Earlier this year, our reporter, Zandile Blay, traveled through West Africa to meet some of the talented young designers who are changing Africa’s retail landscape with their chic African-inspired, Western-influenced wears. So far, we've covered Jewel by Lisa’s Lisa Folawiyo and Loza Maleombho. Next up: Nina Baksmaty of KoshieO, who hales from Ghana.
When Franca Sozanni and Roberto Cavalli waltzed through West Africa in search of notable brands, KoshieO caught their eye. The label, founded by Nina Baksmaty, was one of several seen by Sozanni and Cavalli. This led to the opportunity to showcase her pieces during an invite-only event held by Italian Vogue in New York City in February. The resulting press has served to attract more clients drawn to Baksmaty’s vibrant and highly wearable wares. Read on to see how she’s leveraged it to help her quickly expanding brand.
Zandile: Why did it feel necessary to launch your workshop? Nina: I am originally from Ghana myself and launching a workshop is a project I am very passionate about. Even though it is relatively more convenient (cheaper etc.) to solely produce in more established countries, I felt a strong need to invest in building a workshop in Ghana. This is a small way KoshieO could help the economy by employing and providing a regular income for people.
What were the hurdles? Mass production is a relatively new industry in Ghana and this makes efficiency very difficult. Usually designers do not have to worry about a production line because they are already using established manufacturers. I as a designer have to worry about a production line. This can be very difficult and overwhelming. It is very capital-intensive to start a manufacturing company. I have to worry about everything from the provision of raw materials, machinery, training of personel etc, and this can be discouraging at times.
Did a lot of the infrastructure issues (like frequent power outages, difficulty with water, etc) discourage you from starting? Definitely! It is not very attractive hearing all the possible problems one might run into when running a new business. However, I had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and saw that it was the right decision to make.
Since opening the workshop, what has been the immediate impact on your business? The workshop has brought only positive feedback for KoshieO. This workshop attracted Fashion 4 Development; Franca Sozzani and Roberto Cavalli, who were impressed by KoshieO’s mission to help the Ghanaian people through fashion. As you can imagine, attention of these fashion heavy-weights is what people in the fashion industry strive for.
You got lots of press for it abroad, but did their visit build your profile locally in any way? It sure did! There are so many designers in Ghana today, so Franca and Roberto visiting my workshop was an endorsement for the work KoshieO is doing with regards to helping Ghana and the African continent as a whole. It made people in and outside Africa aware of the KoshieO brand and I really appreciate that.
Who are your customers on the continent? Koshie O. is for the chic, conservative, woman. There is something in the collection for everyone.
How are you making sure your products are available to them? KoshieO has its store at East Legon in Accra Ghana, however for those in other parts of Africa and rest of the world items can be bought on the KoshieO website.
What’s been the impact on your profit margin? KoshieO is a relatively new line; I cannot say for sure what the profit margin would be for the next few years.
Learn more about KoshieO here.