Clothing creates connections. When you buy – or sell – a piece of clothing, it’s just the beginning of the journey.
The world features myriad connections. Some of them are common, others hardly imaginable. Maakola is committed to making and noticing these connections: the links between the heritage of the fabrics we use, the artisans who work with them and the people who wear them; between the name of a garment and the pattern or technique used to produce it; between your individual style and the silhouette of the piece we created for you. Every connection matters, and when they are strong enough, we can use them to build communities that change the usual way of doing things.
The design process
When I founded Maakola, I didn’t have any formal fashion design training. Instead, I had a background as a social entrepreneur. So for me, it was never just about designing a product – the aesthetics, silhouettes, colours, prints and techniques that make up a garment. Instead, I saw fashion as a tool to explore different social and cultural systems looking to the past and future, and founded Maakola to challenge the concept of beauty.
While Maakola has always put ethical production and sustainability front and center – an ethos we call ‘conscious beauty’ – I didn’t realize that setting my intention into the cloth was just the beginning of the process. It is when a customer buys, and wears a piece that it truly comes to life.
Through the eyes of my customers and tailors, I learned that my creations were bigger than the sum of their parts. When a piece of Maakola clothing is worn, and exposed to other people, it becomes a device that can be seen as a living organism. My designs are animated, shaped and kept alive by every person that touches them. The not-knowing – how people will react, how they will feel and how their garment will influence their life – has become the most magical part of my practice.
A life of its own
Clothes, like fibers, can build threads that we can wear or we can build. In my TEDx ‘Threads of Freedom’ I shared some of the unpredictable journeys of my garments: journeys that take us from colonial rule to a powerful symbol of African identity; from the women who created the Wax Print industry in West Africa to a performance honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Every piece of Maakola clothing is a web of connections. My designs link the pioneering saleswomen of Accra whose stories brought Wax Print fabrics to life; the stories that continue to inspire new patterns today; the tailors who create our pieces; and the women who add their own meaning to them when they wear them.
A piece of clothing has the potential to link the consumer to the past as well as the future, fostering an awareness of where we come from as well as where we are going. The interconnected world that we live in gives us the opportunity to use data to value the unseen victories that came before us, and choose to champion those lineages of freedom.
Through a garment, we can develop an intimate relationship between object and customer, influencing individual thinking but at the same time shaping the global social and economic landscape. How can we use the objects that enter our closets and cover our bodies to connect us to the whole and build a global consciousness?
Whether it is with a vote, a purchase, a smile to a stranger, a social media post, or a business, our acts have the power to set a new trajectory of freedom that can be continued by other people, to cross generations and continents, to turn threads of fear into freedom.
This is what drives my creation process. I believe that what you wear has the potential to build communities, connect networks, strengthen cultures and create something bigger than the sum of its parts – becoming something entirely new that I could never have imagined.