The sixth episode of the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s Ethical Fashion Podcast airs today, April 29th. This episode, ‘Studio 189’s Abrima Erwiah on Fashion Artisanship and Made-in-Africa’, dips into the vast topic of launching a business with purpose featuring guest host American stylist and creative director Alexander-Julian Gibbson and Studio 189’s co-founder, Abrima Erwiah.
Studio 189 is an Accra-based fashion social enterprise that promotes and curates African fashion and a longtime friend of the EFI. Erwiah, who is Ghanaian Ivorian, is the co-founder and president of the enterprise. In partnership with EFI, they’ve produced numerous stunning, sustainable collections over the years.
“I discovered EFI through a friend who was doing some work with them. They had a call for designers back in 2013-2014 that I responded to and got accepted… What they were trying to do was connect the dots and help build a local fashion industry but also build a product, and at the same time build the market. It was really consistent with what I was trying to do: work with marginalized communities.” says Erwiah.
When speaking on her most recent Spring/Summer show in 2020 prior to the start of the pandemic, Erwiah mentions: “We made a collection. We called it ‘Heritage’. We wanted to really talk about our heritage and what we stand for and what we believe in, including the symbols. When you start to look at some of the symbolism that traveled to the US through slavery and through other mechanisms, you actually find a lot of these symbols but I don’t think we always talk about the connection between storytelling… it’s important to pay respect to where things come from.”
Alongside Gibbson, she paints a picture of what it means to be guided by intention and intuition in the world of business. The conversation explores the challenges and benefits- the highs and lows- of local production, as well as the beautiful satisfaction of knowing who made each garment and the story behind each process.
Simone Cipriani (Founder and Head of the Ethical Fashion Initiative “EFI”) and Clare Press (Sustainable Journalist and Writer), return to host the second series of the Ethical Fashion podcast, first launched in June 2020 to champion the power of discussion and explore the issues driving the ethical fashion conversation. The new series focuses on African stories in light of the EFI’s work on “creating jobs and regenerating the social capital in some of the most challenging environments, which is something we started doing in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2018” says Cipriani.
About the Ethical Fashion Initiative
EFI is a flagship program of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. For the Ethical Fashion Initiative, lifestyle choices impact livelihoods. EFI creates and strengthens social enterprises in emerging economies to connect discerning international brands in fashion, interiors, and fine foods with talented local designers, artisans, and micro-producers. Savvy investors, pro-poor champions, and mindful consumers find value in a virtuous circle that creates not just premium products, but also stable, dignified work, and creative and resilient women, men, and communities.
The EFI’s Identity Building and Business Sharing Initiative showcases creativity and talent in fashion and beyond, in an effort to strengthen the cultural sectors including art, photography, cinema, and music. Operational in seven dynamic new countries — Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Mali, Uganda, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan — this chapter of EFI works in hand with leaders from the private sector to generate trade and more importantly, social capital.
This EFI Identity Building and Business Sharing Initiative is funded by the EU.