Christie Brown is a Ghanaian based luxury women’s clothing/fashion brand with a chief goal of satisfying and delighting “that modern woman who seeks a true and unique taste of Africa“. The label found in 2008 has come a long way since launch, a lot of it’s pieces have been featured in international magazines and the likes. CEO and Creative Director of Christie Brown; Aisha Obuobi, an award winning designer and Psychology graduate sits with HauTe to have a chat with us about the label in general, the refreshed collection, it’s recent collaboration with Temple Muse in Nigeria and what’s to come from Christie Brown.
HauTeFashionAfrica: Tell us how it all started!! From growing up in Ghana to doing a major in Psychology now making waves in the African fashion industry – have Aisha always known she was going to go into Fashion or at what point did she determine to go into fashion?
Aisha Obuobi: Aisha’s grandmother was a seamstress so, from her youth, she was surrounded by pieces of rich, vibrant African prints and quickly learnt to appreciate the wonders of elegant design. She would watch her grandmother huddled over a sewing machine, and she reveled in toying with scraps of African print, which she used to create looks for her favourite dolls. When she was slightly older, she would save old clothes and alter them in funky, unique ways to update and personalize her wardrobe; friends would often compliment the work she’d done so she gradually gained confidence in transforming her ideas into wearable pieces.
Christie Brown was launched in 2008. Aisha felt that, at the time, people didn’t experiment much with African prints in Accra; the material was mostly used in very traditional ways and she knew that she could think of more interesting, modern designs in which to incorporate the gorgeous prints. She wanted people to be re-inspired by African prints; she wanted to cultivate fresh appeal for them.
HFA: How far has the brand –Christie Brown– come?
AO: The label has come a long way! The international appeal and success of the Christie Brown brand has been acknowledged in a number of magazine features, both on the African continent and abroad. Christie Brown designs have featured in internationally renowned magazines, such as ‘Grazia (UK)‘, Italian ‘Marie Claire’, Canoe 53 Sails, Destiny (SA), and ‘Arise‘. Aisha was invited to show Christie Brown pieces at the George V hotel, Paris, as part of ‘Arise L’Afrique-a-porter’ – a fashion exhibition at which only nine other African designers were invited to present. The growing success of the brand was further recognized when Aisha was invited to sit on a panel at the African Economic Forum, which took place at Columbia University, New York. Marie Claire (international) featured Aisha this year as one of twenty-one “Daring Women of 2010″, noting the “the energy, the courage, the creativity,” and “the drive” behind her work. Christie Brown was also invited to feature in the Africa Fashion Week, in Johannesburg, last year and the year before (2009), when Aisha was celebrated as ‘The Emerging Designer of the Year’ with an award we are incredibly proud of. It’s been a truly fulfilling experience to watch the label blossom so far and I am confident there is so much more to come!
HFA: Where did the Inspiration for the name of the label come from?
AO: Aisha decided to call the brand Christie Brown, after her grandmother, because her grandmother first ignited her love for fashion. Christie Brown was a fantastic seamstress but Aisha always felt she never received the full recognition that she deserved, for all her skill and creativity.
The brand name is Aisha’s way of dedicating her work to her grandmother and applauding her accomplishments.
HFA: What’s the aesthetic of this label?
AO: We always say, “there is great beauty in simplicity”. At Christie Brown, we appreciate the elegance and grace of effortless, classic style and design; we seek to celebrate these elements. We often incorporate unique accents, such as the African print buttons, and always toy with the vibrancy and boldness of the African print patterns. We believe in creating wearable designs that make our clients feel glamorous, sophisticated, confident, and distinct.
HFA: Describe ‘The Christie Brown’ woman in one sentence
AO: Well…I’d like to say it’s difficult to describe the Christie Brown woman in one sentence – certainly in one short one! There’s a lot to “The Christie Brown woman”; she has real depth.
She is a woman who likes to look effortless, modern, and chic; she embraces that which is unique and realizes the importance of superior quality and gorgeous design. She is confident and daring, and looks to develop her own individual sense of style, while always remaining conscious of sophistication and classic elegance.
HFA: What gives ‘The Christie Brown’ woman the Va-Va-Voom effect that she doesn’t get from wearing other pieces?
AO: It’s all about the way a client feels when she steps into a Christie Brown piece – the fact that the passion we have for exquisite design is reflected by each Christie Brown item. When a woman puts on Christie Brown, I like to think there’s a transformation that occurs…she taps into the world of the brand – one of timeless glamour, class, beauty, and sophistication.
