May 16, 2022

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Forget Mediocre Fashion

This Oakland clothing designer sources textiles from Africa


East Oakland’s Akintunde “Tunde” Ahmad experienced extended required to stop by the African continent and reconnect with his ancestry. When he arrived at the College of Ghana in Accra in 2016, having a semester off from Yale to analyze overseas, he was captivated by anything about the bustling city.

“I was privileged to be equipped to go for an complete semester and have a further and more time connection out there, discovering African background from an African point of view, rather than Eurocentric or American viewpoint,” he mentioned. “I was ready to dispel a whole lot of myths and stereotypes that are damaging, overwhelmingly, and put into our heads about the continent.”

1 of the most amazing revelations to Ahmad was how prosperous Ghana’s manner industry is—but not in the rapidly-fashion, mass-developed way we’re accustomed to in The usa. In Accra, you are going to see a large amount of men and women in wholly customized outfits, instead than a little something you’d locate at a chain retail outlet. 

The purpose: It is incredibly effortless to entry reasonably priced tailors, alongside with limitless special materials, from bògòlanfini (ordinarily dyed with fermented mud) to woven kente (a handwoven cloth with strips of silk and cotton).

“Even every dorm on campus experienced a tailor,” he said. Ahmad started out getting clothes designed and checking out distinctive cloth marketplaces. “The tailors get your measurements and can make different tailor made pieces.” 

These ordeals laid the groundwork for what is now Ahmad’s prosperous clothing brand name in Oakland, named Ade Dehye, which makes use of personalized West African textiles sourced immediately from Ghana to develop city streetwear models. It is all operated less than an moral business product that aims to regard, somewhat than exploit, African society and personnel.

“It was a pretty normal progression,” he reported. “I under no circumstances actually experienced a enormous desire in trend. But as soon as you actually get to attempt stuff and see how it seems on your self, that is how I caught the style bug.”

Now, his 100{3ae88c78d3f6f8bc436868fe273522078aae1e2f6819c366687ed737ea0e8730} Black-owned and operated brand works with a dozen tailors in Accra to develop all around 250-300 items at a time. Ade Dehye is acknowledged for its fusion of intricate prints stylized as streetwear, bomber jackets, lined trench coats, and two-piece outfits that you can mix and match. The pieces are then transported to Oakland and offered on the web or by way of pop-ups. The timeframe from Ahmad picking the materials and patterns to obtaining the clothes can take anywhere concerning 10 months to 5 months.

“There requirements to be much more expenditure in Ghana, in the continent as a complete,” Ahmad mentioned. “And not just in the outfits industry, but in industrializing the country as a entire, and finding West Africa far more up to velocity and competitive with the relaxation of the world in every single sector.”

Despite the fact that Ahmad wasn’t always interested in vogue, he was acquainted with West African textiles. His mother frequently wears clothes manufactured out of West African prints, so Ahmad was exposed early on to textiles like Kente fabric, Ankara, and mud cloths. “I was no stranger to these fabrics. But I’d never been capable to get things tailor-made to me,” he stated. 

Akintunde Ahmad wearing a two-piece outfit component of the collection. Credit score: Amir Aziz

Ahmad’s path to fashion wasn’t generally very clear, but he normally experienced a goal to make a change. When he graduated from Oakland Tech High Faculty in 2014 he was praised on nationwide television for his achievement as a senior who was acknowledged into some of the most elite Ivy League universities. Ahmad acquired his bachelor’s in sociology from Yale in 2018, and his master’s in journalism and documentary film from Columbia Journalism School in 2019.

“I acquired a lot of interest for [my college acceptances], and I constantly required to return the favor to appear full circle and really get into instruction,” he mentioned of his goal to return house and pay back it forward like he viewed his mother do as becoming an educator with the Oakland Unified University District for three many years. 

While he preferred to make his way property inevitably, he determined to keep in New York to do the job as a journalist and filmmaker in Harlem just after graduating from Columbia. But when COVID-19 hit, he and his lover, Elena, traveled back dwelling to Oakland for what was intended to be no extra than a 10-working day shelter in area. They in the long run canceled their return flight to New York and stayed in the Bay Space. 

When he arrived household, he got the prospect to instruct at OUSD’s African American Male Achievement application, designed to increase educational and existence results for male students. At the identical time, he took portion in the prestigious Ida B. Wells fellowship in investigative reporting. When Ahmad was forging a budding journalism career, he never ever stopped pondering about the time he put in in Ghana. He commenced dreaming up making a 100 percent Black-owned brand name solely sourced and produced out of Ghana. 

Having no trend awareness other than what he discovered throughout his time abroad as a higher education student, he attained out to the men and women in the fashion market he experienced achieved throughout his keep back again in 2016. One particular of them was local Ghana style designer Awurama Mankatah, proprietor of the Threaded Tribes garments manufacturer. 

So significantly, Ahmad has self-funded the whole venture, and cash produced from pieces sold is reinvested into the brand name. 

Since tailors in Ghana specialize in building a minimal number of customized-designed pieces at a time, a person of the biggest problems was recruiting them to be concerned. He leaned on Mankatah for direction on obtaining the right tailors, as perfectly as finding out how extensive selected handmade materials get to make, and the various styles of stitching and styles. The around dozen tailors that function for Mankatah also get the job done for Ahmad, and the total production operates out of Accra.

For the most portion, Ahmad has worked remotely to deliver his vision to lifetime, but he was ready to journey to Ghana this earlier February.

From the beginning, Ahmad wished to make sure his brand name assisted the African personnel he partnered with monetarily and did not grow to be an exploitative supply as is the circumstance in so lots of industries working on the continent. Cacao is 1 of the most clear illustrations of how Western nations consider benefit of West Africa’s purely natural resources with small gain to locals. While Ghana is now one particular of the greatest exporters of cacao, Western Europe and the United States have the optimum range of chocolate suppliers reaping income. 

“You see all of these individuals from other places coming in and working matters, and you comprehend this is a uncooked resource seize,” he stated.

Ahmad realized he was using a threat with his moral vision for how to run Ade Adehye offered how substantially simpler and far more valuable it would be to operate the manufacturer out of China’s mass output infrastructure. “I purposefully selected not to do that,” he mentioned.

So far, Ahmad has hosted two pop-ups, one particular in Alameda in Might and one particular in downtown Oakland in August. Through the Oakland pop-up within Dish Boutique on 23rd Street, friends and website visitors got the probability to mingle with Ahmad, request thoughts about the items, and walk absent with purchasing bags stuffed with distinctive clothes priced at $80-$250, which Ahmad states is a realistic cost for the handwoven items supplied the labor-intensive hrs that go into earning the clothes.

Ahmad’s final aim is to assist other Black business owners follow the blueprint that he established with the aid of other men and women in the vogue field like Mankatah of Threaded Tribes to demonstrate how it is achievable to run an ethically and sustainable firm that is prosperous. 

For now, he’s having prepared to vacation to Ghana for the second time to begin working on what new items he will increase to the Ade Dehye selection. In the stop, he is holding accessibility and his hometown in intellect as he rolls out designs. 

“I want to see my individuals donning my stuff. I occur from East Oakland, I arrive from Oakland community educational facilities, individuals aren’t going to be spending $800, $900 for a trenchcoat,” he said. “I want the items to be obtainable to my individuals. It is a lot more about model integrity, possessing morals and values that I’m striving to stick to.”