Who’s HauTe: Interview with Adjoa Osei of Adjoa Osei
A label described as ‘experimentally classic’, Adjoa Osei has given a fresh take on fashion and possible a key piece to what African fashion needs… quality prêt-à-porter brands. Releasing a preview of its Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, with the eight-piece limited edition capsule collection ‘Adapt’, has caused the stir needed to plunge deep into the colourful world of African fashion. Season by season, trend by trend, the designer has invited us to join her in this creative dialogue.
HFA: Amidst the all online banter and buzz about your label, we want to know more about you the designer.
Adjoa: I’m a 26 year old Londoner with an academic background in Political Sociology but I’ve always been someone explored all my interests. Over the past two years I’ve been gaining experience in the fashion industry, working solely behind the scenes. I’ve done some styling for photo shoots and fashion shows, PR and branding.
HFA: Do you have a background in fashion and did you always know fashion as something you wanted to venture into?
Adjoa: I have gained practical hands on experience in the fashion industry which I’ve further reinforced with short courses in fashion illustration and pattern cutting in order to be able to effectively communicate my design ideas to the people that I work with. I can’t and won’t say that fashion is always something that I’ve wanted to venture into but an opportunity arose two years ago to get more involved in the industry and I took it. The aim was, and still is, to learn as much about the industry as possible – everything from buying and pattern cutting to the even more important business side of the fashion industry.
HFA: Any fashion designers you admire and would like to work with?
Adjoa: There are many designers – both established and emerging – whose work I admire, it would be too much of a disservice to name only a few. Right now I’m focused on putting together a strong team of ‘creatives’ from other aspects of the fashion industry so that I can concentrate exclusively on designing, craving out my niche in the industry and growing the business.
HFA: How did you get into fashion designing?
Adjoa: It has been very much a slow and subtle journey. It’s perhaps only now that I look back in hindsight that I can perhaps outline a vague journey. I did Art GCSE but I knew that I didn’t want to go to Art School at that stage yet I appreciated and marveled at taking, sometimes, no more than a single word and developing it into a brief and then an idea and then into a piece of art. Then there was the clothes customization for myself and friends mostly for annual events – the insides of the clothes looked hideous but the overall visual aesthetic was good – as well as the generally creativity; I played instruments and cut hair as a teenager. In many ways that creative aspect stayed with me but nothing moved past the ‘sketches in biro pen’ stage until early this year.
HFA: What do you love most about having your own fashion label?
Adjoa: The creative freedom that it brings.
HFA: You recently released the ‘Adapt’ capsule collection, a prelude to your Autumn/Winter 2011 collection. With all the coverage the brand is receiving, do you feel pressured on delivering a phenomenal collection?
Adjoa: I don’t feel any more pressure now than I did before this collection. The twelve weeks from incorporating the business to releasing my first capsule collection Adapt were extremely pressurized but most of that was internal pressure. I am very critical of my own work and I do put a lot of pressure on myself to get things right. I do have a deadline that I’m working towards for the release of the next collection but I won’t release it even a day before I think it’s ready.
HFA: You’ve described the label as ‘experimentally classic’, what would you say inspired the aesthetic behind the brand?
Adjoa: The brand is a projection and embodiment of my personal style. Being ‘Experimentally Classic’ in style means this brand is aimed at anyone who appreciates well-placed accents of colour and detail without compromising on their simple, clean lined staples.
HFA: We remember seeing you at the Fashion Mist event earlier in the year. Was that you first show and what did you gain from the experience?
Adjoa: Yes I was at Fashion Mist and that was my first time participating in a fashion show. It was a very nerve wracking but positive experience. I worked on the model formation/choreography; bringing the models on in two’s and three’s as opposed to just singles like the other designers. Head to toe styling in conjunction with Sarah Alexis Amarteifio; a stylist that I still work with – the brief for the styling was colour blocking, which was very on trend at the time. Runway music and model selection; I wanted people to sit up and take notice, choosing very upbeat hip life music as we were quite near the end of a fairly long show. I really enjoyed the experience and it was very well organised particularly as it was the first show of its kind. Credit goes to Sheila Boateng, the organiser and Founder of Fashion Mist.
HFA: What should we expect from you Autumn/Winter 2011 collection?
Adjoa: Plans for the next collection are well underway but there are a number of key business structures that I want to implement before I release the next collection. I’m happy to share that the next collection will be called ‘Modify’ and that will be elements of continuation as well as clear departures. However the ethos that underpins the brand will remain the same; simple classic shapes with well placed accents of colour and detailing. People can keep up to date with the brand via twitter @Adjoaosei and Facebook. As always I’ll be hosting a focus group before the release of the collection where people can come along and input on design.
HFA: Will we be seeing you on any other runways in the near future?
Adjoa: It would be great to do a few more fashion shows before the year is out. They are a great way to showcase the collection differently – whether it be different accessories, different separates or a different colour palette. I want to show people how versatile print and furthermore my collections are.
HFA: Where do you see your label in the next five years?
Adjoa: Hopefully bigger and better.
HFA: Online shopping and African designers has been a big topic here at HFA and we’d like to get a designer’s thoughts on this means of getting their products across to consumers. What do you reckon as the reason most African designers haven’t taken advantage of this platform if they plan to be international labels? Where are you stocked?
Adjoa: In regards to my own brand, on the website currently, people are able to click on the collection, zoom in to a full screen format and in turn place orders through email and pay through Paypal so technically people can view and place orders anywhere in the world. However, I am planning to set up an online store before the release of my second capsule collection, I think in this day and age people want to ‘see it, click it, buy it’.
There is, of course, still a place for physical stockists as there will always to be people who prefer to see and touch items before buying on. So this is very much on my ‘to do list’ but until then people interested in the brand can make purchases directly through the website at firstname.lastname@example.org and continue to check back for updates on physical stockists.
HFA: Any tips for HauTe Fashion Africa readers?
Adjoa: My tips for people wanting to get into fashion would be as follows; be determined, don’t expect everyone to get or like your concept. Take advice but ultimately you have to be happy with the decisions you make.
– Andie Okon