HFA: On a general scale, looking at your designs they are very colourful pieces and very rich in texture; Where and How do you draw inspiration for designing these pieces?
AO: At Christie Brown, we firmly believe that inspiration can spring from any source: photographs, art, furniture, something on a TV screen, a description in an enthralling novel. I enjoy exploring the intricacy and splendor of nature. Often, Aisha’ll walk through a bustling market and be inspired by the people she sees – by the way a woman has tied her headscarf, by the patterns on another’s skirt, by the colours of the various materials on display…
HFA: Do you see Christie Brown successfully penetrating the Fashion Industry in a couple of years and taking over? Why makes this task appear possible? What are the long terms goals for this brand?
AO: Absolutely – I do! Primarily because, at Christie Brown, we have a clear set of long term goals and a concrete strategy for expansion of the business. Already, the company is growing at a fast pace. We’ve trained and retained more expert craftsmen; after two years of success in Ghana, the brand has penetrated the Nigerian market (with me as a Nigerian-based partner, completely dedicated to driving the brand forward). We are now stocked exclusively at luxury boutique, Temple Muse, and we currently have deals in the works to stock the brand at a series of exclusive boutiques in Holland and to begin sale of our accessories line in the US.
Things are extremely promising and I’m confident that, with the loyalty of our amazing clients and the support of Christie Brown fans across the globe, including great sites like ‘haute fashion africa’, the brand will only flourish!
HFA: Possibility of a Men’s Wear line in the future?
AO: Yes! We’ve recently discussed how great it could be to do a men’s wear line; we would love to cater to the fashionable males out there eventually. For now, though, there is so much more we’d like to do with the women’s wear line that we feel it’s important to give it our full attention and to focus on satisfying and delighting our rapidly growing clientele base.
HFA: Excellent!! Now that we’ve spoken a bit about the brand, tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Aisha Obuobi?
AO: Aisha Obuobi is a woman who feels truly blessed to be doing something that she adores – to have the opportunity to enhance the beauty in all her clients and to explore the fruits of her creativity.
HFA: How do you combine a Psychology degree and Fashion designing effectively?
AO: My psych background comes in so handy especially when dealing with clients on bespoke pieces where I have to judge within such a short period, a design that not only looks good but also agrees with the person’s personality. We want the client to wear the piece and not the piece wearing her.
HFA: You have had the opportunity to showcase your designs at two different Arise African Fashion events, and won an award at one of them for ‘Emerging Designer of the year’; How much work went into preparing for both fashion shows and how was winning that award influenced your drive as a designer?
AO: Lots! I always put a lot of myself into my designs because I’m truly passionate about what I do. I go over each detail of my creations to ensure that every stitch, every colourful embellishment is finished off to our high standards. Quality is crucial to us at Christie Brown. Winning the award for ‘Emerging Designer of the Year’ was a fantastic moment for me and it gave me a huge boost of confidence moving forward. It’s great to know that my work is appreciated by the fashion community; I’m humbled by the honour.
HFA: How would you describe your personal style?
AO: I’d label my style “effortlessly chic”.
HFA: Do you see a reflection of your personal style when designing?
AO: I’d definitely say that my personal style is evident in the pieces I create… And that’s because I believe the Christie Brown woman should look chic and stylish without looking like she’s trying too hard!
HFA: What do you enjoy most about Fashion Designing?
AO : I love the rush that I get when I discover a stylish, innovative way to use a beautiful piece of fabric and the satisfaction of having the ideas in my head transformed into physical pieces that our clients can wear. Ultimately, I love to make people feel beautiful and glamorous and to make the most of my God-given talents!
HFA: Any further projects, fashion shows, collections, events you want us to know about?
AO: Well…We launched a refresh to our recent collection at Temple Muse, at the beginning of February, over Temple’s Muse’s Valentine’s event. The latest Christie Brown pieces can always be purchased exclusively at Temple Muse boutique (No. 8 Sanusi Fafunwa, Victoria Island). We’ll be updating our online collection, which can be purchased at ‘myasho.com’.
We’ll also be featuring in a number of fabulous, Nigerian publications over the next few months so please do look out for Christie Brown in magazines such as Genevieve and TW.
Beyond this, we’ll be looking ahead…filled with thoughts of fashion weeks!
HFA: Thanks for your time!
‘An afromantic daydream’ – The Collection:
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