footwear designer in Ghana what has the journey been like for you?
Afia: It hasn’t been easy, I won’t even lie. Just like life; it has its ups and downs. There are times that you’d want to give up and there are times that you feel like you are drained of every single thing but I’m grateful for the journey.
MA: Do you think Ghanaians place more value on imported brands than Ghana-made brands?
Afia: We do, but I feel like now it is better. Could we do more? Yes, like we could. But in recent years people are putting more value on made-in-Ghana products. You see people wearing clothes made here, accessories and all of that. Looking at where we are now, I see that the future is bright. We would get there.
MA: What has been your biggest struggle as a designer?
Afia: I have two actually. So one is, finding the right team to work with. In my craft you’d have to pick people and teach them the entire thing, I mean the weaving to everything relating to the craft and sometimes you have someone who will just wake up out of the Blue and they want to stop after you have taught them everything and. That means I will have to pick another person and go through the same process again so that has been a hassle.
And then secondly is finding where to get quality materials to buy. When I started, I had no idea about how to differentiate between quality. S they would actually push something down your throat and tell you that it’s good. You’d come and then you use it and it’s completely different from what they said.
For instance, I bought a leather and used it for production and the leather is bad, which means that you cannot sell it out, so that was a problem. And another thing is the delay in supply. They will give you a period of time and it would take longer than that, which means that production would be delayed.
MA: What do you find most fulfilling about making shoes?
Afia: I think is mostly how the customers feel after they have received them that is what keeps me going. Like sometimes they are super excited and show appreciation for your efforts.
When I see how the designs come out, I tend to be happy because sometimes you just have this imagination of how you wanted things to look like and when they come out, you are like, yeah, that’s just the way I pictured it.
MA: Your current collection, what specifically inspired you?
Afia: The “Strong Woman” collection is a way of telling my story and letting other people know that no matter where you’re coming from, you can always chase your dreams.
If someone were in my shoes they might have given up after they went to nursing training and would feel like there’s no need to do what they love. Even though I’m not doing clothes now, I’m still designing and that gives me so much joy.
Also, I had other women whose stories were similar to mine so I shared their stories to motivate other women. But in general, ‘Strong Woman’ is a collection to inspire women and let them know that there’s nothing that we can’t achieve once we put our minds to it.
MA: How do you find the perfect name for the perfect pair of footwear? And what has been your favourite name so far?
Afia: That is super easy. I named them after family, friends, and customers.
MA: Who is the woman you design for and how would you describe her?
Afia: So I feel like the woman I designed for is me. Not just me, but the woman interested in the things I’m interested in. I really like unique pieces and I always say this, my designs are attention seekers.
I feel like mostly the clothes that we wear are the ones that catch the attention but I make sure that the slippers that I make would also be noticed. People will see you and they will compliment your slippers or your shoes.
MA: Where can we find you?
Afia: So we are on Instagram as @afia_agyakoma and you can find our physical shop in Accra at Dansoman, Asoredanho. Our WhatsApp business link is in our Instagram bio.
Thelma Quainoo is my name, and my pen name is Miss Anowaa. My zodiac sign is Aries, and that alone will tell you I am a bubbly soul. A writer and an aspiring public relations practitioner. Find me on IG as @miss_anowaa. #beyouloveyou